Health trends hurt Burger King

Looks like Burger King may have to change its rebellious ways, at least in Britain.

According to a recent article in the Guardian UK, Burger King’s sales have taken a dip in its 650 British restaurants, due to Britain’s recent concerns with increasing obesity and chronic disease rates and a lack of healthy options at the second-largest hamburger vendor in the world. Perceptions of obesity, as well as a multitude of smaller, privately-owned healthier sandwich shops popping up throughout Britain, have resulted in less frequent trips to BK. In contrast, Burger King’s rival McDonald’s has experienced strong sales in Britain, most likely due to its “new marketing strategy and options such as carrot sticks, apple dips and walnut salads.”

However, Burger King is finally beginning to make changes, even withdrawing the famous Whopper sandwich from the British market due to declining sales. The chain now only salts french fries at costumers’ requests, and the children’s menu includes milk, apples and grapes (“grapple”). This clearly illustrates the fact that the tide is, in fact, turning, and consumer demands for healthier products are beginning to change products offered at major multinational food companies.

Furthermore, this blurb appeared in the Guardian today:

A TV advert for a burger has drawn complaints from food campaigners. Sustain, which campaigns for better food and farming, wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority over Burger King’s advert for a Double Whopper, which shows a man abandoning a girl in a restaurant because he is “way too hungry to settle for chick food”, and going to Burger King instead. Groups of men are shown walking the streets eating burgers and holding “I am Man” banners. Sustain’s Richard Watts said the advert undermined healthy eating messages. The ASA is considering an investigation.

My question is: what is happening in Britain to change consumer demands so much more than any other country in the world? For instance, the Guardian article reported that, while the American chain had to inject $3 million into British operations due to “challenging operating environment,” global profits increased by 82% this summer. Other multinational fast-food chains are also experiencing massive growth in the global market, such as Yum! Brands (they own KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) in China and McDonald’s in most countries throughout the world.

My first guess, after having spent this past summer in London, is that Britain’s strong government approach to health concerns is to thank for these changing food preferences. Jamie Oliver’s campaign to clean up school meals has increased awareness of the effect of food on health, and widespread efforts to clearly label food packages. And several UK-based food corporations are taking the responsibility to provide healthier products and to educate consumers via food labels and nutrition facts. More on this later.

How does this all fit into the UNR? It shows that consumer awareness of health issues can produce positive change. And it shows that government involvement and regulation of food companies can have an impact on availability of healthier foods, and ultimately on public health priorities and health outcomes.

Source: Healthy trends eat into sales at Burger King

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Filed under Chronic Disease, Diet, Economics, Environment, Globalization, Industry, Obesity, Public-Private partnership, Type 2 Diabetes

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