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The brand claims it’s about more than just filler.

June 23, 2017

Fast food is an unlikely industry to help save the planet, but Sonic recently announced it wants to try to do its part. The 3,500-plus-location burger chain is adding a mushroom burger – not a burger topped with mushrooms, or a burger patty swapped for a portobello, but a burger where the patty is blended with mushrooms to help reduce beef consumption – joining the growing “Blended Burger” initiative.

Originally conceived by the Mushroom Council, an industry trade group, the Blended Burger project suggests that by blending beef patties to include about 25 to 30 percent of mushroom, chefs can offer a burger option that is both healthier and better for the environment without sacrificing taste. Deemed more than just a mushroom marketing ploy, the concept has seen support from Menus of Change, a collaboration between The Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that seeks to push “healthy, sustainable, delicious food choices,” and the James Beard Foundation. A number of high-profile chefs have given these beef-mushroom blend burgers a try, as well as some colleges and universities, but Sonic will be the first fast food chain to test out a “blended burger” on its menu.

The chain has dubbed their take the “Sonic Slinger” and plans to test the new burger, which is somewhere between slider and a full-sized patty, in several markets for 60 days starting at the end of August. Scott Uehlein, Sonic’s vice president of product innovation and development, told Nation’s Restaurant News that the initial response with focus groups has been one of “disbelief” and “excitement.” “My hope is that a year from now we’ll be standing here talking about a national rollout,” he was quoted as saying.

Interestingly, despite this blend being touted for its health and environmental benefits, Sonic doesn’t plan to use that in its Slinger marketing. Instead, advertising for the burger, which will be pushed as a premium steakhouse-style option, will focus on taste. Convincing people to eat healthier without them knowing it? That could be the most novel idea of this whole plan.