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UPDATE 1-Unilever expands Burger King tie-up to launch plant-based Whopper in Latin America, China

(Adds Vegetarian Butcher CEO comments, plans on China expansion)

Dec 23 (Reuters) - Unilever Plc said on Wednesday it had expanded its partnership with Burger King to supply its plant-based meat patties for Whopper burgers at restaurants in Latin America, China and the Caribbean.

The plant-based Whopper is made using patties from Vegetarian Butcher, a company acquired by Unilever in 2019.

With this deal, the Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise maker has expanded its partnership with the fast-food chain. The partnership started last year with the launch of the Rebel Whopper burger in Europe.

Burger King sells several meat-free versions of its popular Whopper burger, including one from Impossible Meats in the United States.

The Plant-based Whopper will be available in 325 Burger King outlets in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou in China from Wednesday.

Vegetarian Butcher aims to launch it in an additional 1,300 Burger King restaurants in China in the second quarter of 2021, CEO Hugo Verkuil told Reuters.

China’s plant-based meat market is expected to grow to $12 billion by 2023 from just under 10 billion in 2018, according to Euromonitor.

Plant-based Whopper was launched in Mexico last month and has already started appearing on Burger King menus in markets including, Costa Rica, Colombia, Bahamas and the Dominican Republic over the last couple of weeks.

The burger’s pricing is expected to be similar to its beef counterpart in these markets, though prices may vary among franchises. Unilever will supply patties to these markets through its production centers in Europe, but plans are underway to launch manufacturing facilities in China and Latin America to speed up expansion in these markets, Verkuil said.

The deal comes just weeks after the London-based consumer goods conglomerate set a 1 billion euro sales target for its plant-based meat and dairy products over the next five to seven years.

Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Vinay Dwivedi

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