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Only 59 BK restaurants will serve the no-beef burger, and they're all in St. Louis, Missouri.

Vegetarian burgers may finally be getting the recognition they need to go mainstream.

No April fooling: Burger King this week introduced the Impossible Whopper.

The fast-food chain is developing the product with California's Impossible Burger, which provides meatless burger for Red Robin, White Castle and many other restaurants.

Burger King, whose quarter-pound Whopper pushed its competitors a half-century ago to create their own two-fisted hamburgers, now plans to roll out a vegetarian version of its signature sandwich, relying on plant-based patties developed by San Francisco Bay area start-up Impossible Foods. The new burgers cost about a dollar more than the traditional Whopper, but offer fewer calories, less cholesterol and no trans-fat.

And now diehard vegans can pick up the creation blowing everyone's minds at Burger King. The chain already offers a meatless patty in the form of the MorningStar Farms Garden Veggie Patty, which is made from vegetables and grains.

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Plant-based meat substitutes have been gaining popularity as people have become more aware and focused on the environmental woes associated with standard animal-based food systems.

The veggie burgers are a healthier alternative to meat-based products.

But according to Burger King's North America president Christopher Finazzo, research shows consumers are willing to pay more for the plant-based burger. The taste, however, is the same, said Machado. The US startup also aims to sell meatless burgers in US supermarkets this year, but it first needs approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the key ingredient in its patties. Beyond Meat counts actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Microsoft founder Bill Gates as investors. Impossible has been making inroads in Asia as well. McDonald's has more than triple the sales of Burger King in the United States, according to a QSR magazine chart based on 2016 sales.

Unilever Plc late past year announced its acquisition of The Vegetarian Butcher to build out its plant-based portfolio.

Demand for meat-free foods is rising fast.


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