Americans Love Burgers
One may wonder if so much focus and investment on the burger is worth it. The truth is plain and simple: U.S. consumers eat a lot of beef burgers. More than three-quarters of consumers eat a burger both at home as well as at a restaurant at least once per month.1 Additionally, 28% of consumers also report an increase in their burger consumption over the last year, beating out the 21% who claim to have decreased their burger intake. Everyone else claims to eat the same amount of burgers.1
Trend: The Adventurous Eater
All that said, no one in the beef industry should rest on their laurels. Let’s face it: Plant-based burgers are on their way to becoming ubiquitous in retailer cases and on restaurant menus. Currently, plant-based burgers inhabit space on 9% of U.S. menus, with projected growth of +76% over the next four years.1 Interestingly, however, even when consumers eat plant-based foods, some are still using meat in the same dishes or meals. Nearly a third (29%) of consumers say they mix plant and animal proteins together in meals to cut back on the amount of meat they’re using; 26% say they mix the two to increase total protein content.2
Intriguingly, those folks driving much of the alternative-meat sales are the adventurous meat eaters themselves, consuming more cuts and kinds of meat than the average U.S. household.3 To keep this adventurous eater coming back for more animal proteins, it’s crucial for beef industry players to continually drive innovation, and the burger space is primed for it.
Trend: The Artisanal Burger
Look no further for creative inspiration than foodservice, where like its counterparts in beer and spirits, beef burgers have jumped on the artisanal bandwagon. Locally sourced beef, premium meats and unexpected toppings prevail in this handcrafted category. Across the board, Millennials in particular index high in terms of appeal for just about every burger component possible in comparison to their other generational counterparts. Keep this consumer group top of mind as you go to market, taking note from eateries like Gordon Ramsay Burger, which features the 24 Hour Burger, a beef burger topped with braised short rib, brown sugar bacon, white cheddar, red-eye BBQ sauce and cold brew vinaigrette. Overall, some noteworthy mentions of ingredients that index well with Millennials include: beets (34%), hummus (34%), pesto (40%), pico de gallo (44%), waffle buns (44%), Gruyere cheese (44%) and teriyaki sauce (45%).1 The options are limitless.
Trend: The Fusion Burger
Building on the craft burger boom, fusion burgers have popped up in foodservice with home chefs quickly following suit. Five Star Family Burger, for example, offers the Bulgogi burger and the Kimchi burger, both taking inspiration from Korean cuisine. Not to be outdone, at the popular Wahlburgers chain (which saw a +37% year-over-year change in 2020 systemwide sales of $76M)4, one can partake in the Fiesta burger that includes two beef burger patties dusted with Southwestern spice rub, pepper jack cheese, fresh jalapenos, lettuce, smoked pepper salsa, chipotle mayo and pickles. You can even experiment with the fiesta trend at home, starting with the Jalapeño Cheddar BUBBA burger® as a base and following their recipe for additional fixins’ like homemade guacamole and fried jalapenos. Craving a tropical cocktail as you lounge in the summer sun? Fire up your grill with Tasty’s Pina Colada Burger recipe, complete with coconut flakes and pineapple chunks. Stick with the beach theme and try your hand at the Caribbean Beef Burger, powered by jerk seasoning and mango salad topping.
How to Win Over – and Keep – Burger Customers
Quite clearly, the burger knows no end when it comes to culinary innovation. The meat industry should continue to build on, expand and strongly promote beef burger offerings that deliver on consumer demands like adventurous taste, convenience and accessibility. Ultimately, the burger is a choice pathway for creating added value in the meat space for consumers, especially important when facing today’s inflationary headwinds.
So, get yourselves out there and innovate, celebrate and advocate for the beloved beef burger! Tonight, I plan to fire up my grill and have a go at the St. Louis burger. Named for my hometown and featuring our famous toasted ravioli, this Italian-fusion burger is sure to be a winner.
2 Mintel, Plant-based Proteins – US, May 2021.
3 IRI Integrated Fresh Market Advantage, TUS MULO, Latest 52 WE 12-26-2021 / IRI Integrated Fresh Panel, TUS All Outlets, Latest 52 Weeks Ending 12-26-2021
4 Nation’s Restaurant News, The 25 fastest-growing restaurant chains in America by domestic systemwide sales, July 15, 2021.