Hungry Jack’s new plant-based Whopper went through nearly 60 iterations before launch, says the company’s CEO

Hungry Jack’s plant-based Rebel Whopper
  • Hungry Jack’s CEO Chris Green told Business Insider the process behind its new plant-based Rebel Whopper.
  • Green explained how it took around 59 versions before the company settled on the burger.
  • Green added that Hungry Jack’s is thinking of working on plant-based chicken as well.

Hungry Jack’s unveiled its new plant-based Rebel Whopper this week, which was a year in the making.

Hungry Jack’s CEO Chris Green told Business Insider Australia that the whole process of getting the new Whopper from idea to its restaurants took a little over 12 months. On top of that, the company took over 50 tries to get it right.

“This is probably version 59 of concepts or refinements,” Green told Business Insider Australia. “While that seems a lot, 12 months is a very rapid time to do it at the scale that we’ve done it.”

Green explained that when Hungry Jack’s began the process, it called the new Whopper a “Kinda” burger. This was because the company wasn’t clear on what market they were targeting it for.

After conducting research, Green said it was clear that there was a growing trend around being a flexitarian. He said flexitarians are “a huge market”, accounting for “probably 70 to 80% of the population”.

“It’s that group of people that eat meat but want to potentially eat less meat,” Green said. “So that might be anything from Meat-Free Monday to going without meat for a period of time.”

Hungry Jack’s isn’t new to meat-free burgers. It released its vegetarian burger in 2001 and launched a vegan burger in 2018.

“We said we’ve got a vegan [product], we’ve got a vegetarian product – we wanted something that was more mainstream in supporting flexitarians,” Green said.

The company first began by deep frying a plant-based patty. But once it settled on its core market of flexitarians, all the later versions of its plant-based patty focused on replicating the traditional Whopper. It finally settled on putting the patty in a broiler to get that flame grilled taste from its iconic Whopper.

And why the name ‘Rebel’? Chris said it related to the broader push around sustainability. “At this stage [the burger] is a bit of a rebel – it’s linking an iconic product which is the Whopper and giving it a new twist.”

The patty was developed together with the newly launched plant-based meat company v2food. v2food is backed by Hungry Jack’s founder Jack Cowin, along with the CSIRO.

Green noted that the groundswell of support around plant-based products led to the creation of the new Rebel Whopper. He added that while plant-based burgers had been niche at restaurants like Lord of the Fries or Grill’d, whereas Hungry Jack’s was “making it available for the masses”. Its Rebel Whopper will be available in all Hungry Jack’s restaurants.

Green believes the plant-based meat sector is going to continue to grow in the future. “The world’s population is going to increase to 10 billion people and the reality is, we can’t rely on the traditional methods for protein,” he said. “Beef, lamb, chicken – there’s always going to be a market for it and it’s something that we’re going to play in and do very well. But the reality is that there has to be other other methods and it’s going to continue to grow.”

While Hungry Jack’s is currently focused on a beef substitute, it is also looking at other plant-based meat alternatives, beginning with chicken.

“There’s a lot of work … in the industry that’s going on with chicken,” Green said. “We’ve been really really focused on beef at the moment but I would say that chicken with our menu is an option down in the future.

“It could be chicken nuggets.”

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