Club House for Chefs

Innovation is key in the burger industry

August 17 2015

Burgers are one of the most popular foods in North America - so it's highly likely that there's some form of this meaty meal on your menu.

Research from Technomic indicates that the majority of consumers eat burgers at least weekly (57 per cent). However, with rising beef costs and negative health perceptions, the burger has also taken a bit of a tumble in recent years.

To combat this downturn, Technomic says burger chains are looking for new ways to improve health perceptions while maintaining a strong value proposition. 

Sara Monnette, Technomic vice president, explains that there are a number of ways burger restaurants can do this.

"Utilizing value beef cuts and incorporating non-beef proteins can help lower costs and broaden the range of needstates burgers can satisfy," she says.

"Specialty ingredients like pretzel buns can enhance the value perception and unique toppings and sauces, stuffed patties and premium sides can add craveability and brand differentiation," she adds.

Customization is also a key consideration. According to Technomic's research, 61 per cent of US consumers say that it's important to be able to customize the toppings and condiments. More than four in ten (43 per cent) say they prioritize build-your-own burgers - this is an offering that has grown at full-service restaurants by 28 per cent since 2013.

Non-beef burgers are another option. At limited-service restaurants, chicken tops the list of fastest-growing burgers since 2013, with a 23 per cent increase in menu-item incidence.

McDonald's releases new premium burger

Earlier this month, McDonald's announced its new premium burger, the Mighty Angus. The first new premium burger the company has added to its permanent menu since 2012, it contains 100 per cent pure Angus beef from Canadian farms.

McDonald's says it's made with "carefully selected, juicy, tender cuts of Angus beef proudly sourced from Canadian farms and enhanced with smoky Angus sauce". It includes hickory-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, processed cheddar cheese and grilled onions and is served on a poppy seed bun. McDonald's boasts that the burger offers an "authentic taste experience for burger lovers at an affordable price".

The Mighty Angus went through rigorous trials with Canadian taste-testers to get it "just right". Director of menu management at McDonald's Canada, Anne Parks, indicated that the release of the burger signals a move for the company to go back to its roots.

"The very first item on the menu in 1967 was a hamburger and at its heart, McDonald's has always been a burger company," she explained.

She added that the company wants to be seen as the place to go for a good burger. "Today, McDonald's is the destination of choice for Canadian burger lovers, serving more guests than all other national burger chains combined," she said.

It's not just the recipe for the Mighty Angus that sets it apart. The company said in a statement that it has renewed its grilling procedures in order to ensure that every burger is "cooked to perfection". All staff - from the head office to restaurant kitchens - have also been given refreshed beef quality training to ensure everyone in the company knows how to prepare a good burger "that's perfectly seasoned and juicy".

In addition to the new burger, McDonald's is also working on a sustainability pilot project. The company is helping to establish an independent verification process for what it means to produce sustainable beef.

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