Written exclusively for Vegan Life by Brent Morrissey.
The McVegan is a superhot topic right now. Articles along with debates about the McVegan are popping up everywhere and not exclusively on all vegan websites but it also being covered by major news outlets like the BBC to NME and even Men´s Fitness magazine. So how about an article from someone who has actually tasted the McVegan?
First things first, the McVegan is currently being tested in one city in the world, and that city is Tampere in Finland. About 180km away from the Finnish capital Helsinki, the whole world seems to be asking why Finland? To answer that shortly, competition.
I have been living in Helsinki, Finland for just over 6 years now, and have witnessed the vegan boom over here first hand. It was just 4 years ago when the only vegan cheese available in a larger Finnish supermarket was either ´Violife pizza cheese´ or the ´Tofutti chedder slices´, and oh how far we have come.
Now even your mini-markets in Helsinki usually stock at least 5 vegan cheese choices, but going to a Finnish supermarket is where even as a vegan, you are spoilt for choice. A typical Prisma or Citymarket (Finlands two main supermarket chains) will have between 20-30 vegan cheeses, yes you read that right. 30! The easiness of vegan food accessibility doesn’t stop in the cheese isle though, as you can imagine it’s like this for all vegan products, even Ben&Jerrys came to Finland before only recently hitting the shelves in the U.K!
So how about the fast food scene? McDonalds are simply playing catch up. In Finland, the burger scene is pretty much dominated by Hesburger, Finlands own burger chain. With 455 stores across the country Hesburger dwarfs McDonalds mere 65 locations! That’s a whopping seven Hesburgers, for every one McDonalds. But it gets better, in 2011 Mcdonalds had 82 locations in Finland, so yes Mcdonalds are losing market share in Finland and they are losing it fast. As for Burger King in Finland they currently have 37 locations, but are expanding and opening new restaurants. So how about eating vegan in Hesburger? Yes its possible, and has been for quite a few years now. Hesburger have a Falafel burger, a broad bean burger, veggie wrap, soy wrap and soy sticks! Some of the burgers however do need the mayonnaise swapping, but even this is covered as Hesburger have their own house made chillimayo, BBQ sauce and garlic sauce which are all suitable for vegans. So five options is not bad at all, considering these are available in all corners of Finland, from rural Lapland to almost every highway gas station Hesburger has Finland covered pretty well.
Hesburger also have a sizeable presence in Neighbouring Estonia, Russia and also Lithuania and Latvia with a few locations as far as Ukraine, Germany, Bulgaria and Belarus. Back to Finland and you can see why McDonalds are not sitting easy on plummeting sales and the closure of restaurants year on year.
As for other fast food outlets in Finland, Kotipizza (Finlands leading pizza chain) have been offering vegan cheese for over year now. Along with Arnolds a Finnish doughnut chain having several vegan friendly doughnuts to Fafa´s, a fast growing Falafel restaurant that now boasts more locations in down town Helsinki than Mcdonalds, and all in the space of a few years since opening their first location. More reason for McDonalds to simply, catch up! After all, profits and market share is what rules in the world of big corporations.
Now many people in the vegan community are looking down their noses at McDonalds and saying they will never set foot inside one. Each to their own and all, but the hugeness of this McVegan cannot be underestimated. After all the whole world is now looking at the McVegan, and asking when´s our turn? On a global scale, McDonalds is and always have been the staple mark for burgers and fast food worldwide, so for them to introduce a McVegan will really make veganism more approachable and accessible. From highway gas stations, to those long Saturday nights and shopping trips with the family and young children the McVegan will undoubtedly be a major step in people being exposed to vegan food for the first time. So whether or not you are going to eat one yourself, the McVegan is a big step for veganism, and with the world´s eyes now on this burger, how can McDonalds not follow through and introduce the McVegan elsewhere.
Now what you have all been waiting for, the taste test. The burger itself is a soy based patty, in the Famous McDonalds seeded bun with a vegan version of the legendary McFeast sauce topped with tomato, onion and pickle. YES it was good! It is exactly what you would think a McDonalds burger would be like, and is very true to the meat counterparts on the regular menu as far as I can remember. I myself haven’t eaten a McDonalds burger in almost five years, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the McVegan, mainly because it didn’t taste too healthy, or to beany or dry which is a common occurrence with many veggie burgers. The first burger I gobbled up like there was no tomorrow, the second burger I carefully deconstructed so I could taste the soy patty alone which in all fairness was pretty good. I’m sure McDonalds have put a lot of effort into R&D as usual and safe to say, this burger could be a replacement for the McFeast or Big Mac for many McDonalds regulars. Good news all-round then.
Sit tight guys & girls, if McDonalds have any sense the McVegan should be coming to you soon, but by all means help it along by sending McDonalds your wishes, and remember even if you are one of those vegans that swear to never eat one yourself, you should still put a word in for it as after all, we all want a vegan world right? Even if it is a helped along in McVegan style…