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Advertiser: Burger King (OKR Group)
Medium: Poster, Television
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.2, 3.3, 4.1, 4.4, 4.5
A television advertisement for the Rebel Whopper by Burger King featured various people tasting the product outside the restaurant.
A voiceover stated:
“Introducing the Rebel Whopper with a patty made from plants. No beef!”
Female 1: “No way!”
Male 1: “Wow!”
Female 2: “That’s amazing!”
Male 2: “You sure this is not beef?”
Male 3: “That has to be beef.”
Female 2: “The Rebel Whopper tastes like the Classic Whopper!”
Male 1: “Am I being Punk’d?”
Male 4: “Mental!”
The advertisement then showed a patty being cooked over a flame grill, followed by a shot of the final assembled burger which was shown to include pickle, tomato, onion, lettuce and mayonnaise.
VO: “The Rebel Whopper. 100% Whopper, 0% beef. Only at Burger King.”The onscreen text stated:
“Subject to availability. Available at participating stores in Ireland.”
A poster featured an image of the product with the text:
The poster also featured a company logo for The Vegetarian Butcher with the text:
“Powered by The Vegetarian Butcher.”
The small print read:
“Subject to availability. Available at participating restaurants only. TM & © 2019 Burger King Corporation. Used under license. All rights reserved.”
Four complaints were received in relation to the advertisements.
The complainants considered the advertisements to be misleading as they felt the product was being represented as being suitable for vegans and vegetarians. They said that the product would have been cooked on the same grill as was used for beef burgers and would therefore contain trace beef product. They said this would mean that the Rebel Whopper was not ‘0% Beef’ as claimed, subsequently being suitable for neither vegans nor vegetarians. They further pointed out that the product was also unsuitable for vegans on the basis that it contained mayonnaise which was made using egg.
The advertisers said that, in response to an increased demand from BK Ireland’s guests to eat less meat and explore meat alternatives, BK Ireland wanted to meet that demand and create a product for ‘rebalancers” or “flexitarians”. They explained that, in order to create a greater choice for Irish consumers, BK Ireland partnered with the Unilever brand, The Vegetarian Butcher (which specialised in plant-based products) and developed a patty made from plants to substitute the beef patty for BK Ireland’s iconic Whopper, thus creating the Rebel Whopper.
They said that the marketing claims used to promote the Rebel Whopper were simple and direct; the campaign focussed on one main tagline that was present on all marketing assets – “100% Whopper, 0% Beef” – in order to address that the patty was made from plants. Additionally, they said, in the television advertisement the statement “a patty made from plants, no beef” was used, and the posters used in point of purchase and out of home advertising featured a stylized logo for The Vegetarian Butcher which stated “Powered by The Vegetarian Butcher”.
They said that other than these three claims, BK Ireland’s marketing assets did not make any additional claims; they asserted that BK Ireland never used the claims “100% non-beef” or “100% plant-based” and never said that the product was suitable for vegetarians or vegans. The only claim made or implied, they said, was that the Rebel Whopper simply offered a way to enjoy the iconic sandwich but with a plant-based patty.
They said that the launch of the Rebel Whopper was a response to Irish guests that were increasingly following diets aimed at reducing the consumption of products from animal origin, but which didn’t necessarily exclude such products altogether. They said that BK Ireland wanted to provide guests with a product that was everything a consumer would expect from a Whopper, just without the beef patty, and explained that the Rebel Whopper therefore consisted of a patty made from plants and had all the toppings and condiments that would typically appear with a classic Whopper, including mayonnaise. The mayonnaise was depicted clearly, they said, and there was no attempt to conceal the ingredients of the product.
They said that BK Ireland’s advertisements highlighted the fact that consumers could expect the same great taste as a classic Whopper but without a beef patty and did not claim that the product was either vegan or vegetarian. Rather, they said, the ads included a simple reference to being “powered by The Vegetarian Butcher” which explained the provenance of the patty to the consumer so that they were informed that the patty made from plants was provided by a company named “The Vegetarian Butcher”. They said they did not believe that the average consumer would assume that a reference to “The Vegetarian Butcher” or “0% Beef” implied the whole product was suitable for vegetarians or vegans. They said that plant-based diets could mean different things depending on the context and they took specific care to never make the claim “100% plant-based” and to make the claim “100% Whopper, 0% beef” in relation to the patty itself and the overall taste of the product. They said they did not believe that a “0% beef” burger patty was synonymous with the whole product being suitable for vegans, which was why they did not make a vegan claim for this product.
Regarding the complainants’ concern that the product was cooked on the same grill as meat products, thereby potentially including trace meat product, the advertisers confirmed that the cooking procedure for the Rebel Whopper was the same as their other products, but they reiterated that they had never stated that the Rebel Whopper was for vegetarians or vegans. They said that BK Ireland made a very specific and clear claim about one element of the Rebel Whopper sandwich build – that the patty was made from plants. They said that to take the claim “0% beef” and extrapolate and impose an implied claim of “vegetarian Whopper” was, in their opinion, far reaching and not at all aligned with what a reasonable consumer would understand the claim to mean.
Complaints Not Upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
They accepted that neither the television nor the poster advertisement had stated either implicitly or explicitly that the product was intended for either vegans or vegetarians and noted in particular that, while there was a reference to the “Vegetarian Butcher” and “0% Beef” in the poster advertisement, there was nothing included to imply the product was suitable for vegans.
They further accepted that the product ingredients contained 0% beef as advertised and therefore considered this claim to be accurate. While the Committee considered that it would have been preferable if the advertisement contained a super to indicate that the product was cooked on the same surface as meat patties, they did not consider that the advertising presented the total product as suitable for vegetarians or vegans. In the circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the advertisements represented a breach of the Code.
The Complaints Committee suggested that future advertising should include a statement to indicate the risk of transference of trace meat product during the cooking process or similar.