Burger King UK is to launch vegan nuggets nationwide from Wednesday as the fast food chain evolves its meat-focused menu to cash in on the booming popularity of plant-based diets.

The chain, which two years ago launched a plant-based Rebel Whopper burger that turned out not to be suitable for vegans because it was cooked on the same grill as meat, is the first major fast-food operator in the UK to offer an animal-product-free version of nuggets.

The company says the product, which has been developed by The Vegetarian Butcher and certified by the Vegan Society, is made from soy and plant proteins only and tastes the same as its meat originals.

Burger King vegan nuggets
Burger King says its vegan nuggets taste the same as the meat originals. Photograph: Burger King

Burger King, which last year launched a Vegan Royale burger that is prepared separately from animal products, aims to make half of its menu meat-free by 2030 to help it achieve a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 41%.

“Adapting to customer preferences is a key focus at Burger King,” said the Burger King UK chief executive, Alasdair Murdoch. “We are committed to helping our guests make good decisions about what they eat and drink and providing them with informed choices.”

Murdoch said that the move marked a response to the growing nationwide demand for meatless alternatives and products with no animal protein in the UK.

Bakery chain Greggs has experienced huge success with its push into vegan foods, most notably its bestselling Quorn-filled sausage rolls, with demand outstripping supply when it first launched the product three years ago.

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A record number of people are expected to try to eat only plant-based foods this month, as growing environmental concerns heighten interest in the Veganuary movement.

This year more than 40 companies including Harris’s, Superdrug and Volkswagen UK are taking part in a Veganuary “workplace challenge” to make more vegan food available in the workplace and run events to support participating staff.

More than 50,000 products have been certified by the Vegan Society, with new products including a Babybel made out of coconut oil and starch, and an almond and oat-based Philadelphia spread.