Burger King’s Israeli franchise operator is partnering with a local food tech company developing plant-based meat alternatives to roll out meatless menu items starting this week at a pop-up branch in Tel Aviv.
Burger King Israel’s menu will feature a plant-based Whopper, the American fast food giant’s signature hamburger, and vegetarian “chicken” nuggets, the franchise said on Monday.
The food items were developed specifically for Burger King Israel by the Israeli startup, “Meat. The End” (MTE), a relative newcomer to the alternative proteins sector, founded in 2020. The startup’s stated mission is to solve the texture aspect of eating plant-based “meat” to make it closer to the real thing. MTE founder Dr. Yishai Mishor says that while many food tech companies out there, like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, have achieved success on the taste factor, the texture — the feel of the product in the mouth — has lots of room for improvement.
The not-quite-right texture of plant-based meat items is a “roadblock to consumer satisfaction,” specifically that of meat-eaters who are considering alternatives, Dr. Mishor told Big Idea Ventures on a podcast last year. He maintains that the texture question is a “bottleneck” in the alternative meat industry and a barrier to mass consumption.
“It’s a very complicated process to take plant protein, which has its own shape and body, and turn this into something that resembles animal protein. This is not an obvious task at all,” said Mishor, who serves as MTE CEO. Currently, in taste studies, “100% of [meat-eating] tasters can tell 100% of the time whether [a product] is real meat or alternative meat, and the reason is mostly in texture.”
MTE uses existing extrusion technology, the process of making a shaped object like a burger patty, and infuses it with proprietary steps throughout the production line to produce a texturized protein ingredient (TPI) or textured vegetable protein (TVP), the buildings blocks of plant-based burgers. The result is a soy-based product that “looks a little bit like Corn Flakes…and that is the texturized soy protein, the chunks that make up the body of the burger,” Mishor explained.
“MTE develops ingredients – Texturised Protein – which transform the texture of plants into the texture of meat. Our unique technology is in a novel approach to industrial extrusion processes; and a revolutionary pre-treatment to the protein,” he told The Times of Israel via email.
In this way, MTE can not only make its own plant-based food with self-proclaimed improved texture, but establishes its core business model, which is to license the production tech to other food tech companies. Currently, the company has a strategic partnership with an undisclosed local producer to make the final products, he told The Times of Israel.
“The goal we set for ourselves was not just to improve texture, but to improve texture in a way that is effective and is easily adopted by the industry,” he said. The solution “is cheap and doesn’t require too much change in machinery, production line, and so on.”
After filing a patent in 2021, the company of about a dozen food technologists, protein engineers, and mechanical engineers, positioned itself to provide a “bundle of patents that protect each product and sell[s] licenses for producers to use it,” Mishor explained on the podcast.
And Burger King Israel is MTE’s first big client, with more in the pipeline, said Mishor.
The Israeli company’s plant-based Whopper and nuggets, dubbed “Veggie Kings,” will first become available starting Monday at a Burger King pop-up branch at Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv. The pilot will last a week, after which the items will be on menus at the franchise’s nine stores across Israel’s Gush Dan region by next month.
Burger King was among the first multinational fast-food companies to launch plant-based menu items, starting in 2019 with a celebrated partnership with Impossible Foods that produced the Impossible Whopper in restaurants across the US. Earlier this year, Burger King launched all-vegan restaurants in London and Vienna, and is gearing up to open a vegan pop-up outlet in Bristol this week.
As a local franchise operator, Burger King Israel set out on its own path to come up with vegan alternatives. The franchisee was acquired this spring by Delek Israel, a conglomerate with significant holdings in energy, infrastructure, and water desalination projects in Israel and abroad, and a major operator of gas stations and conveniences stores in Israel.
Keren Kupermintz, vice president of Marketing, Trade and Business Development at Delek Israel, which finalized the majority acquisition of Burger King Israel in April, said “the launch of the plant-based category at Burger King Israel is a strategic move since, in our opinion, a large audience is looking for meat-alternatives — not only vegans, but also those who reduce meat consumption, and this is a fascinating and developing trend on a global scale.”
“The product development process took about two years, including finding the ideal partner for the journey and a long series of fundamental, in-depth, and extensive market research and tests, per the international standards of the global brand,” Kupermintz said in a statement. “We are proud of this important addition to the chain’s menus.”
Mishor said MTE was proud to launch its products in the company’s first collaboration with an international food giant. He marked the partnership as a “tremendous achievement for our outstanding technological and scientific teams.”
Burger King first entered the Israeli market in 1993, briefly leaving it in 2010, with Israeli chain Burger Ranch taking over its restaurants. Burger King eateries returned to Israel in 2016.