Looking for an edge against its quick-serve rivals, Burger King is introducing healthier french fries, dubbed “Satisfries,” today at all of its 7,200 U.S. outlets.
Satisfries contain 40 percent less fat and 30 percent fewer calories than traditional fries, and 25 percent less fat and 20 percent fewer calories than standard Burger King fries, which remain on the menu. Satisfries will sell for $1.79–$1.99 a serving, compared with the $1.59 price of basic fries.
Eric Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer, North America, at Miami-based Burger King, says fries are the one quick-serve category that hasn’t seen “breakthrough innovation.”
“We’re not replacing our current french fries. We’re just giving [customers] a new option,” Hirschhorn says. “We’re giving people an option to make small changes.”
Hirschhorn says consumers’ evolving tastes and dietary choices encouraged Burger King to develop Satisfries. He adds that french fry consumption is declining, even though about half of the 100 million consumers who stop at a Burger King each month order fries.
“People want to make small changes that make a big impact, and don’t want to sacrifice the foods they love,” Hirschhorn says.
Keri Gans, Burger King spokeswoman, registered dietician, and author of The Small Change Diet, said during a September 19 product launch in New York City that one in eight men and one in 10 women in the U.S. dine on french fries daily, and that fries constitute 1.5 percent of the caloric intake of the average American meal. Satisfries contain the same ingredients as the classic fries, just in smaller quantities, she added.
The healthier fries will initially be a limited-time offering. Hirschhorn says the public’s reaction will determine how long the item stays on the menu. Its debut will be supported by a full marketing campaign.
Burger King could use a winner. Competition from McDonald’s and Wendy’s value menus, as well as from a growing crop of fast-casual concepts, has slowed the company’s growth. In fact, same-stores sales at Burger King dipped 3 percent in the U.S. and Canada during the first quarter of 2013 compared with the previous year.
“Economic factors are influencing low-income groups’ ability to dine out with greater frequency, making it more difficult for fast-food chains to increase traffic and sales,” says Darren Tristano, EVP at Technomic, a Chicago-based market research firm.
To keep pace with McDonald’s and Wendy’s, Tristano says, Burger King must introduce new products to keep the cash registers ringing. In the last year, it has added a barbecue sandwich, sweet potato fries, smoothies, and lemonades, helping it compete against industry leaders, he adds.
By Gary M. Stern