The Ministry for Primary Industries is investigating Hell Pizza after receiving a number of complaints from customers.

This comes after the fast-food chain sold more than 3000 of its new Burger Pizzas last month, with most customers not realising its burger-like topping was made of Beyond Meat, a plant-based meat alternative.

When the news broke last week, MPI quickly stepped in, saying that after several complaints it will be talking to Hell Pizza about "the importance of consumers being aware of ingredients so they can make informed decisions".

It's understood that the industry body has since met with Hell to discuss the matter.


One of the major concerns associated with the stunt was that it could have exposed Kiwis to allergens.

Beyond Meat's website warns that pea protein, one of the product's main components, could pose a risk for people who are allergic to peanuts.

"Peas are legumes," the website says. "People with severe allergies to legumes like peanuts should be cautious when introducing pea protein into their diet because of the possibility of a pea allergy."

Dr Bodo Lang, head of marketing at the University of Auckland, said there was a chance the stunt had also breached the Fair Trading Act, which forbids "misleading and deceptive conduct" including selling in a way that is "liable to mislead the public as to the nature ... of goods".

"If you're saying "burger", I think the vast majority of people would say burger means hamburger and hamburger means beef," Lang said.

But despite possible breaches of the law, he thought the saga could increase sales if people felt it meant Hell was confident in the quality of its product.

"Consumers may want to experience this first hand," he said. "It's implicit that they're suggesting to you that this stuff is as good as the real thing, so me and my meatosaurus friends will give it a try."

Hell has a long history of pulling controversial marketing stunts to cut through the cluttered pizza market.


This included a 2014 campaign that saw the company pinning real rabbit skins to a billboard to promote its limited edition rabbit pizza over easter.

More recently, Hell also showed it was responsive to events in the news, running a billboard promoting an "unruly tourist pizza", timed to coincide with the havoc being caused by a group of visitors from England.

Hell has a long history of marketing stunts. Photo / File
Hell has a long history of marketing stunts. Photo / File

A disclaimer under the name of the new pizza warns potential buyers that the pizza "may contain hair and ants" - a reference to some of the complaints the troublesome tourists had made at restaurants around New Zealand in their bid to evade the bill.