Sonic reduces meat, raises the bar

GFI Corporate Engagement Director Alison Rabschnuk explains why mushrooms > meat in Sonic’s new Slingers.
Sonic sign

When Sonic introduced the first-of-its-kind, mushroom-blended Sonic Slinger, the classic chain re-imagined the fast food burger for everyone in the sector. Now the Slinger is an example of how restaurants can gain a competitive edge by edging out meat. 

Paying attention to the growing demand for flavorful, plant-forward (or in this case, fungi-forward) options has paid off: After a 60-day test run, Sonic is now rolling out two takes on the shroom Slingers in its 3,500 locations. The burgers will be sold for $1.99 a piece. 

Sonic mushroom blended burger

The secret to Sonic’s success is two-fold. On the one hand, it turns out that mushrooms provide — and perhaps improve upon — the powerful umami flavors of beef for a fraction of the calories. Secondly, these blended burgers are cost-competitive both for consumers and for the chain itself. With economies of scale, it’s highly likely that mushroom-blended burgers could be vastly more cost-efficient to produce than their 100% beef counterparts in the near future. 

Sonic’s C-suite and its customers are clearly getting a sweet deal, but there’s a big bonus for the environment as well. The Slingers are comprised of around a 75/25 beef to mushroom split, which might seem modest. But according to the World Resources Institute, replacing 30% of the beef in every burger consumed in America per year with mushrooms would have jaw-dropping impacts on the planet.  

Infographic of u. S. Consumption of beef

As a representative from the Culinary Institute of America told NPR, this subtle and savory approach to meat-reduction represents “a powerful, and previously underappreciated, way to drive improvements in our health and our planet.” 

If you’ve given the Sonic Slinger a try, tweet us your feedback at @GoodFoodInst. And if you’re a restaurateur looking to get a share of the plant profits, The Good Food Institute has resources to support you. Click here to see what your competition is up to, and then contact our Corporate Engagement team for a direct consultation. 

To learn more about GFI’s work to increase the quality and quantity of plant-based options on the market, read up on what we do.