The Impossible Burger has some competition.
Plant-based burgers are having their moment in the culinary world right now: Just as the Impossible Burger is picking up a devoted following and Beyond Burgers hit grocery stores, a new vegetarian burger option has popped up in the form of Next Level Burger—and it's even being sold at Whole Foods.
According to a report from Forbes, Next Level Burger, or the NLB, originated in Bend, Oregon, where it turned out to be a hit. Founded by ex-marine Matt de Gruyter and his wife Cierra, who were both vegans when they opened their restaurant but now adhere to a plant-based diet, Next Level Burger attracted the attention of Alex Payne, an engineer at Twitter, who loved the NLB and decided to become an investor.
Soon the restaurant expanded to Portland, and later to the Whole Foods in Lake Oswego opened a burger bar serving the NLB. Their newest location is also in Whole Foods, this time in Seattle.
“We are thrilled to be early partners with Next Level Burgers as consumer demand increases for plant-forward alternatives,” Erika Dimmler, Whole Foods Market Regional PR Director, told Forbes.
Now, de Gruyter is looking for opportunities to continue his restaurant's national expansion, envisioning a chain with 1,000 units. As Forbes points out, he might have a tough road ahead: The Impossible burger is currently taking up the plant-based burger spotlight with investors like Bill Gates, and those who already swear by it, like David Chang, who sells it at his restaurant Momofuku Nishi along with a slew of other restaurants adding it to the menu.
Still, being showcased at Whole Foods, especially now that Amazon has bought the grocery store, is a big accomplishment for the fledging restaurant business. As more Americans give up soda and reduce their beef consumption, the NLB might be catching the first wave of a trend that is just beginning to pick up steam. As de Gruyter points out himself, “Everyone wants to be healthier.”