Burger King has teamed up with US company Impossible, which produces plant-based ‘meat’ products, in a distribution deal that signals shifts in the fast-food sector as vegan and vegetarian options become more popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

Impossible relaunched its signature burger “Impossible Burger 2.0” at the beginning of the year in Las Vegas, and the company says consumers are hungry for more, the Financial Times reported.

“We are straining to meet demand,” David Lee, chief financial officer, told the FT, adding that . Impossible Foods was constantly in the market “looking for the best partners for investment”.

The tie-up is just one of several developments that indicate the plant-based burger market is starting to take off in earnest, reflecting an increasing interest in meat-free lifestyles among consumers.

In the UK, for example, bakery chain Greggs attributed the launch of its highly publicised vegan sausage roll to its “exceptional sales performance” at the start of the year.

And other brands are preparing to enter the market. One of Impossible’s main rivals is US brand Beyond Meat, which is planning an IPO as it seeks to go global.

Nestlé also plans to launch its Incredible Burger in eight European countries later this month, and plans an entry into the US market in the autumn with its Awesome burger.

All these brands are trying to replicate the taste and texture of real meat through a combination of soya and wheat and other vegetable products. Extracts from vegetables, such as beetroot and carrots, are used to provide the juiciness of a traditional meat burger.

The vegetarian, and especially vegan, market is fast entering the mainstream. Last year, the UK launched more vegan products than any other country, Marketing Week reported, making veganism the fastest-growing food trend of the year, and a market worth £310m.

Most tellingly for brands, and an indicator of the potential size of the market, analysts Kantar estimate that 92% of plant-based meals in the UK were eaten by non-vegans last year, and that 22 million people in the UK now identify as ‘flexitarians’.

In the US, the Good Food Institute calculates that the plant-based food market grew by 17% in the year to August 2018, making it worth $3.7 billion.

Sourced from Financial Times, Marketing Week; additional content by WARC staff