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IKEA Launches Vegan Meatballs

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IKEA, the Swedish furniture company that specializes in insanely cheap furniture with difficult-to-pronounce names (and impossible-to-decipher assembly instructions), has just introduced its newest creation. And no, it's not a bookcase.

The home goods megastore has launched its long-awaited vegan meatballs. The vegetable balls are available at all IKEA stores' restaurants, including Sunrise, and sell for $4.49 for a ten-meatball plate. A chicken and veggie ball will be introduced June 30. 

IKEA rolled out its original Swedish meatballs in 1985 as a way to connect customers with the company's "Swedishness." The meatballs gained a cult following and, according to the company, are as well-known as its Billy bookcase, Klippan sofa, and Lack side table. In fact, the company sells more than 1 billion meatballs per year. That's about 2.9 million meatballs a day.

But even with all this popularity, IKEA ran into some troubles with its meatballs a few years back. In what became a public-relations nightmare, in 2013, authorities in the Czech Republic detected horse meat in IKEA meatballs. The company responded by recalling the product in its stores in Sweden, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, France, Britain, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, and Ireland. Although the food in the United States was never in danger of having horse meat, with IKEA U.S. issuing a statement that said the American product contained only beef and pork, some people chose to avoid having IKEA's specialty for lunch. 

The growing trend among consumers opting for a plant-based diet also must have contributed to IKEA's decision to roll out its veggie balls. The ball, named grönsaksbullar, contains only vegetables and, according to an IKEA statement, has a "reduced environmental impact." 

The veggie ball is part of a larger update to IKEA foods, which is undergoing a major overhaul to focus on healthier menu items that have an increased focus on responsible production, including animal welfare. The company has also stated that by the end of fiscal 2015, all seafood sold at IKEA will be ASC- or MSC-certified, except crayfish. The company is also working with the MSC organization to certify crayfish fisheries. 

“We will continue to serve delicious food, offering a taste of Sweden at affordable prices but with increasing focus on the aspects of food that are really important to people: health and sustainability,” said Michael La Cour, managing director of IKEA Food Services AB. “We have high ambitions, and our journey in this direction has just begun. I am proud that we now take the first step and start serving veggie balls.” 

Something Zen to think about when you're trying to beat that last bookcase shelf into submission.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and on Facebook. 

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