The fast-food category is on a fast track as consumers responded well to the industry’s efforts to provide healthier choices and better value. According to the 2008 BrandZ Top 100 Most Powerful Brands, the industry category continues to be one of the fastest growing in terms of brand value growth, rising by 27 percent over last year.

The comprehensive, global BrandZ ranking, released by global market research and consulting firm Millward Brown, identifies the world’s Top 100 most powerful market-facing brands as measured by their dollar value across all industries. It also ranks year-on-year growth of brands in 16 different product categories, including fast food.

Category Highlights:

• Fast food is growing at a brisk pace, despite criticism the category has received over the past few years. Expansion has occurred not only in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India and China), but also in the U.S. and Europe.

• Fast food companies have succeeded by using a variety of different strategies–some reacting to healthier trends, others focusing on their original roots.

• Asia offers great opportunity for growth, as fast food there holds an aspirational status.
• Coffee represents an area of intense competition among fast food brands.

Fast Food Brand Highlights:

• McDonald’s led the fast food category, and was the only fast food brand included in the BrandZ Top 10 (ranked No. 8). Along with its strong, fun brand image, McDonald’s is succeeding by responding to trends (e.g., healthy choices, increased hours) and offering a three-tier menu selection (premium, healthy choices, core favorites and value). They are also increasing their focus on coffee sales.

• Starbucks, No. 2 in the fast food category as it was last year, is still expanding rapidly both in developed countries as well as the BRICs. Although brand value has dipped, the company has brought back its original CEO and is refocusing on core brand values.

• KFC, No. 4, benefited from its positioning in China as the “new fast food” and has more outlets in China than any other fast food brand.
• Tim Horton’s, Canada’s largest fast food chain specializing in coffee and baked goods, ranked number five in the category. It is one of the most successful chains with a unique value proposition that is a little more upscale. The brand continues expansion in the U.S.

• Burger King, No. 7, increased its brand value and revenue by pursuing a back-to-basics strategy that stresses the brand’s original core burger offering. It also used new-media initiatives such as Xbox console games that can be bought with a Burger King meal to successfully target young men who visit fast-food restaurants frequently.

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