Business

Meet Victoria Robertson, The Woman Behind KFC’s Vegan Chicken Burger

What would The Colonel think?

13.06.2019 | by Kezia Parkins
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First, Gregg’s with their politically charged vegan sausage roll, then Burger King’s “Impossible (meatless) Whopper” and now, “The Imposter,” KFC’s attempt at a fully vegan chicken burger, that apparently, “the Colonel would be proud of.”

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), as it has been called since 1982 is obviously most well known for its unwavering focus on selling fried chicken, but this move to create a vegan version coated in the Colonel’s famous “secret recipe” comes at an opportune moment — when consumers are looking for inclusive restaurants that provide healthier, meat-free alternatives and options.

Not to mention the companies famed and highly publicised 2018 “chicken shortage” (caused by a change in logistics partners) that saw hundreds of KFC restaurant’s close temporarily across the UK. Since then the company has been working hard to recover from the crisis by focusing on developments that highlight sustainability, health and being lighter footed with their environmental impact.

Victoria Robertson joined the fast-food company in November 2017 as their Senior Innovation Leader/ “vegetable enthusiast.”

She Launched KFC’s 2025 nutrition policy in May 2018 with backing from Public Health England which received significant press attention. Robertson’s LinkedIn profile states that the “focus is now on driving this change through reformulation, innovation and behavioural change tactics.”

On the topic of their new vegan chicken burger which KFC is describing as a “triumph of deception,” Robertson says that it is “unfair” that up until now vegans have been “denied the incredible taste of KFC which is why we’ve worked hard to perfect The Imposter – a vegan burger that the Colonel would be proud of.”

The burger, which has been developed with the help of Quorn and PETA replaces chicken breast with a bespoke Quorn fillet, coated in the Colonel’s Original Recipe herbs and spices, topped with lettuce and vegan mayo, and sandwiched between a soft glazed bun.

Robertson is responsible for managing KFC’s product development pipeline and team within the UK and Ireland, “with a heavy focus on nutritional change, sustainable packaging, commercial requirements and operational scale-up.”

She says she wants to transform the menu from ‘Fast Food’ to ‘Fast Good’ through a number of key initiatives including – more vegetarian offerings, non-fried products, healthier fries, 5-a-day sides and more under 600 calorie options.

While many companies have fallen short when trying to join the movement that is seeing more vegans than ever and a renewed focus on sustainable consumption, Robertson’s impressive career history indicates that she is perhaps perfectly placed to propel one of the meatiest monoliths into the health and sustainability revolution.

Prior to joining KFC, she worked as Head of Culinary for HelloFresh, the recipe kit delivery unicorn set up in 2011, that is now worth over $1.6 billion and operates in 8 countries. From 2015 to 2017, she led the culinary and editorial teams to streamline the company’s ideation, strategic planning, brand alignment and recipes.

To help propel the brand into the household name that it is today she focused on gaining knowledge of gastronomic trends, seasonal produce and organised supplier visits and weekly creative workshops to encourage ongoing culinary innovation in alignment with Hello Fresh’s wider business pipeline. She also led a number of partnerships — most notably a one-year collaboration with celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver.

A real foodie, she has also worked as a national chef consultant, nutritional consultant, speaker and food writer and has undergone numerous training programmes around topics of sustainability, plant-based diets and naturopathic medicine.

The “Imposter Burger” represents the popular chain’s commitment to reimagining fast-food and transforming many of the negatives that come along with it — unethical processes in the meat supply chain, the poor nutritional value etc.

A spokesperson for KFC told Business Insider that the Imposter Burger comes in at 450 calories, practically the same as the chicken equivalent at 475 calories. The Burger will also contain a respectable 18.8g protein, which although less than the 29.7g of its poultry counterpart, is a decent amount for a plant-based patty.

The “Imposter Burger” will be available for vegans, veggies, flexitarians and curious carnivores alike in select branches of KFC in Bristol, London and the Midlands from June 17th.

Who knows, if the burger will be a flop or “finger-lickin’ good,” but the Twittersphere seems to be pretty excited. Plus, Greggs recently reported that their super popular vegan version of the British favourite that is the sausage roll has led to a boom in profits and increased foot-traffic.

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