The Rise of the Burger

Its subtle—but have you noticed how the burger has been elevated to a whole new status? Today’s burger is much more than “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese”. The bun and what is sandwiched between is the juicy manifestation of all that is trending in our industry. Let’s pop the lid off the burger and analyze its role as the symbol of consumers’ love for food and the outlet for a chef’s creative tastes.

Veggies as the Star: The veggie burger is no longer the dried out, tasteless cardboard “patty” put on the menu to appease the once in a while vegetarian customer. Today, consumers happily seek out meatless burger options made from cauliflower, chick pea or black beans, driven by desires to manage health conditions and their weight. Restaurants recognize that consumers’ fast paced lifestyles challenge their desires to eat healthy and concepts that offer tasty alternatives to traditional burgers are winning. Take for instance, Lukas Fresh Veggie Burgers which blends veggies, seeds, grains and spices in a tub allowing the consumer to shape and customize their burgers at home. Offered currently in Beet, Kale, and Carrot Parsnip flavors. Or next time you’re in Chicago, run don’t walk to vegan standout, Victory’s Banner, for their Southwest Burger. Loaded with whole grains and veggies, the burger is finished off with sautéed mushrooms, melted cheddar and a tamari-mayo spread. Oh and there’s also a secret sauce on it as well.

Spice/Heat: Speaking of secret’s, it’s no secret that spice and heat makes consumers very happy, especially Millennials. Whether Southwest, Mexican or South American inspired, topping burgers with big heat like deep fried jalapenos or green chiles brings a spicy, smoky flavor practically requiring a cold beverage chaser. Even McDonald’s got into the act recently with a bold new Signature Sriracha sauce to top Big Macs as part of their new craft sandwich line.

Fusion: Speaking of fast food, Burger King mashed up their iconic Whopper with a burrito birthing the Whopperito. The fusion trend is definitely here to stay – one can only imagine what’s next.

Snacking: Kids love burgers, and kids love goldfish snack crackers. Taking the flavor of a burger and applying it to the beloved favorite of kids in strollers everywhere is pure genius. We give you Pepperidge Farm’s Burger Goldfish cracker.

Comfort Food: Okay, maybe it’s not that new and maybe we are jealous because we feel like we invented this back in the junior high lunchroom but we can’t help but be joyous about the marriage of two of our favorite comfort foods. Whether it’s Cheesecake Factories classic bun+mac n cheese+burger formula or Rockit Burger Bar’s (Chicago) version that serves their burger on a bun made entirely out of mac and cheese, we’d have a hard time choosing. Burgers plus macaroni and cheese? Love love.

Sweet/Salty: Who’d have thought that the sweet/salty trend would translate to burgers but the Bristol Motor Speedway sold burgers made from Southern favorite Moon Pies. The burger is sandwiched between the two halves of the Moon Pie and promises salty sweet unexpected flavor. We’d like to see some Komi Powder or White Miso Powder in there for a little YUM-ami.

Fast Casual Boom: Fast casual concepts are skyrocketing as Millennials and busy consumers increasingly rely on these dining spots for quick, great tasting meals loaded with bold and trendsetting flavors. Burgers seem to be the next target as both top chefs and seasoned fast casual vets are angling for a piece of the burger action, fulfilling the expectations of trend forecasters. Chipotle is newly rumored to enter the burger market with their concept, TastyMade, while Roy Choi already has made a splash with Locol on the West Coast bringing “cheeseburgs” topped with jack cheese, scallion relish and awesome sauce.

Alternative Proteins: With more than 1/3 of consumers open to plant based foods and meat alternative sales expected to see $5 billion by 2020, it is clear that alternative proteins are a perfect trend personified in a burger. We love the story of Impossible Foods. This brand truly loves meat so much that they spent three and a half years trying to create the best overall tasting burger they could – not just the best plant based burger. They genuinely wanted to understand what makes cooking and eating meat so special. The company did the impossible by discovering that the secret to meat’s craveability lies in a little molecule called heme, which is found in both meat and also plants. They knew they had something when they were able to create a burger that looks, feels, tastes, cooks, sizzles and smells like a burger but is totally meat free. Our mouths are watering.

Pickling: We have dedicated whole blog posts to the trend of fermentation and pickling and to say that we are huge fans is an understatement. Of course, pickles are burger staples and there’s nothing like that tangy counterbalance to a cheese-topped sirloin patty. With artisan pickles cited as one of the top food trends for 2016, chefs are employing some “out of the jar” thinking topping burgers with pickled veggies of all kinds like Arden Burger’s (Anderson, SC) Crazy Ninja Burger that promises cucumber, jalapeño sweet pickled radish, cheese, house mayo, Wasabi sauce. A tastebud tingler for sure.

Ethnic Flavors: Ethnic flavors continue to be one of the top trends and the burger reflects the consumer’s obsession with flavors from travels, real or imagined. The burger is the perfect vehicle for ethnic flavors like Boba Burger’s (Morton Grove, Il) Hawaiian burger topped with cheese, teriyaki glazed pineapple, fried spam, and a sriracha aioli.

As you can see, the burger showcases food trends better than any other application. Of course, there’s always the pizza and that’s a post for another day. But if you are looking to create a burger or two, or simply are looking to be inspired give us a jingle. Our real food ingredients can be your secret ingredient to one great tasting trend between two buns.