Given the trend towards vegetable-based eating, it took McDonald’s Australia some time to catch up with a non-meat burger. Launched nationally in January, the McDonald’s vegetable burger was called, naturally, the McVeggie™. It was described as a “delicious crunchy potato, cheese and veggie patty, fresh lettuce and our famous pickles” sandwiched in a sesame seed bun.
McDonald’s have some, although not many, vegetarian offerings overseas. In Great Britain, there are Happy Meal® Veggie Dippers, described as “a tasty blend of red pepper and sundried tomato pesto, all coated in crisply golden breadcrumbs and vegan certified by the Vegetarian Society.” Elsewhere on the menu, these items are described as “veggie goujons” – try that one on your average Aussie teenager – and feature in variations like a wrap (The Spicy Veggie One) and sandwiched in a roll (Vegetable Deluxe). In Norway, there are vegan nuggets and a couple of vegan burger options which are also available in Sweden. In India, there’s a whole range of non-meat options based on aloo (potato) or paneer (cheese).
McDonald’s competitor Hungry Jacks already had a plant-based burger, the Rebel Whopper. Made from a mixture of legumes and natural oils, it is faux meat rather than a potato-based patty. The McDonald’s vegetable burger was market-tested in South Australia in early 2019, before its nationwide launch. It was also available as a McVeggie™ Deluxe with tomato and a slice of cheese added. Macca’s were at pains to point out that it wasn’t designed for strict vegetarians, as it was cooked on the same equipment and with the same oil used for chicken products.
It was hardly health food, either. The ingredients list was daunting, to say the least. The patty contained:
Vegetables (Potato, Peas, Corn, Carrot, Onion), Flour (Wheat, Soy, Buckwheat, Rice, Oats), Cheese (Milk), Canola Oil, Water, Rolled Oat (Gluten), Dehydrated Vegetables (Potato, Garlic, Onion), Thickeners (1442, 1404), Tapioca Starch, Soy Protein, Herbs and Spices, Yeast Extract, Natural Flavour (Milk, Soy), Gluten (Wheat), Sugar, Mineral Salts (341, 500, 450, 541), Food Acids (270, 330), Emulsifier (481).
And then there was the sauce:
Water, Soybean Oil (Antioxidant (330)), Egg Yolks, Modified Corn Starch (1401, 1442), Corn Syrup Solids, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Sugar, Mustard Flour, Thickener (415), Food Acid (270), Preservative (202).
The McDonald’s vegetable burger offered a choice for those who wanted to indulge their fast food cravings in a way that was a little kinder to the planet. It seemed, however, that the offering wasn’t vegan or vegetarian (or, perhaps, tasty) enough. It failed to attract a loyal following and was deleted from the range in mid-2021.