Burgers continue to undergo premiumisation at the retail and foodservice levels, reports Jonathan Thomas.
The popularity of burgers as one of the world’s most popular meal centres shows no sign of abating. Although the sector suffered to some extent during the pandemic and the subsequent closure of many foodservice outlets, further growth is expected to result from the ongoing evolution of the market, encompassing a greater range of proteins and toppings. Burgers remain a staple of the global foodservice industry, even though many of the more recent establishments have diversified slightly beyond the traditional confines of the quick service restaurants (QSR) sector. The market has also benefited from the suitability of burgers for images on social media platforms such as Instagram.
According to research carried out in the US by Technomic in 2019, 56% of consumers claimed to eat burgers at least once a week, a figure which increases to 62% for those aged between 18 and 34. In the UK, meanwhile, an estimated 2.5 billion burgers are eaten every year, equivalent to 52 per capita or one per week. Research carried out on behalf of Tesco in 2021 found that around a quarter of UK consumers described burgers as a foodstuff they would be unwilling to live without.
Beef remains the choice of protein for many consumers, although the premiumisation of the market has seen more suppliers placing added emphasis on the provenance of their meat – this has been reflected in the marketing of beefburgers carrying labels such as Angus, brisket and Wagyu, as well as products sourced from grass-fed herds. However, another recent trend has been the emergence of a greater range of meats used in the manufacture of frozen and chilled burgers – examples include chicken, turkey, pork, lamb and venison. To these can be added various forms of fish and seafood (with salmon one popular choice) and the burgeoning range of meat-free burgers made from vegetables and other plant-based ingredients and derivatives.
As the market has evolved, so too has the range of toppings used for burgers. In most western markets, the traditional favourites such as cheese, bacon, pickles and various condiments (mostly ketchup or mayonnaise) still hold sway. As consumer tastes have become more cosmopolitan, however, toppings such as avocadoes, coleslaw and eggs have increased in popularity. The greater influence of ethnic cuisine upon the market has resulted in greater adoption of toppings like jalapeno peppers, chillies, soy sauce, Habanero relish and mango salsa.
The premiumisation of the burgers market in Europe and North America is best illustrated by developments within the foodservice industry as it recovers from the effects of the pandemic. During 2021, McDonalds announced it was to trial a new Signature Collection menu in 28 of its UK outlets. The menu, which was created by the company’s in-house chefs and food specialists, included burger varieties such as The Classic, The BBQ and The Spicy. Competition for McDonalds within the UK market remains strong, especially since the US chain Wendy’s returned to the country in the summer of 2021 after an absence of 20 years. As of March 2022, Wendy’s had opened six outlets in southern England, although it plans to increase this number to 400 in the future.
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