More restaurants than ever are cashing in on the specialty burger trend, something that first gained popularity around 2009, according to a report by released by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
The report says the prominence of burgers on quick-service menus and the "specialty burger craze" might be the reason for increased burger consumption. In 2010, 38% of today's consumers said they eat a burger once a week compared to nearly 50% in 2012. The report says that
Still, some are wondering if increased burger consumption is just a fad, but Kara Nielson of the Center for Culinary Development in San Francisco says that a food becomes a trend if it creates a new consumer need and follows certain trend stages, including appearing in grocery stores, magazines and mainstream media.
Some staples of the new movement include offerings that are made with "fresh, never frozen beef" and customized dressings for various geographical locations.
Specialty restaurants have also sprung up to feed American's beefy appetites. Among the growing sector, three restaurant leaders emerged: Smashburger of Colorado, Michigan's Five Guys Burgers and Fries and The Counter of California. Just last year, Five Guys posted a 32.8% sales growth.
Changing preferences and contemporary offerings are not only evolving consumption, they are also evolving production.
The report says that 90% lean or leaner ground beef is the fastest growing segment of ground beef, based on pounds sold and dollars spent by consumers. But, with the evolution of the beef burger, previously less-popular meats are evolving too.
"Meatless" choices, such as veggie burgers and portabella mushroom burgers are creating competition for the once beef-only menus. The study cites Mintel research that says menu items labeled vegan or vegetarian are up 26% between 2008 and 2010.
To stay current, beef will need to evolve to stay "fresh," the study says.
"We believe that the beef industry can capitalize on the gourmet burger movement for years to come, thanks to the new variations of burger combinations and flavor pairings, creative inspiration, the foodservice environment and the subconscious delight that eating a gourmet burger brings," the study authors wrote.
Read the full report: "The Gourmet Burger: An American Icon Evolved"