BrewDog’s Hybrid Burger: cynical cash cow or fresh frontier for flexitarinaism?

By Oliver Morrison contact

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages/AlenaKravchenko
©GettyImages/AlenaKravchenko

Related tags: Meat alternatives, vegan cheese, Veganism, Beer, flexitarian

Vegans are hopping mad about the craft beer company’s new 50/50 Hybrid Burger. But could it prove a milestone in flexitarianism?

Controversy is brewing over the launch of new a burger from a British craft beer company. BrewDog’s ‘Hybrid Burger’ is available in its bars across the UK, Europe and US. It is made up of 50% Beyond Meat and 50% sustainably-reared beef. It is entirely dairy free and surrounded by 100% vegan ingredients, such as vegan Gouda cheese, crispy onion straws and a potato rosti.

It’s not gone down well with customers so far, it the Twitter response is anything to go by.

“What is the point of this? Why not offer a meat burger AND a plant-based burger? That way you can appeal to meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. This hybrid burger cuts your market significantly​,” one wrote.

Why are you using vegan cheese on a burger that already HAS meat in it?!”​ another tweeted.

“As someone who enjoys meat, this burger is dumb,” ​added another. “I do enjoy the idea of eating a Beyond Burger to see how it actually compares to real meat, but when its 50/50, what's the point???”

“The thing is about BrewDog is that you have to understand that everything is a marketing ploy,”​ was an additional response.

Brewdog burger
Purposeful innovation? Or just a gimmick?

BrewDog was at the forefront of the craft beer trend

The burger might be easy to mock – it’s been compared to Homer Simpson's notorious car design -- but is BrewDog actually on to something? The company is, after all, no stranger to being a forerunner of consumer trends. It helped pioneer the craft beer revolution in the UK. After brewing tiny batches, which its founders filled in bottles by hand and then sold at local markets out of the back of a beat up old van, it opened its first bar in Scotland in 2010. It now has over 90 bars across the globe, a brewery in Ohio, and it exports into 60 countries. Last year it broke the world record for Equity Crowd Funding as the ‘Equity for Punks V’ initiative closed at over £126m.

According to market researcher Kantar, it (along with Deliveroo and Costa Coffee) is growing in value faster than any other UK brand. It “innovates in a very purposeful way, and has a unique identity that helps it stand out from the crowd​,” said Kantar.

Or as BrewDog itself puts it, it is “breaking into international markets like a shark on steroids​”.

A 'gateway drug' for flexitarians?

Is this new burger simply a continuing of this ‘purposeful innovation’? And could BrewDog’s unique hybrid burger now set the tone for new offerings in the flexitarian space?

Its point is that it has created a ‘palatable option for those that love both the planet and meat’. The Scottish independent crafter said it was ‘taking a stand for the environment’ with the creation.

It is a unique hybrid created to be the best of both worlds​,” it said in a post​, adding it was designed for those who want to reduce their intake and their footprint on the environment.

“This is about achievable, everyday changing, any time you need it​,” it wrote. “As we are in the grip of a climate emergency, the more people who eat less meat the better. That is why we have launched this fresh take on flexitarianism. We wanted to make a burger that delivered on flavour and enabled anyone to make a transition to eating less animal based protein.”

BrewDog says it wanted to make a burger that delivered on flavour and enabled anyone to ‘make a transition’ to eating less animal based protein.

It calls the burger ‘the perfect meal for the modern flexitarian and meat lovers that are struggling to change positively their diet’. “Our amazing bars team have delivered with this new Hybrid Burger; a unique stepping-stone to a better place​.”

It’s even selling the product at half price for a limited time to customers who say the word ‘Flexitarian’.

The flexitarian trend is massive

And there is plenty of research suggesting flexitarians – or those consumers who want to cut down on eating meat for health or environmental reasons – lead the charge in the ever-ballooning plant-based trend.

Kantar, for instance, recently claimed that 86% of plant-based meals eaten in the home are consumed by non-vegans, and 89% of meat-free meals are eaten by non-vegetarians. And that growth is not coming, as many might assume, from younger consumers.

Consumption in the plant-based category has risen 17% among retirees in the past year while the 16-24 category has actually witnessed a negative contribution. “If you’re in this space, you don’t need to target vegans. It’s about targeting us all who are eating meat and dairy; we’re the ones who will be eating most of your foods,​” said Kantar. On this basis, a hybrid burger seems obvious.  

There’s also indications that people want to cut down meat in the home, but are eating more of it in restaurants. Is this because we see eating out as a chance to indulge and gorge on perceived unhealthier products? Or because of a lack of options for flexitarian eaters in the OOH space? If it’s the latter, then BrewDog might just be on to something.

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