SHARE
COPY LINK

HEALTH

Organic Berlin firm targets primate palates

A new organic fast food restaurant in downtown Berlin is hoping Germans want to eat as healthy as gorillas.

Organic Berlin firm targets primate palates

The Hamburglar lurks nearby, but he’s no match for Gorilla.

A now dusty mural of McDonald’s burger-pilfering villain is all that remains to remind pedestrians on Berlin’s busy Friedrichstrasse that there used to be a branch of the world-famous fast food chain here.

And the Hamburglar hasn’t just been deserted by Ronald the clown, Mayor McCheese and their slightly disturbing purple blob of a friend Grimace. Instead of lining up for Big Macs and extra large portions of fries, people now crowd into a store next door for tasty vegetarian fare.

As Germany’s ranks of health-conscious and environmentally aware consumers continue to swell, Gorilla – as the design-hip, new organic restaurant is known – hopes to become their fast food destination of choice.

At least one German had been won over at the grand opening of the new Gorilla flagship store in central Berlin last week. Perched behind a tray full of rocket salad, fresh squeezed juice, and the house specialty – a warm salad of mixed vegetable, wholegrain pasta and savory sauce – Jan Vureng said he’d definitely be back.

“It’s healthy, but it’s still good,” said the 30-year-old, adding he admired the stylish atmosphere of the restaurant as much as the food.

But as fundamentally different as the 100-percent vegetarian Gorilla is from 100-percent beefy McDonald’s, the company’s animated 34-year-old founder Matthias Rischau has a supersized portion of respect for Ronald’s red-and-yellow keepers for overhauling their menu in recent years to appeal to healthier lifestyles.

“McDonald’s is good at reacting to trends and they are trying to become more socially responsible these days,” Rischau told The Local at the grand opening on March 13.

The wiry-haired Rischau, with his passion for vegetarianism and the environment, could easily be lumped in with Germany’s legions of McDonald’s haters. The ubiquitous US burger chain, which has some 50 of restaurants in Berlin alone, faces fierce opposition from some quarters. In September 2007, the opening of a new franchise in Berlin’s alternative Kreuzberg district even sparked the creation of a protest group that called itself McWiderstand – or McResistance in English.

And Rischau, who swore off meat nine years ago, says he was resistant to letting his kids eat junk food when he came up with the idea for Gorilla. With his brood in mind, Rischau opened his first tiny Gorilla snack bar in Berlin’s western Charlottenburg district in 2005.

“At first we mostly had women customers wanting something healthy for their small children. A lot of people didn’t understand what we were about,” he admitted.

Rischau, who has plans to open other branches in Berlin this year, eventually wants to take Gorilla’s tasty veggie cuisine and crisp minimalist design nationwide, and said he tried to apply some of McDonald’s corporate logic to his contradictory-sounding “natural fast food.”

“We want to be a brand. We want to set up franchises. If an entrepreneur is putting all his effort into something it’s more likely to work,” he told The Local.

To create a recognizable brand, Rischau had young design company ett la ben create an image reflecting the simplicity of Gorilla’s food. The concept behind the food is based on what a big primate would eat in the wild: local fresh and vegetarian fare low in sugar and fat.

But in the urban jungle, finding healthy food on the go is challenging, so Rischau decided to make it easy for people who “already have enough stress in their lives.” Whenever possible, ingredients for Gorilla’s savory soups and crisp salads come from regional producers. Rischau stresses that this is part of why he calls the cuisine “natural,” and not “organic” – since another part of playing the primate role means having a low impact on one’s surroundings, according to head Gorilla Rischau.

It’s an admirable idea, but the marriage between fast food and natural food could be a rocky one, according to Alexander Schramm, Director of Corporate Affairs for McDonald’s in Germany. “It’s not possible to convert to organic on a large scale,” he told The Local.

In the last few years, McDonald’s Germany has introduced products like the wildly popular Bionade natural soft drink, gourmet chicken products and organic milk in response to consumer demand for more organic food. But it can mean serious logistical problems, Schramm said, making it unlikely that McDonald’s will ever be threatened by the growing natural food movement or the ambitions of restaurants like Gorilla. “We make our own goals,” he said confidently.

Certainly it might never be possible to match McDonald’s ease of ordering and being served. Gorilla’s first customers in downtown Berlin did seem to be having trouble negotiating the salad bar – a food phenomenon rarely seen in meat-loving Germany – and the cashiers seemed frustrated by a cranky scale that weighed plates full of healthy fare. Another customer complained of lukewarm soup.

Emiel Hondelink, a former McDonald’s executive and gastronomic consultant to Gorilla, was busily replenishing the salad bar on the restaurant’s opening day. He agreed that the concept won’t usurp the fast food giant any time soon.

“Going completely vegetarian is real culinary challenge. We’re not just offering some bland tomato soup here,” said the affable Dutchman Hondelink from behind the salad bar. “But it’s the right concept at the right time.”

www.gorilla-natuerlich.de/

HEALTH

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination. 

SHOW COMMENTS