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Amid Plant Burger ‘Rush’ McD’s Banks On Beef

Most of the big Burger sector Fast Food chains have recently raced to beat each other introducing Plant-based Burger alternatives to their menus. Whether it’s Beyond Meat or The Impossible Burger, Plant-based ‘Meat’ seems to be the future of their business. McDonald’s alone says ‘No’…

Back to McBasics - © classic McMeal: A Big Mac, Medium Fries and a Soft Drink.
Would you choose the new ‘tweaked’ Big Mac with real
Beef over an all-new Plant-based Patty Big Mac?

McDonald’s Canada and McD’s Australia have quietly been testing new tweaks to their traditional Beef Burgers as a response to the industry-wide embrace of Plant-based Burger Patty alternatives. The company calls this evolutionary thrust the next stage of its ‘beef journey’.

What are they doing?

McD’s Canada spokesperson Nicola Pitman told The Financial Post recently, none of the tweaks to the recipe or production methodology is, “…hugely noticeable so that somebody can pick them out, but they make a big impact in that end product.”

The most noticeable changes will see the Bun bottoms reduced in thickness by three millimetres, the addition of 11 extra millilitres of Special Sauce to the Big Mac and a cooking technique change that reduced burger capacity of standard McDonald’s flat top grills by two Patties per batch.

The changes, which mainly involve grilling, dressing, saucing and Bun baking, will be applied to the signature Big Mac, Quarter Pounder and Cheeseburger, and will eventually be rolled out across the McD’s empire.

What taste testers are saying

Pitman reveals that the changes now being rolled out have been in the works for, literally, years. And they’ve been the subject of a lot of taste testing.

“Our guests are saying to us: ‘I don’t know what you’ve done a little bit differently, but something is really good about this product today’.”

Why are the changes being announced now?

Industry observers seem to agree that McD’s had been carrying on its ‘evolutionary research’ in the background for some time, and decided to reveal it’s existence to the public now, as an answer to all the publicity and hype that Plant-based Beef alternatives have been generating in the Burger market space recently. Pitman acknowledges that McDonald’s is following developments in Plant-based Burger technology and market impact, but has no plans to jump into that fray at this time. The company is maintaining its focus on the Beef, a directional commitment that began a couple of years ago when McD’s announced it would move from frozen Patties to fresh Meat for it’s top-of-the-line Burgers.

My take

I think that, if handled properly, McDonald’s assertion that it is sticking with perfecting its real-Beef products – a stance that makes the brand stand out among the competition which is almost universally trumpeting the arrival of Plant-based alternatives – may earn it at least as much, if not more notoriety than the competition, simply due to the contrast. For a while, at least.

But I also predict that McD’s will jump into the Plant-based Burger race sooner rather than later to maintain its traditional supremacy in the overall Burger market. It will have to, especially if Plant-based protein products really take off in popularity.

I also think McD’s, which built it’s brand on the Burger, is loathe to move away too quickly, image-wise, from it’s traditional focus on Beef for fear of blurring its image. Not to mention all the time and money it’s obviously spent on perfecting it’s Beef methodology.

Whether the Burger behemoth is making a bad decision in not embracing Plant-based Protein technology sooner remains to be seen.

~ Maggie J.