Ashton resists the temptation of the meatless burger

Ashton is resistant to meatless burgers as more and more fast food rivals embrace it.
A shton Leblond, the owner of Quebec’s iconic chain of restaurants, is not at all interested in serving vegetarian imitations of ground beef at Beyond Meat in his restaurants.

For him, it’s a question of taste buds. “To have tasted, I do not like the taste,” wrote Mr. Leblond to Ashton spokesperson, Mylène Beaulieu, who relayed his response.

“He does not like the taste of veggie dumpling, says M me Beaulieu. So when you have a restaurant, you do not offer the customer something you do not like. ”

Ashton’s lack of interest in meatless hamburgers contrasts with the popularity of an increasing number of fast-food chains for vegetable protein cakes.

Tim Hortons, A & W, Burger King, Harvey’s and Subway, among others, offer vegetarian burgers or sandwiches. McDonald’s has tested vegan burgers and croquettes elsewhere in the world, but is not yet in use in Canada.

A professor in agri-food distribution at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Sylvain Charlebois met Ashton Leblond last week in Quebec City for a poutine book, and he is not surprised that Ashton’s owner is closing the door to meatballs. meat.

The slogan of the chain of restaurants, “Just Fresh, Just the Real!”, Reflects the importance of “real” ingredients for Ashton Leblond, says Mr. Charlebois. And Beyond Meat products do not fit into this enterprise value.

“Beyond Meat is fake meat, it’s a replica. And Mr. Leblond has always been a disciple of authenticity, “says Professor Charlebois.

Imported products

In addition, Beyond Meat products are frozen and imported from Missouri, USA, which would be inconsistent with a company that encourages local products and does not freeze its ingredients, notes Mr. Charlebois.

By sulking veggie burgers, Ashton could however deprive himself of a vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian clientele that his rivals strive to seduce.

Tim Hortons, for example, added two Beyond Meat burgers on July 17th. About a month ago, the chain also launched three new lunch sandwiches with Beyond Meat sausage.

Mike Hancock, Chief Operating Officer at Tim Hortons, explains by email that the chain wanted to expand its menu to include “diverse protein options” for vegetarians or vegans, “or for those who simply want to reduce their consumption of meat”.

So far, customers “are excited to hear about and try out our new burgers and Beyond Meat lunch sandwiches,” he says.

A trend

The veggie market is not negligible. A survey conducted in November 2018 by Professor M. Charlebois and colleagues at Dalhousie University showed that 6.4 million Canadians are already following a diet that restricts meat partially or completely.

The trend should be on the rise in the coming years, anticipates Mr. Charlebois. By 2025, 10 million Canadians will reduce or eliminate meat consumption.

Given this rise, Sylvain Charlebois would not be surprised that Ashton Leblond changed his mind about veggie burgers. However, he believes that, if so, the founder of Ashton will favor a Quebec company, such as Montreal startup Vegeat.

Before launching the Beyond Meat burger last summer, the A & W chain listened to millennials.

Part of this generation has a strong appetite for plant-based products that have a smaller ecological footprint than, for example, beef. And the A & W channel wanted to make room for them in its family of burgers.

In this strategy, “we are really focused on the millennial generation,” says Susan Senecal, President and CEO of A & W, in a Vancouver telephone interview.

According to data from a Dalhousie University survey conducted in March 2018, people under 35 are three times more likely to consider themselves vegetarians or vegans than those 49 years and older.

Unanimous choice

Millennials are also more sensitive to the ecological footprint of meatless meatballs, which weigh much less on the environment than ground beef. This also played into A & W’s decision to adopt Beyond Meat cookies. “In terms of environmental impact, we thought it was positive,” says M me Senecal.

Still, the taste must be at the rendezvous. And, unlike Ashton Leblond, Susan Senecal loved meatless meatballs from the start. “When we tasted for the first time, we looked in each other’s eyes and said, everyone, unanimously:” Yes, it’s something we want to experiment, “” recalls she.

Beyond Meat meatballs are mostly made from pea protein isolates and vegetable oils, but also about twenty other ingredients. Beef patties at Ashton are made of beef.

But M me Senecal not seen in veggie patties inauthenticity, but of “innovation”. Beyond Meat has sought to replicate the taste and texture of beef, but “herbal,” she says.

So far, the strategy has paid off for A & W. Since the Beyond Meat patties returned in the fall, after a shortage of stock, the stock of A & W has seen a steady rise on the stock market.

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