FAST food restaurant king McDonald's has finally stepped onto the vegetarian scene in Australia with the launch of a McVeggie burger.
A permanent addition to the menu in all restaurants nationwide, the McVeggie seems to have received some kudos from online taste testers who say the fact it isn't a vege burger masquerading as meat is a big plus.
Like most vegetarian burger products, it's list of ingredients is extensive. Along with the five vegetables - potato, peas, corn, carrot and onion - it contains thickeners, natural flavour, soy protein, four mineral salts and two food acids, among other products.
Chief marketing officer Jenni Dill said McDonald's was aware there's an appetite for alternatives to traditional meat proteins and Australians were looking for more plant-based options in their diet.
The company does, however, acknowledge 'it's not strictly vegetarian' given it may be cooked using the same equipment and oil as meat.
Accredited sports dietitian Peta Carige said for similar energy to the quarter pounder when compared per 100g, the veggie burger was providing less grams of protein, fat and saturated fat in place of carbohydrates.
The nutritional value is on par with that of a hamburger or quarter pounder so it isn't going to make you healthier, but it is a meat-free option for those who have been missing out on McDonald's, she said.
"The one thing you can't see is a comparison of the amount of additives in the vegetable patty verse the beef patty - which is something we need to be aware and cautious of with 'meat free' options coming on the market," she said.
There were healthier food items on McDonald's menu, Ms Carige pointed out.
"That's what they are doing well - offering options and variety so you can always make 'better choices' even at fast food locations," she said.
Marketers said by opting for a 'straight up and down' veggie patty as a vegetarian burger option, McDonald's had differentiated from others using meat alternatives or attempting to mimic beef.
That would likely mean greater consumer acceptance, including those who do eat beef burgers.
The McVeggie burger uses Australian-grown ingredients. The patty is paired with cheese, lettuce, herbs and spices, mayonnaise and Macca's iconic pickles, all on a sesame seed bun.
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