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Burger King Puts a Bold Idea on the Menu

The "Home of the Whopper" has a big idea that some people will love (and others will find just plain odd).

While some fast-food chains lean into the rapidly growing demand for alternative meats and other plant-based foods, others are digging their heels into tradition and their image as a meat eater's paradise.

Burger King, a subsidiary in the larger Restaurant Brands International  (QSR) , has taken the alternate route with a deeper and deeper wade into all that is plant-based. It has been selling a plant-based burger since at least 2014 and recently opened its first all-vegan location in London's Leicester Square in March.

Before that, it already had vegetarian branches in countries such as Spain, Austria, Switzerland and Chile.

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A Meat-Free Burger King Pop-Up In Costa Rica

With the exception of Austria, those locations were temporary pop-ups meant as experiments to test the country's demand for a wider meat-free rollout -- and, now, the Whopper maker has set its sights on a Central American country.

On August 8, Burger King will open a 100% plant-based pop-up called Burger King San Pedro in Costa Rican capital San Jose. The temporary store will serve vegetarian options already available at regular Burger King stores such as the Veggie Nuggets, the Veggie Whopper, and the King Veggie Sandwich.

This location will be meat-free, but vegetarian rather than 100% vegan.

The decision to bring such a pop-up to San Jose, Burger King said in a press release, came from the strong performance of plant-based products at Burger King restaurants in the area.

"Costa Rica is one of the best-performing plant-based markets in LAC [Latin America and the Caribbean] for Burger King, based on sales of the Veggie Whopper at the company's retail locations," the company said.

As in other countries, the pop-up will be available for a temporary period of time and serve as a test run for what can potentially be a permanent plant-based Burger King.

"We recognize the changing needs of our guests and our planet," Sabrina Ferretti, head of Burger King International Marketing, told media in a statement. "Our goal is to offer the widest possible variety of nutritious meat-free meals to the largest possible demographic intersection."

Is The Future Of Fast Food Plant-Based?

While stock of alternative meat makers like Beyond Meat  (BYND)  have been floundering amid an explosion of newcomers to the market, the plant-based market is still expected to reach $24.8 billion at a CAGR of 19.3% by 2030 as more people in Western countries try to minimize meat consumption for reasons ranging from health to meat's environmental impact.

Fast-food chains, in turn, have been responding to the growing demand with more new products. Back in March, Starbucks  (SBUX) added its third shaken espresso with an alternative milk to its menu while Shake Shack  (SHAK)  toyed with a new nondairy chocolate frozen custard at some New York and Florida restaurants.

In the spring, Starbucks rival Peet's Coffee launched an entire plant-based menu with four oat-based lattes, a vegan "egg" breakfast sandwich, and a Mediterranean flatbread with vegan smoked provolone cheese and pesto.

"Plant-based foods are not alternatives or substitutes at Peet's Coffee," Lori Fulmer, a senior manager at Food R&D for Peet's Coffee, said in a statement in March. "[Over] the last 12 months, the number of plant-based meat, cheese and dairy products available to consumers in the marketplace has more than doubled."

McDonald's  (MCD) , in turn, chose a different route and recently confirmed that it was ending its prolonged trial run of the McPlant after weak sales.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a quote from Sabrina Ferretti, head of Burger King International Marketing.