CHICAGO — New research from Technomic confirms the popularity of hamburgers, and that could represent a sales opportunity for retailers this summer when grilling season kicks off.
The retail price of ground beef has stayed relatively stable compared to the price of other proteins over the last year and a half.
Meanwhile, Technomic, in a survey of 1,200 U.S. consumers, found that 85% said they eat burgers once a month or more, and only 6% told researchers they never eat burgers.
“Burgers are more popular than ever, and represent one of the hottest trends in the industry,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic Information Services, Chicago, when the research results were published last month.
Not surprisingly, Technomic's study shows that limited-service restaurant chains dominate the burger category. Consumers tend to gravitate toward those outlets for value, price, portability and speed of service.
Variety and freshness, however, are of bigger concern when purchasing full-service burgers, the research shows.
That, as well as other findings, could be especially good news for retailers. For example, the study shows that while “traditional” burgers still hold solid appeal, there is strong preference toward customization and “build your own burger” options.
With the customization findings and the nearness of grilling season in mind, retailers could offer some appealing variations, one retail industry consultant suggested.
“Consumers love hamburgers and will probably keep ground beef on their shopping lists because of its attractive price,” said consultant Jack Allen, marketing team leader, Partnerships for Food Industry Development, Winter Park, Fla.
But Allen also emphasized that consumers look for variety. He suggested that retailers could attract consumers to the meat case with a variety of seasoned, formed hamburgers, and a variety of hamburger sizes and package sizes. With the advent of mini-burgers and sliders, pre-formed mini-burgers could be an attention-getter.
Sampling cooked hamburgers in the meat department also could bring people to the meat case, sell more ground beef, and other cuts, as well, Allen said.
“True bargains attract shoppers to the meat department, which gives the retailer the opportunity to showcase other meat cuts with a variety of merchandising appeals,” he said.
Other findings in Technomic's research include:
Significant differences were found in burger preferences and consumption behavior based on gender, age, region, ethnicity and income — e.g., consumers in the Northeast are the lightest burger users, and Asian consumers are more likely than other ethnic groups to find themed burgers appealing.
Heavy burger users, those who eat burgers once a week or more, make up the largest burger user category — 44% of all users. This group skews toward young consumers and those in the South and Midwest.
Within the nearly $59 billion burger category, the top 25 limited-service burger chains held roughly 97% of the market — and the top three, McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's, accounted for nearly 75% of LSR burger chain sales.
Consumers apparently take for granted the availability of their favorite hamburgers.
Burger King recently had to deal with customers who expressed outrage when, as part of an advertising campaign, the chain pretended it was discontinuing its Whopper at two locations in Nevada.
In the long run, the ruse apparently whetted their customers' appetites because the chain attributes a double-digit sales increase in the last quarter of 2007 to the ad campaign.