Whole Foods, Plant-Based-Burger Chain Expand Partnership

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Whole Foods, Plant-Based-Burger Chain Expand Partnership

By Randy Hofbauer - 08/31/2017

A Whole Foods store in Seattle now has a plant-based burger joint, the second of its kind for the Austin, Texas-based grocer.

Already operating inside the 365 by Whole Foods Market store in Lake Oswego, Ore., Next Level Burger (NLB) opened its first Seattle location of the 100 percent plant-based chain at the Roosevelt Square Whole Foods store. The 2,000-square-foot burger joint offers a menu of plant-based twists on classic burger-joint favorites, including more than a dozen burger combinations, next-level hot dogs and sandwiches, as well as fries and tots. Dessert offerings include diner-style hand-spun milkshakes that are dairy-free and made with either a coconut- or soy-based soft serve.

“The Pacific Northwest has embraced NLB wholeheartedly, and we couldn’t be more thankful for our awesome crew and for the support of our fans,” said Matt de Gruyter, CEO and co-founder of the restaurant chain, which now operates four locations. “We’ve had Seattle in our sights for two years, and we’re thrilled to bring our plant-based ruckus to this epic city.”

To mark the occasion, The Bend, Ore.-based company held a week-long celebration that drew a crowd of thousands who lined up early to sample products from the menu. The event was capped with a burger-cutting ceremony.

The Animal Burger from Next Level Burger

“We love creating the opportunity to build on our partnership with Next Level Burger, after a successful debut at Whole Foods 365 in Lake Oswego,” said Angela Lorenzen, Whole Foods' regional president of the Pacific Northwest. "NLB’s focus on organic produce, non-GMO ingredients and overall clean eating is a natural fit for us, and we look forward to working with Matthew and Cierra as they guide Next Level Burger to its next stage of growth. I know Seattle will fall hard for the NLB menu and team."

Plant-based foods right now are growing in popularity among U.S. consumers. Today, 120 million of them eat meatless meals, and nearly four in 10 enjoy a meat-free day at least once a week, according to research from global knowledge solutions company Innova Market Insights.

Additionally, plant-based burgers are working their way into the menus of certain burger joints nationwide. For instance, El Segundo, Calif.-based plant protein provider Beyond Meat has announced partnerships with national burger chain Burgerfi, to which it brought the Beyond Burger plant-based patty to all 101 locations, as well as Chicago-area chain Epic Burger, which now offers the Beyond Burger at its eight shops.

Whole Foods' expansion of its partnership with Next Level Burger also makes the second announced partnership this week between a grocer and a gourmet burger chain to expand grocery foodservice operations while growing brand exposure for the restaurant. Yesterday, Midwestern grocer Hy-Vee said it will build, own and operate 26 Wahlburgers restaurants, nearly doubling the brand’s current locations. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based grocer will also add select Wahlburgers menu items in all of its in-store Market Grille restaurants.