Taste for gourmet burgers seen heating up U.S beef demand

Wed Jun 1, 2016 5:04pm EDT
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* Millennials feed $5 billion business

* Cattle herd growth helps hamburger supply

By Theopolis Waters

CHICAGO, June 1 (Reuters) - As U.S. consumers, especially millennials, look for hamburgers with more flavor and fresher beef, more restaurants are catering to the taste for "better burgers," a market where one expert said sales could double in five years.

Sales at companies offering gourmet or "better burgers," which typically use fresh meat rather than frozen and often include exotic ingredients, jumped 15 percent last year over 2014 to $5 billion, according to Technomic, a research firm based in Chicago, home of the world's largest livestock futures trading market.

While that is still a small part of the $80 billion in total revenues for quick-serve restaurants, Technomic President Darren Tristano said revenues for top-end burgers could double to $10 billion by 2021, outpacing growth in regular burgers.

As millennials grow older, "they will think of these brands, and not McDonald's the way the baby boomers have," said Tristano. Millennials are generally defined as the generation that came of age in the new century.

Shake Shack plans to open a further 16 "Shacks" - its trademark trendy restaurants - domestically this year, while Chipotle Mexican Grill has applied to trademark "Better Burger" for its new brand of burger chains. Chipotle declined to say when it planned to launch burger chains.

Cargill Foods, one of the country's largest beef suppliers, said the popularity of premium gourmet hamburgers was one of the factors prompting its purchase of a South Carolina ground beef processing plant in March.   Continued...