Burger plant is a completely plant-based restaurant that was started by Thomas White in early 2020, though the restaurant was running as a food stall for a while. Burger Plant has 13 employees who make and sell completely plant-based fast food including burgers, “chook” bites, and “milk” shakes. Burger Plant brought many new innovations with its plant-based fast food joint. Most importantly, the ability to provide a healthy and sustainable food option that can be delivered with the same convenience of any other fast food joint. White said: “I wanted to provide a healthier and a plant-based alternative to traditional fast food joints such as KFC and McDonald’s.”
University of Otago
A major innovation by Burger Plant was its menu. The menu consists of several tasty food options ranging from burgers, side dishes, and milkshakes as well as desserts. Moreover, the food packaging is made from recycled cardboard containers which promote a more circular economy. Thomas White stated that: “Our packaging is made with recycled cardboard which can be further recycled.” Therefore, it is evident that White considers reducing plastic pollution as a very important aspect when running a business. Furthermore, the innovative fast food joint is encouraging its suppliers to become more sustainable as well, and ditch oil-based packaging for packaging that is both durable and biodegradable. This was achieved by convincing their suppliers to switch their packaging to cornstarch-based plastic. White said: “Though this isn’t the ultimate destination, it is a step in the right direction.” Finally, the integration of only lightly processed ingredients shows its commitment to promoting a healthier lifestyle. These innovations help people live a more sustainable lifestyle while enjoying tasty food that wouldn’t have otherwise been available. The fact that Burger Plant is going a step further to integrate sustainability into its supply chain shows how seriously it takes its responsibility towards building a sustainable future with initiatives both within the organization and externally.
Burger Plant supports United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 3, 11, 12, 14, and 15. The overarching umbrella of Goal 11, which calls for sustainable cities and communities, encompasses other objectives promoted by the fast-food joint. Goal 12's target of responsible consumption and production is promoted by Burger Plant. This is largely due to the fast-food joint providing only vegan food and beverages which reduces greenhouse gas emissions as discussed below. This also supports Goals 14 and 15, which speak to life on water and on land as plant-based food reduces deforestation, preserving the homes of billions of animals and birds. Animal grazing also causes waste runoff into the waterways which increase carbon in the oceans and creates dead zones. An unprocessed plant-based diet is known to be a very healthy diet due to it being low in fats and cholesterol. For this reason, Burger Plant promotes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 for good health.
The most important goal, however, for White and Burger Plant is Goal 11. He stated that he wants to “build a sustainable society and hence wants to help people transition from a meat-heavy diet to a plant-based one.” He said that rather than him taking the radical “in your face” route, he wants to give people vegan options that help them convert to a more sustainable diet. He understood that people assume that a vegan diet is bland and boring, and hence created a menu that is appealing to many audiences. This has been highly successful as White claimed that most of his clients are non-vegans who want to experiment with a more sustainable diet.
Thomas White grew up on a farm in New Zealand. He observed right through his childhood how unsustainable animal products were due to the number of resources that were needed to produce them. This inspired him to adopt a vegan diet as well as a lifestyle that promotes sustainability. Moreover, during his studies at the University of Otago, White stated: “I noticed a gap in the fast-food market where no vegan and unprocessed alternatives were available”. With the little funds he could raise and his cooking skills, White started a food stall in the local farmers market selling vegan sauces, burgers as well as “no meat” meat minces. This allowed him to gather enough funds to lease out a shop in the city center. The experience White gained by starting small at the farmers market allowed him to experiment with flavors as well as the tastes and preferences of his target audience. This is the main reason that the menu at Burger Plant is succinct, and why they sell out their stock on most days.
Thomas White had a vision of making a sustainable plant-based diet accessible to the general public. The popular opinion of “vegans only eat unseasoned salad” bothered White and he wanted to make a change. White’s main goal, as mentioned above, was to provide everyone with more sustainable and healthier alternatives to traditional fast-food joints. White stated in the interview that “the majority of their customers were people who weren’t vegan but wanted an option that was healthier and more sustainable”. White stated: “I would rather help 10 people transition to a more sustainable diet rather than turn one person vegan as that is more sustainable.” In the long run, this helps more people transition to a plant-based diet, reducing the carbon footprint and promoting sustainability.
Though only a few months old, Burger Plant is a massive success so far, as Thomas White made a very clever move to open a shop very close to a university campus. It is argued that people who are highly educated opt for healthier and more sustainable choices. This, coupled with the fact that Burger Plant provides fast food to which the younger population is attracted, has driven their business to achieve high profits. This was proven by the fact that though White started a business with limited funds, he seeks to expand his business to other cities in New Zealand such as Wellington, again near the university campus. This is even more impressive considering the fact that a large majority of the business’s life cycle has been during the COVID-19 lockdown. During this time most eateries were shut. White addressed this when he stated that “we only know what profits we make during a lockdown with severely reduced demand, we don’t know what it’s like to make sales in the real world yet.” This is largely due to the fact that the business targets a much larger audience than a traditional fast food joint since it provides vegan food and other healthier options. Furthermore, Burger Plant provides delicious food. This was proven by the fact that they won a place in The New Zealand Herald’s top 5 plant-based eateries in all of the country. Moreover, Burger Plant won third place out of fourteen in a competition to find the best-tasting burgers in Dunedin which included premium burger joints.
Burger Plant provides an avenue for transition for people to move towards a more sustainable diet. It takes as much as 350 times more water to produce a pound of meat than it does to produce the same amount of plant-based protein. This is largely due to the fact that it takes a lot of grain to produce that pound of meat, this grain can otherwise be directly used to make plant-based protein. Producing this amount of grain also requires a large volume of land. As the human population expands worldwide, land becomes more and more scarce. Hence, rainforests are cleared worldwide to create arable land for grain production to feed animals for food production. For instance, as much as 90% of the land that has been deforested in the Amazon rainforest has been used for animal agriculture. Moreover, animals in a meat-heavy food system produce a large number of greenhouse gasses. Animal agriculture pollutes more greenhouse gasses every year than the entire transport industry combined. This includes all of the world’s ships, flights, cars, and other carbon-based transport systems. Furthermore, most of the grain fed to animals are grown in countries with high rates of poverty and malnourishment i.e. the amount of grain that is used to feed the animals in the industry could be used to feed the world. This makes sustainability a social issue as well as an environmental issue. Moreover, the grain and meat are then shipped worldwide, further increasing greenhouse emissions produced from the meat and dairy industry. Hence, by providing a plant-based menu, Burger Plant significantly reduces the greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere. Moreover, this reduces the amount of water and other resources consumed worldwide. This combined with the biodegradable packaging used by the firm makes the company very sustainable.
To add to this, Burger Plant is committed to providing unprocessed and healthier alternatives to traditional fast food. Obesity is on the rise worldwide. A large reason for this is the adoption of the “American” meat-heavy diet worldwide. This diet was aided by globalization when many societies became “Americanised” through clever marketing techniques. By providing a plant-based diet that is unprocessed, Burger Plant is doing its bit in reducing obesity in the country.
Thomas White, Owner
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Dunedin, Otago, NZ
Business Website: https://www.burgerplantnz.com/
Year Founded: 2020
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Burger Plant aims to provide a sustainable and healthy alternative to traditional fast food joints. Burger Plant is an all-vegan restaurant that wants to help people transition from a meat-heavy diet to a plant-based diet to reduce the impact of intensive food consumption on the planet. The fast food joint only uses recycled cardboard for packaging their food and is implementing sustainability in its supply chain by encouraging its suppliers to use less plastic packaging.