The smell of meat wafts through the air as customers sink their teeth into burgers that, despite looking, tasting and sizzling like beef, are made entirely from plants.
The country’s first vegan bleeding burger is the latest addition to the menu of American food chain Bareburger. It was revealed to hungry crowds at its La Mer branch in Dubai on Monday.
The B12 bleeding burger, developed by Canadian company Beyond Meat, is so described because, when cut in half, it reveals an authentically pink centre and ‘bleeds’ beetroot juice instead of blood.
During its debut, it impressed diners with its passable beefy texture and flavour. Many expect that the burger’s appeal will stretch beyond the vegan community.
“The target audience of this product is not only going to be vegetarians, but also meat-eaters,” said Euripides Pelekanos, chief executive and founder of Bareburger.
The introduction of the burger comes as restaurants and supermarkets seek to cash in on the country’s flourishing vegan market and as consumers swap animal products for plant-based alternatives for health and environmental reasons.
“There have been many changes in eating habits and consuming less meat. There is a social impact and environmental impact. There are many people who care about animal welfare,” he said.
The B12 burger aims to tempt meat-eaters to consider a vegan alternative that has the traits of a meat burger. It contains peas to provide protein, trace amounts of beet lend for the beefy red colour and coconut oil and potato starch provide juiciness and chew. Unlike companies seeking to “grow meat” using animal stem cells, the burger is made entirely of plants.
It was launched by Beyond Meat in the United States about five years ago and has since grown in popularity. As for demand in the UAE, Mr Pelekanos said it was too early to tell.
“We will see what happens in the coming six months. When we launched the Beyond Burger in the US, it just opened the door to a new set of guests who have vegetarian diets. It really changed the whole dynamic of the restaurant. We always had different veggie burgers on the menu but it was the first time we saw vegan and meat-eaters sitting together on a table together with no animosity for each other,” he said.
For many, the drawback to a vegan diet can be cost. The B12 burger retails for a more affordable $12-$13 (Dh44-Dh47) in a bid to bridge the price gap.
“Currently, there are few companies making so called 'fake meat'. The prices are not accessible for everybody. The main goal is to make it more affordable than a typical beef burger. Unfortunately, the fake meat products are often twice as expensive as a regular beef,” said Mr Pelekanos.
The bleeding vegan burger will be available in four Bareburger restaurants across the UAE, including three in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi, and there are hopes that the burger will soon be sold in supermarkets.
“The motivation behind coming up with these products is to for people to eat better and feel better about themselves,” said Mr Pelekanos.
“While they are enjoying their meal, they will feel that they did something better for the planet and maybe for the next generation. Throughout the history of mankind, the way people eat has changed over time. It is the future of evolution in food.”