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A pizza chain in New Zealand has come under fire for serving the vegan Beyond Burger to customers who thought it was animal meat.
Hell Pizza served the plant-based patty on its ‘Burger Pizza’ – described as featuring a ‘medium rare burger patty’ – launched last Friday.
Almost a week later, the chain revealed that the burgers were vegan in a Facebook post saying: “Were you one of the 3,000 people who’ve been completely fooled by our Burger Pizza? Featuring a delicious Beyond Meat ‘medium-rare’ burger patty, tasting just like the real thing.
“We’ve been blown away by your responses: Tastes just like meat, unfazed to eat a plant-based pizza, Would buy again.”
Responses to the reveal were mixed, with one social media user saying: “In my view – it’s fraudulent to sell a product that is not what it says in the label. It’s beyond deception and misleading.”
“Lying to your customers, great idea. Idiots, great way to destroy brand trust,” another added.
“Would have though trust was one of the most important things about selling food. I didn’t buy one of these pizzas, but I will never buy food from your outlet again,” one wrote.
Others found the situation more amusing. “I’ve never eaten Hells – but love the stunt and will support you in the future. Well done,” said one.
“Look at all the meat eaters angry about not being aware that they’re eating a cruelty-free plant-based ‘meat’,” another said.
“Yet I doubt they’re out asking the animals if it’s ok to kill and eat them… it’s not just about the meat thing, it’s about raising awareness that there is ethical ways to enjoy the same taste.”
‘Starting a conversation’
Hell Pizza General Manager Ben Cumming said the pizza was meant to ‘start a conversation’. Speaking to the BBC, he added: “A lot of people are instantly put off by the idea of fake meats, so we made the call to not reveal its meat-free origins… because we were so confident they’d enjoy these patties.
According to Cumming, Hell Pizza has not breached the Fair Trading Act, despite some accusations of doing so.
“We haven’t lied about the product – we rightly called the product burger patties, and customers have read into that what they will,” he said. “We are very confident there is no breach of the fair trading act, and Consumer NZ agrees with us.
“If covertly adding meat-free options onto a pizza encourages more people to be open-minded, we’re happy to do that.”
The ingredients page always showed the components of the pizza, and now the site has been updated to reflect that the pizza is topped with Beyond Meat.