At the start of the year, high-street food chains were quick to bring out new vegan launches – remember Greggs’ vegan steak bake and those delicious vegan croissants?! Among them was Burger King’s Rebel Whopper: a “100% plant-based patty” topped with tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, pickles and white onions on a sesame seed bun.
But there was a catch – the burger wasn’t actually suitable for vegetarians and vegans as it was cooked on the same grill as the meat. It also included mayonnaise, which contains egg. People were pretty angry at the time, with some vegan Twitter users saying, “I didn’t know this before I ate it!”.
Now, the UK’s advertising watchdog has banned three social media adverts for the Rebel Whopper on the grounds they are misleading. The ads, seen in January 2020, had pictures of Burger King’s “first plant-based burger” with a round sticker on the product that stated “100% Whopper, no beef”.
One advert was tweeted out by the brand, while two others appeared on Facebook.
A round logo at the bottom of one of the Facebook ads had the words “powered by The Vegetarian Butcher” on it. On the other, The Vegetarian Butcher logo was shown alongside the Burger King logo.
One of the ads had small print at the bottom stating “the product is cooked alongside meat products”. However, 10 people still complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and challenged whether the claims “100% Whopper No Beef” and “plant-based burger” in all three ads were misleading.
Burger King responded by saying the small print at the bottom of one of the ads stated the burger may not be suitable for vegans or vegetarians. It said the product itself consisted of a 100% plant-based patty and contained no beef, and added that a customer who didn’t want mayonnaise could have it excluded.
But the ASA said consumers would understand the claims “100% Whopper, no beef” and, in particular, the claim “plant-based burger” to mean that the burger didn’t contain any beef or animal products.
“We considered that the presence of the ‘Vegetarian Butcher’ logo, the green colour palette, the timing of the ad and product release to coincide with ‘Veganuary’ contributed further to the impression that the product was suitable for vegans and vegetarians,” it said.
ASA said in its verdict that the small print “was not sufficiently prominent to override the overall impression that the burger was suitable for vegetarians and vegans”. It also didn’t refer to the presence of mayonnaise in the burger, either.
“Because the overall impression of the ads was that the burger was suitable for vegans and vegetarians when in fact it was not, we concluded that the ads were misleading,” the ASA concluded.