Leo To Lewis: Let’s Go For Vegan Burger Domination

4 Mins Read

Lewis Hamilton’s Neat Burger chain is branching out, stateside. The vegan fast-food startup has announced that following a pop-up location this month, it is opening a permanent Manhattan location. To date, Neat Burger is solely London-based. The move to New York is a significant marker of success for the brand, as is Leonardo DiCaprio coming on board as a strategic investor.

Working with a vertically integrated model, the overall Neat Food group will soon act as a CPG supplier alongside its restaurant interests. The latter is cited as creating consumer familiarity and trust before other products are launched into a competitive space. 

Photo by Neat Burger.

Replacing conventional beef burgers in the food chain

In 2020, McDonald’s sold approximately one billion pounds of beef in the U.S. This translates to approximately 5.5 million cows; livestock production accounts for 60 percent of all food-related greenhouse gas emissions, and beef specifically creates 25 percent of all food-based emissions. One kilo of beef produces 70kg of emissions; by comparison, wheat creates just 2.5 kilos of greenhouse gas emissions per kilo of grain.

Neat hopes to be a catalyst for removing animal protein from the food system entirely.

“By 2040 we see a world where alternative proteins have replaced animal proteins completely,” Tommaso Chiabra, co-founder and chairman of Neat Food said in a statement. “Neat is leading the charge in the development of these alternatives that not only satisfy the needs of conscious consumers, but that also deliver on flavor. We’re here to prove that the easiest choice can also be the best choice for the planet.”

Photo by Neat Burger.

New York is just the start for Neat Burger

Neat has made new appointments to lead the U.S. expansion. Notable amongst them is Vincent Herbert as chief executive of Neat Burger USA, coming from La Pain Quotidien. He is overseeing the new Manhattan restaurant completion, which is step one in an ambitious global expansion plan that includes an additional 14 U.S. locations. These will be operated via a franchise scheme. 

Initial rollout into the U.S. will set the tone for the chain’s fast-paced and aggressive moves in all markets. Moves into the Middle East and Europe are already planned as part of a 1,000 locations by 2030 strategy.

Neat has just launched a Series B funding round, primarily targeting U.S. investors. Fresh investment will support global growth plans, build out the team and underpin CPG manufacturing developments. Leonardo DiCaprio has committed to the round already.

“Disrupting our food system with sustainable alternatives is one of the key ways we can make a real difference in reducing global emissions,” DiCaprio said in a statement. “Neat Burger’s pioneering approach to alternative proteins is a great example of the type of solutions we need moving forward.”

Photo by Neat Burger.

The significance of snaring Leo

DiCaprio is more than just a bragworthy investor. Part of Perfect Day’s Sustainability & Health Advisory Council, DiCaprio earned his seat due to his environmental activism. His portfolio of work and investments reflects his expertise, which now shines a light on Neat Food.

From backing cultivated meat companies Mosa Meat and Aleph Farms to pledging financial support for an anti-shark hunting documentary, he isn’t shy about putting his name to earth-positive initiatives. In his acting career, he has chosen projects that mirror his ‘real world’ interests as well, with Don’t Look Up proving to be a parodic smash hit when released earlier this year.

Neat Burger at home

Following its U.S. debut, Neat will be energising its CPG ambitions. Consumers can expect to find burgers, fish fillets, hot dogs, and nuggets, amongst other items, in retail outlets by the end of 2022. Neat states that meaningful talks are being had with U.S. and U.K. distribution partners now. 

Photo by McDonald’s.

Vegan burgers in the U.S.

Neat’s expansion into the U.S. market comes as domestic and international players begin to sit up and take notice of vegan consumers. 

Canada’s first vegan fast-food chain, Odd Burger, signed an agreement with SGE last month to open 36 new restaurants. The locations will be split between Alberta and British Columbia, with all expected to be operational within seven years. Also in Canada, A&W released its first-ever fully vegan burger. All of its 1,000+ restaurants now serve the dish, which comes with vegan aioli. 

McDonald’s has reported less-than-mindblowing results with its McPlant offering, in the U.S. Despite initial 2021 testing showing positive sales figures, since wider roll-out, performance has been disappointing. A three-year deal with Beyond Meat leaves the fast-food chain with little option but to make the best of the situation.

Lead composite created using images from Neat Burger.


  • Amy Buxton

    A long-term committed ethical vegan and formerly Green Queen's resident plant-based reporter, Amy juggles raising a family and maintaining her editorial career, while also campaigning for increased mental health awareness in the professional world. Known for her love of searing honesty, in addition to recipe developing, animal welfare and (often lacklustre) attempts at handicrafts, she’s hands-on and guided by her veganism in all aspects of life. She’s also extremely proud to be raising a next-generation vegan baby.

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