Burger King’s latest efforts to improve its perception among health-focused consumers has been successful so far and could have more staying power than similar efforts from McDonald’s, according to industry watchers.
On Sept. 24, Burger King introduced “Satisfries,” a lower-calorie version of its French fries, and followed the rollout — just two days before McDonald’s pledged to offer more salads, fruits and vegetables — during the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.
Burger King also followed up the rollout of the new fries with a PR stunt on Oct. 2 in which it changed the brand’s website and signage in a few markets to read, “Fries King, formerly Burger King.”
One industry observer, New England Consulting Group chief executive Gary Stibel, called the low-calorie fries and corresponding marketing campaign an intelligent move for Miami-based Burger King. “What they’re doing is very smart. … What they’re saying isn’t that they have low-calorie fries, but that they have great-tasting fries with fewer calories,” Stibel said.
He also praised McDonald’s recent announcement, calling it “yet another incremental move on top of what they’ve done for healthfulness, which is a lot.”
However, Stibel noted, “Burger King’s announcement is even more powerful because while McDonald’s says, ‘We have all these other good things for you,’ Burger King is quietly saying that it is making what consumers already want better for them. Burger King is also toying with the consumer with that name change to Fries King and making a bigger deal out of this.”
Yet he thought the development of Satisfries was a more significant change for Burger King, allowing the brand to compete by altering a standard menu item in a way that would let more people eat it or eat more of it, similar to the development of light beer.
“Brewers said, ‘We know you, and we know that you like beer, so this allows you to drink more of what you like to drink,’” Stibel said. “Burger King is moving in that direction, saying, ‘We know you love your French fries, so we’ll make them less caloric.’”