Are Burger King's New Healthier Potatoes an Oxymoron?

Robert Passikoff Founder and President, Brand Keys, Inc.

Posted on September 26th 2013

Are Burger King's New Healthier Potatoes an Oxymoron?

Health Fact: someone 25 years old today will live 2.5 additional healthier years than a person born 2 decades ago. The nuance in that statement is the “healthier” part. People have been living longer, but not necessarily healthier. Some of that “not necessarily healthier” part comes from our diets.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports 35% of adults are obese, Whether you’re “obese” is dependent upon your height and something called a BMI, or Body Mass Index. It’s all very scientific, but the bottom line is most consumers know when they’re carrying around a few too many pounds, and that obesity is not a good thing. Obesity contributes to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers. And if you know obesity is linked to what you eat, you’d, well, watch what you eat. But we don’t, so as a brand and emotional engagement differentiator, certain brands have taken it upon themselves to position themselves as being more “healthy.” Or at least more helpful when it comes to being healthy. Fast food brands have done that for years.

According to our 2013 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, here’s how major fast food brands are evaluated when it comes to being healthy by their own customers:

Subway 90%                       

McDonald’s 85%
Burger King 84%
Wendy’s 83%
KFC 80%

Subway has pretty much made health their brand positioning. Of course you have to be careful what you add to that basic tuna $5 foot long or the calories and fat add up pretty quickly, but OK, a relatively healthy perception. The other brands could use a “health” boost if they want to meet their customers’ expectations.

To that end, Burger King is introducing a French fry with 30 percent fewer calories and 40 percent less fat, called “Satisfries.” The new version will have 150 calories versus the 226 calories in their regular fries. Will this help? Well, it’s a start. Burger King has introduced juices and other better nutritional choices over the years, but it’s one thing to add them to the menu and another thing to get consumers to actually buy them. You can never be sure about that.

Of one thing we can be sure, though. Americans love their potatoes. Of the 45 pounds of vegetables the average American consumes each year about 29 pounds (65%) of that are accounted for by potatoes. Assuming your average annual potato consumption were confined to Burger King “Satisfries,” you’d be talking about 188 servings, representing a savings of 14,288 calories or 4.08 pounds fewer that you’d be carrying around. Again, it’s a start.

Of course primacy of product, how it actually tastes, and how the new offering is advertised and promoted will be the ultimate test of whether consumers are engaged with this new potato positioning. If you meet customer expectations, you are virtually guaranteed to succeed. If not, consumer will drop you like...well, you know that outcome.

Robert Passikoff

Founder and President, Brand Keys, Inc.

Brand Keys is the world leader in predictive loyalty, brand & engagement metrics. Since 1984 we’ve specialized in correlated-to-sales measures, predictive of in-market consumer behavior. Our methodology is grounded in psychology, & provides an in-depth understanding of emotional and rational factors that bond consumers to brands. Decision-making is more emotional than rational, that ratio currently estimated to be 70:30. The ARF and other groups have independently validated our work. Brand Keys created the Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, the Brandweek Loyalty Leaders List, the Sports Fan Loyalty Index, & Women’s Wear Daily Fashion Brand Index. Our 1st best-selling book, Predicting Market Success, offered a 21st century perspective on predictive metrics. Our new book, The Certainty Principle, examines a predictive approach to Integrated Marketing ROI. In 2007, New York University’s communication school declared Dr. Passikoff “the most-quoted brand consultant in the United States.”
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