Burgers form the basis of one of the world’s most popular meals, carrying global appeal. Sales via both retail and foodservice channels continue to increase, boosted by factors such as busier lifestyles and hence less time for cooking, as well as the adoption of more westernized diets in parts of the world like Asia and the Middle East. By Jonathan Thomas
In the US, over two-thirds of the adult population were thought to eat a burger from a quick-service restaurant (QSR) at least once a week prior to the arrival of COVID-19, with consumers across the country eating approximately 50 billion burgers per annum. Over 70% of all beef eaten in US restaurants is in the form of a burger. Aside from the impact of COVID-19 (which will be discussed in more detail shortly), the market for meat-based burgers has also had to contend with challenges such as the rise of meat-free diets and health concerns over red meat intake. Processed meat products such as burgers have been strongly linked with increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and bowel cancer, as well as conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
Although health has been a major driver in the adoption of meat-free diets in parts of the world such as Europe and North America, concern over animal welfare is also a leading factor. For this reason, manufacturers of burgers are having to pay greater attention to supply chain considerations such as animal husbandry and the provenance of their meat. Concerns over climate change and more sustainable use of the planet’s resources have also contributed to the rising popularity of plant-based diets.
A European study carried out in 2020 by EIT and the University of Reading revealed high levels of consumer concern over processed meats. The study — which surveyed the opinions of people from the UK, Spain and Denmark — discovered that consumers were broadly receptive to meat-based burgers enhanced with additional ingredients such as onions, herbs, spices, mushrooms and pulses. For most respondents, the ideal burger would have a meat content of 75%, with vegetables or plant-based ingredients making up the remaining 25%. In contrast, there was little enthusiasm for processed meat products fortified with additional additives or preservatives.
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