For a limited time this fall, McDonald’s will offer a 100% organic burger in a bid to overhaul its image and appeal to its growing base of health-conscious customers. The fast-food chain will trial the “McB” burger containing meat sourced from organic farms in Germany and Austria.

Consumers can enjoy the new bio burger in two different versions, and then vote for their favourite. The “McB” burger combines an all organic meat patty with Lollo Bionda lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, red onion rings, Edam cheese, various sauces and a dark bread.

The move from the world’s biggest fast-food chain is an effort to revamp food-sourcing practices as part of a new strategy to add more natural, less processed ingredients to menus worldwide. Earlier this year McDonald’s announced that its eggs would be cage-free in the US and Canada by 2025, and also revealed plans to phase out the use of antibiotics in chicken products in the US.

Here, Mintel’s expert analyst team discusses consumer hunger for organic offerings from fast food restaurants and how this demand differentiates in key markets such as Germany, the UK and the US.

Katya-WithamKatya Witham, Senior Food and Drink Analyst, Germany:

There is a definite consumer demand for organic meat in Germany. According to a 2014 Mintel survey, one in three German consumers think that ‘organic’ is an important quality in meat, while two out of five say that it’s important to have detailed information about where meat products come from. What’s more, 31% of German meat buyers say they are prepared to pay more for organic fresh produce.

It is therefore not surprising that McDonald’s has chosen Germany as their trial country, especially because sustainability and animal welfare is such an important political topic in the country. Indeed, Germans find high animal welfare very important when they decide which meat product to buy.

The fact that the meat for the new “McB” burger comes from local farmers could also prove to be an advantage. As our research indicates, Germans are really interested in food products of regional origin. Besides emotional ties to home regions, consumers increasingly associate local products with freshness and high quality. Going forward, regional origin will likely become even more valuable and relevant than organic attributes, with ‘regional’ being an epitome for local, natural, organic and ethical qualities.

Richard Ford Richard Ford, Food and Drink Analyst UK:

Launching a McDonald’s burger in the UK made with an organic meat patty might prove challenging for the company. The market for organic food and drink in the UK has suffered sales declines in recent years as the squeeze on consumer finances caused shoppers to question organic products’ premium price point.

Even though the organic food and drink market arguably gained a new momentum when it went back into growth in 2013, the typically higher cost of organic food and drink remains a key barrier to regular purchase for the majority of consumers. Whilst two in five (38%) consumers agree that organic farming is better for the environment, over half (54%) see it as too expensive to buy regularly.

In the UK, McDonald’s has historically focused on expanding its use of British and Irish produce and products with third party animal welfare accreditation, such as RSPCA Assured. Most recently, it committed to sourcing 100% British potatoes for its fries: 40% of consumers agree that British food is of better quality than imported.

Patty-Johnson
Patty Johnson, Global Food Analyst, says:

While fresh ingredients are the top US consumer choice factor when considering which burger or chicken fast food or fast casual restaurant to visit, environmental and ethical concerns are especially pronounced for Millennials. Nearly a quarter say environmental claims such as natural and organic are important when choosing a restaurant, and about one in five consider ethical claims such as cage-free and free-range an important. Millennials are an crucial age group to McDonald’s as they are now having children and are looking to feed them healthier and more sustainable foods.

If the trial in Germany is deemed successful, McDonald’s may decide to execute a similar limited time offer in the US, perhaps on a regional basis, mirroring other regional promotions such as the McLobster Roll which in its New England units. Currently, alternative production (natural, grass-fed, organic) beef in the US would not be able to meet McDonald’s supply requirements for a year-round organic burger offer in all of its 14,000+ US units.

Meanwhile, the limited time offer test of organic burgers is groundbreaking news for McDonald’s, garnering much-needed global media attention of its efforts to change. Short term, this attention may serve to drive traffic to its US restaurants where the big news is that breakfast is now being served all day.

Katya joined Mintel as a Senior Food and Drink Analyst in 2014. With a dedicated field of focus on Germany, Katya draws on her comprehensive knowledge of this market to identify and explore the major trends across various FMCG categories and provides insights needed to successfully navigate the German market environment. Katya brings over seven years of expertise in market research and the grocery industry, including regular field research trips in Germany and hands-on experience from her previous role in the strategic development of private label at METRO Group.

Richard Ford is Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. He joined the Mintel UK food and drink team from The Grocer where he worked for six years, covering meat, fish, poultry, fruit, veg, eggs and seafood, writing news, analysis and features. At The Grocer, Richard helped to develop the ‘How to Build a Brand’ one day conference, to relaunch The World’s 50 Best Grocers special feature and to produce the magazine’s annual Dairymen supplement.

Patty Johnson is a Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. Patty leverages her in-depth knowledge of consumer trends to bring keen, insightful and forward-thinking strategies and tactics to Mintel’s client base. She has built a strong reputation within the food industry by publishing articles in key publications and giving presentations at multiple food industry events and conferences.

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