You can count on Leonardo DiCaprio to consistently be on the cutting edge of plant-based eating and sustainability. The Academy Award-winning actor and environmental activist just invested in Neat Burger – the vegan fast-food chain co-founded by Formula One star Lewis Hamilton. Neat Burger will bring on DiCaprio as a strategic advisor for the company as it begins its international expansion. The company currently operates eight restaurants in London, but recently announced its first stateside location in New York City, slated to open later this year.

DiCaprio’s investment will help Neat Burger accelerate its U.S. expansion plans, propelling the U.K.-based chain into the North American vegan fast food mainstream. With the expansion, the company is aiming to open 14 additional stores across the United States. The fast-food chain is also looking at Italy and the Middle East for further expansion. Neat Food Co. – the chain’s parent company – announced plans to open 42 restaurants by the end of 2022 and 436 locations by 2026.

Neat’s plant-based specialties include an award-winning burger patty, fish filets, chicken nuggets, shakes, and other fast-food staples. The company also aims to debut a retail line, providing sustainable foods to American shoppers nationwide. DiCaprio revealed that Neat caught his attention because the company aims to produce everyday staples that will help consumers reduce meat consumption and more easily incorporate a flexitarian diet.

"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."

Neat Burger is Coming to the United States

DiCaprio joins just weeks following the company’s announcement of its U.S. expansion. Neat Burger will host a pop-up kitchen in Urbanspace Vanderbilt in New York City to introduce New Yorkers to the new chain. The company revealed that it plans to become involved with the local community before the flagship launch.

Neat also hired some industry veterans to prepare for its rapid international expansion. Former Le Pain Quotidien CEO Vincent Herbert, former Chairman of Sweetgreen Jeffrey S. Fried, and former COO at Joe & The Juice Henrik Fjordbak will join DiCaprio and Hamilton to assist Neat’s growth and eventual retail buildout.

"Neat is on a mission to create a sustainably delicious future,” Co-Founder and Chairman of Neat Tommaso Chiabra said. “ We are using our brand to build community and lead the change for a more sustainable future of food. Our Series B raise will accelerate our global expansion and entry into the CPG market, so everyone can enjoy alternatives that not only taste delicious but have a positive impact on the planet."

The meat and dairy industries are currently responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization. The adoption of a plant-based diet could slash greenhouse gases by up to 61 percent. Neat’s core mission is to provide people with a sustainable and affordable plant-based option to help shift us even slightly toward a more plant-centric diet.

The Rise of Vegan Fast Food

Americans want cheap food, but plant-based and vegan options have gained a reputation for being pricey. In recent years, the rise of plant-based fast food has helped it come close to price parity with traditional chains. Other companies including HipCityVeg have adopted vegan fast food models to bring affordable plant-based variations to American classics to consumers nationwide. Now, Neat Burger will enter a rapidly growing vegan fast food market, expected to reach $40 billion by 2028.

For consumers trying to save money, a vegan diet could actually be the best decision. Grocery costs on a vegan diet are typically 40 percent lower on meat-free diets. As more consumers begin to switch to plant-based diets, major companies have begun to develop plant-based options. To keep up with vegan competitors like Neat and HipCityVeg, major fast-food companies have started introducing their own vegan menu items, providing more vegan options to people everywhere.

For more plant-based happenings, check out The Beet's News category

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