Canada burger chain A&W taps demand for hormone-free beef
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Privately owned Canadian hamburger chain A&W will buy only beef from cattle raised without added growth hormones or steroids, a move that adds costs but taps into growing consumer interest in how food is prepared.
Vancouver, British Columbia-based A&W Food Services of Canada, known for its Teen Burger, dancing bear mascot and root beer, launched its "Better Beef" promotional campaign this week.
"What we've observed from our customers is there is a lot more interest in the food they're eating, where it comes from," A&W chief marketing officer Susan Senecal said in an interview on Friday.
"We've discovered that things like no hormones, no steroids are very, very important to our customers, remarkably so."
Privately held A&W, which has annual sales of about C$850 million ($825 million), said it is the only national burger restaurant in Canada to source only hormone-free beef. Its burger rivals include McDonalds Corp, Burger King Worldwide Inc and The Wendy's Co.
A&W calls itself Canada's second biggest burger chain with 791 outlets. It is separate from the U.S. restaurants that operate under the same name and it licenses the A&W trademarks from A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund.
A&W's campaign comes as the way food is produced becomes an increasingly prominent issue for restaurants, grocers and consumers. Denver-based burrito chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc is one of the most well-known restaurant companies that uses organic ingredients and antibiotic-free meat when possible.
"You see more and more companies trying to go that route," said Steve West, a restaurant industry analyst at ITG, based in St. Louis. "We've seen hamburger chains in the past like Hardee's and Jack In The Box realizing, 'we can't compete with McDonald's and Burger King on this low-quality, cheap food - we've got to take it up a notch.'" Continued...