Pizza chain prompts backlash with 'misleading' vegan pizza prank: 'Deceitful behavior'

A New Zealand pizza chain is getting a lot of criticism after serving plant-based meat on its hamburger pizza instead of real beef, and not telling its customers.

The chain, Hell Pizza, launched the Burger Pizza for a limited time last Friday, June 21. The pie boasted “medium rare burger patty,” according to the pizzeria’s Facebook page, along with real cheddar cheese, red onion and gherkins on top.

However, the brand did not reveal it was made using popular fake-meat brand Beyond Meat hamburger for the pizza topping until Thursday – after it had sold about 3,000 pizzas throughout the week, BBC reported.

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According to the video of the reveal, those who unwittingly ate the meat-free pizza were pleasantly surprised.

However, those online were not as pleased.

“Deceitful behavior with good intentions is still deceitful. You may have not broken the law you have shown that you are not a company to be trusted,” one person wrote.

“Congratulations. Will not ever buy anything from you again. Ever,” another person claimed on the brand’s Facebook.

“Lying to your customers, great idea. Idiots, great way to destroy brand trust,” one person commented on Facebook.

“People have a right to decide and know what they do or do not want to eat. This is an absolute disgrace and completely unacceptable,” another person wrote.

“Not only is it a breach of the Fair Trading act, you also failed to or did not list all ingredients... There are many people in the community that are allergic to some of these vege based products...” another upset by the stunt shared.

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Though there were many who applauded the chain for “fooling” them.

“Hell's pizza you fooled our family of meat eaters absolutely loved the pizza thanks for the voucher will be ordering this again with it. Brilliant idea and seriously can't understand what fuss is about nothing misleading and support you 100%,” one fan wrote.

The hamburger pizza prompted backlash when the chain failed to reveal it was actually usually fake meat brand Beyond Meat for the patty.

The hamburger pizza prompted backlash when the chain failed to reveal it was actually usually fake meat brand Beyond Meat for the patty. (Hell Pizza YouTube)

“For those saying that they have the right to know what ingredients are used in their food, please answer this question: Name KFC's 11 herbs and spices?” one wrote, defending the brand.

Hell Pizza told BBC they were hoping to “start a conversation” around the idea of fake meat.

"A lot of people are instantly put off by the idea of fake meats, so we made the call to not reveal its meat-free origins... because we were so confident they'd enjoy these patties," general manager Ben Cumming told the BBC in a statement.

Despite some online saying the brand could face a lawsuit for breaching the Fair Trading Act, which protects companies from misleading their customers, Hell Pizza remains confident that they did not mislead their customers and noted anyone who asked about the meat was told it was made from plants.

"We haven't lied about the product - we rightly called the product burger patties, and customers have read into that what they will. We are very confident there is no breach of the fair trading act, and Consumer NZ agrees with us," said Cumming to the BBC.

Hell Pizza has since updated the description of the pizza on its website to read “loaded with chunks of medium-rare Beyond Meat burger patty.”

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Burger King pulled a similar stunt on April Fool’s Day. The fast food chain served unsuspecting guests a fake-meat Impossible Whopper, claiming it was a real beef Whopper.

However, it seemed to have gone over much better. So much so that the brand rolled out the Impossible Burger nationwide.