Meatless burger a hit in SA restaurants, for vegans and meat lovers alike

A meatless burger is popular among both vegans and meat lovers, according to South African restaurateurs.

Meatless burger company Beyond Meat, backed by celebrity investors Leonardo Di Caprio and Bill Gates, listed on the Nasdaq on Thursday.

According to Reuters, Beyond Meat's share price opened at $46 per share and closed substantially higher at $65.75. The company is expected to use most of the funds from its initial public offering on research and development and manufacturing, Reuters reported.

The company is known domestically for its plant-based burger which tastes like meat. It is sold in various restaurants in Johannesburg and Cape Town such as Hudson's Burger Joint and Jackson's.

Neil Taylor, Chief Operating Officer at Infinite Foods & Crossover Quality Meat, which distributes Beyond Meat products in South Africa, told Fin24 by email that the Beyond Burger has been distributed in 150 restaurants in South Africa and Botswana.

Sausages next

Infinite Foods plans to launch the Beyond meat sausage in the next quarter, said Taylor. "We hope to be in retail by Q3 (quarter 3)."

Taylor explained that consumers opt for plant-based burgers for different reasons. "Some are vegans, some banters (on the banting diet), others are trying to improve health and reduce high cholesterol… and some of us just opt because of the great taste!" he said.

"With customers like Hudson’s Burger Joint and The Butchershop, we are firmly proving that all consumers - including the most ardent meat lovers - are willing to change their eating habits for the great taste, as well as health and environmental benefits," he added.

Restaurateurs shared with Fin24 similar stories of meat eaters opting for the meatless burger.

Jason McNamara, owner and chef at The Kind Kitchen - a vegan restaurant in Woodstock, Cape Town - told Fin24 that about 60% of his customers who opt for the Beyond Burger are meat eaters. The Kind Kitchen was one of the first restaurants to stock Beyond Burger in November 2018, McNamara said. He recalled how by mid-December customers had to start placing orders to try the patties because they were "really popular".

Now that more cafés in Cape Town stock the product, foot traffic is not as bad, but it’s still busy, he said. "It's still super popular," McNamara said.

McNamara said that The Kind Kitchen has provided variations of the burger to consumers either as a bolognaise, or in tacos. The Kind Kitchen is also looking into providing other options like lasagna. The Kind Kitchen would also be open to stocking other plant-based products from Beyond Meat, McNamara said.

Justin Goodman, owner and chef at The Melkbos Kitchen, known for its burgers and sushi, also shared views that the Beyond Burger is popular at the restaurant in Melkbosstrand, Cape Town. The restaurant would also be open to stocking to some of Beyond Meat's other offerings, he said.

"We are getting a lot of meat eaters trying it as well, but they still prefer beef," Goodman admitted. "But it is popular and a great product," he assured.

Gourmet restaurant Scheckter's RAW has been punting the Beyond Burger on its limited edition menu, through a special offering. The Sea Point restaurant offers a two-for-one special in the evenings, which has been received well by customers, store manager Kay Bangani told Fin24 by phone.

Bangani said that the burger is popular among vegans and those looking to transition to a vegan lifestyle because of its meaty taste. "I would say 50% [of customers] are vegans and 50% are meat eaters," he said.

When asked if Scheckter's would be interested in stocking other beyond Meat products, Bangani said that the restaurant would assess how the other products fit with Scheckter's RAW.

"We are always up for innovation and trying new things," he said.

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