Edinburgh entrepreneur to be a smash with vegetarians with launch of plant-based fast food burger

An Edinburgh entrepreneur has unveiled a 100 per cent plant-based and meat-free burger, which has been handmade in Fife.

Published 27th Jun 2018
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

Designed to make an impact on the £5 billion UK fast food restaurant market, The Alternative Burger was developed by Tracey Gehlan, UK Managing Director of the rapidly growing Smashburger, from all natural, 100 per cent plant-based proteins that can also be smashed on the grill!

The product made its debut at  Smashburger’s Sauchiehall Street store in Glasgow , with the goal of becoming  a truly inclusive burger that can be "eaten by literally anyone" - from vegetarians and vegans to the growing wave of flexitarians, healthy-eaters, meat-free Monday observers and customers who, for religious reasons, can’t normally enjoy a burger because it’s not Halal or Kosher.

The team say the new burger has the looks of traditional beef, cooks like beef – even searing on the grill - and offers a rich umami flavor and contains only 92 calories.

Gehlan said that most importantly, the product aims to "make headway in reducing the significant environmental impact of global beef production", which the entrepreneur says currently accounts for around 30 per cent of the earth’s land surface and is responsible for methane emissions from a global cow population of over 1.5 billion.

Plant-based burger

Picture: Smashburger

She said: “Quite simply, the global demand for beef is unsustainable, but as the market innovates to follow changing tastes and behaviours, no-one until now has produced – entirely in the UK - a credible, tasty, healthy and quality alternative from simple, bespoke, all-natural food ingredients including mushrooms, beetroot, kidney beans, chick peas, golden beet, bulgur wheat & soya beans.

"The market has seen limited and very standard vegetarian burgers on menus for several years now, but the key has been creating a product that has the ‘Wow’ of the contemporary burger build and a taste experience that people love and can be eaten by literally anyone.

“Other meat-free options are beginning to arrive on our shores from overseas – some hindered by GM food ingredients - but we believe it’s important that the UK market now delivers this new, exciting and sustainable category both properly and swiftly.

"We will still sell beef for the timebeing, but this is an important step forwards in a journey that the entire industry needs to take. It was important to us as a business to use family owned farms in Scotland that share our vision and ways of doing things."

So confident is Smashburger's management in the future of the category, it is the first anywhere in the UK to re-engineer its entire core offer to include 26 alternative menu items, including the acclaimed Triple Double Line-Up, an infinite amount of ‘Create Your Own’ (CYO) Alternative options and three dairy-free, vegan shakes.

The new Alternative Menu will be offered together with the Smashburger core menu to all guests on arrival at their stores.

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Open letter urges the industry to follow-suit

Gehlan and Smashburger also issued a challenge to the fast casual food industry’s leading operators - via an open letter - urging them, whether a small independent or a large nationwide chain - to extend consumer choice now and begin to introduce meat-free alternative burgers to their own menus.

The letter from Smashburger Group and The Not Beef Burger Company, who produce the UK product in Fife in Scotland read: “The clock is ticking on the environment and we can no longer think of this as something that might need to happen in the future.

"The customer is showing us the way and we must follow, so have you got what it takes to join us? Right now, the only other available meat-free burger options are from the Netherlands and the US, where the lead offering contains ‘heme,’ derived from the roots of soya bean roots and as a GMO is effectively grown in test tubes.

"The use of GMO’s is still not allowed in the UK, but the time for action is now."

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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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