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But the meat-substitute's appearance at Burger King, the second-largest hamburger chain in the USA, may signal that plant-based meat replacements are ready to go mainstream. The Impossible Whopper will be introduced this week at Burger King restaurants in the St. Louis area - in the very state that past year banned the use of the term "meat" for any vegetarian or cell-based substitutes for animal-raised meats.

The New York Times reports that Burger King is slated to debut a meatless Whopper dubbed "Impossible Whopper", by utilizing vegetarian patties from vegan start-up Impossible Foods.

The chain said the burger-less burger has less calories than the original beef-based burger, it's low in cholesterol and has zero trans fat. Finally, Burger King's buns contain dairy, so vegans might steer clear of the product anyhow.

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Nestle's product includes wheat and extracts of beetroot, carrot and bell peppers to help make it look like meat. The plant protein startup recently revealed a new recipe, created to look and taste even more like meat.

Burger King is the biggest fast-food company to launch a vegetarian-friendly burger option to date, but it's far from the first.

"We wanted to make sure we had something that lived up to the expectations of the Whopper", said Chris Finazzo, Burger King North America's president. "Around the taste, around the brand recognition, around the price, all those things were important factors in choosing Impossible", he said. Its star ingredient is a compound called heme, which mimics the flavor and aroma of meat. Among its blue-chip backers - Bill Gates and Google Ventures.

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Impossible Foods tailored a patty specifically for the Whopper, chief executive Pat Brown said.

If the new burger is a hit, Burger King plans to then introduce it to their customers nationwide. And the mostly Midwest-based chain White Castle (of Harold and Kumar fame) has been offering a meatless "Impossible Slider" at their almost 380 locations since September of past year. McDonald's has a McVegan burger available only in Finland and Sweden.

Unilever Plc late a year ago announced its acquisition of The Vegetarian Butcher to build out its plant-based portfolio. Tyson Foods has a stake in Beyond Meat.

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