Industry Experts Dive Into Creating Better Burgers

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KANSAS CITY, MO. – In the “Building a Better Burger” webinar, hosted July 14 by the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) and sponsored by Provisur Technologies Inc., the association invited three keynote speakers to discuss the ins and outs of burgers. The panel covered current trends, innovations and processes behind producing burgers for today’s consumers.

With over 30 years of knowledge of industry trends, Lynn Dornblaser, Director of Innovation and Insight at Mintel Group Ltd., kicked off the discussion by highlighting what she knows best: key insights of research.

“Absolutely the most important thing to remember is what’s most important to consumers,” Dornblaser said. “It’s obvious, but it’s sometimes easy to forget: food should taste good. When we ask consumers what matters most to them about the food they buy, taste trumps affordability.

The best protein choice for burgers is traditional beef, but Dornblaser noted that consumers are looking for non-traditional toppings and pairings. According to Mintel research, more than 75% of consumers say they enjoy trying different types of burgers and are looking to improve on the American staple.

When it comes to the most popular toppings, bacon is the winner, Dornblaser said.

“It’s about protein, protein, protein.”

However, many catering companies recognize the public’s growing desire for innovative flavors and ingredients and are acting accordingly.

Carl’s Jr. recently launched a breakfast burger with a grilled beef patty, bacon, eggs, American cheese, hash rings and ketchup on a seeded bun. Chicago-based restaurant Tavern on Rush has modified the traditional American burger by adding “scallion aioli” to its Tavern Burger, a twist on the typical ketchup and mustard condiments.

Other foodservice operators are quickly responding to consumers’ desire to also try different types of burger patties.

Food chain First Watch has introduced the Baja Turkey Burger to its menu, featuring a lean white meat turkey patty with avocado, organic mixed greens, pico de gallo, mayo and horseradish havarti on a brioche bun.

Besides taste, the most important attributes for consumers when purchasing protein products are price and brand. Health-related attributes follow closely behind, Dornblaser said.

Heather George, senior director of marketing at Cargill, added to the taste discussion, noting that sometimes consumers perceive they prefer one thing when their taste says otherwise.

“There is a growing perception that fresh patties are higher quality and more premium than IQF patties, but in reality when you do sensory testing with consumers and they don’t know the patty is fresh or frozen , IQF patties consistently outperform fresh patties.”

George said in blind sensory testing that 63% of consumers preferred frozen patties to fresh.

Lowell Sampson, vice president of engineering and food science for Provisur Technologies, explained the importance of creating a better burger before you even consider toppings.

Sampson theorized that the best burger comes from using high quality raw materials – the purest form of burger components like water, protein and fat.

“The longer we keep these components in their innate state, as a whole, and without breaking them, the better the burger we’re going to make – whether it’s beef, pork, turkey, etc.,” Sampson said.

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