Volkswagen just announced that it plans to update its 50-year-old menu staple at its headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany to be vegan. The German automobile company has featured a signature currywurst dish at its headquarters for half a century and alongside its promise to redesign its company sustainable policies. Over recent years, the car company began innovating its company’s production facilities and cutting its carbon emissions to promote sustainability within the car industry. Now, the company will cease its inclusion of meat, except for fish, within its employee canteen.

The plant-based shift breaks the company's 48-year tradition, marking the first time that the company will move away from its renowned sausage brand. The motor vehicle company first launched its own sausage brand in 1973, and since then has expanded to restaurants across six factories as well as several supermarkets and football stadium concession stands. The company recorded that it sold 7 million of its sausage in 2019. The company noted that it produced more sausages than cars annually several times in the last 50 years.

Volkswagen ID.3 Electric Car Production In Dresden
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VW Looks to Become More Sustainable

The car company’s effort is one change amid a broader effort to enhance the company’s sustainability policies. The company announced that it aims to become a carbon-neutral company by 2050, and plans to minimize its negative environmental impacts regarding production and distribution. The company has promised to reduce its CO2, water, and energy waste over the next 30 years. The company announced that it hopes to lower its environmental externalities by 45 percent compared to numbers recorded in 2010.

“When it comes to the emissions issue, we have failed to live up to our own standards in several areas. The irregularities in the handling of emissions tests contradict everything we stand for,” the company wrote on its website. “We will do everything in our power to prevent incidents of this kind from recurring, and are fully committed to re-embracing our standards and winning back public trust.”

Plant-based eating is the most recent tactic to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, but immediately saw backlash by several public figures. Ex-German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder came out against the car company’s decision, pleading with Volkswagen to reconsider its decision to exclude the traditional animal-based currywurst from its canteens.

“If I were still on the board of [Volkswagen], something like this would not have happened,” the Chancellor wrote on LinkedIn. “A vegetarian diet is good, and I do it myself in phases. But basically no currywurst? No!”

The decision to incorporate plant-based sausage also coincides with the rapidly rising vegan sausage market. A Future Market Insights report released in December 2020 concluded that the plant-based sausage market could be valued at $6.3 billion by 2028. The report signifies growing popularity in the vegan sausage sector, giving a reason for Volkswagen to shift its menu to meet rising demand.

“The plant-based sausages market growth is supported by a rising awareness pertaining health and the subsequent decrease in meat uptake,” a Future Market Insights analyst said. “This limited consumption of meat products has further ushered in a decline in production, making way for plant-based sausages market expansion.”

The company’s sustainability efforts are taking place across its entire company, pushing its production and distribution of electric cars over recent years. The company announced that its all-electric vehicle deliveries tripled over 2020.

Beyond the currywurst, the company extended its meat removal across approximately 150 recipes at the headquarters restaurant. The restaurant is slated to reopen following its August break, according to Automotive News. Eventually, CEO Herbert Diess plans to banish all factory-farm meat from the facility by 2025 to support its carbon reduction efforts. Last year, VW’s Nordwing restaurant began offering a vegetarian alternative to the brand’s 14,000 employees in its initial attempt to push plant-based foods.

"We want to show that vegetarian food can always be an alternative to eating meat," Thomas Kleiner–the kitchen manager at VW's Nordwind restaurant–told Fortune.

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