Quick Service Burger Buyers Mix It Up Between Plant-Based and Beef

Chicago — Plant-based burgers are increasingly finding their way on to quick service restaurants (QSRs) menu boards and customers are responding. There were 228 million servings of plant-based burgers ordered at QSRs in the year ending May, up 10 percent from a year ago, reports The NPD Group.  With all of the buzz surrounding the popularity of plant-based burgers some are wondering if veggie burgers are closing in on beef burgers or if the growth of plant-based burgers corresponds to an increase in vegetarianism or veganism. Here are some answers.

Beef burgers are still by far the most popular burger ordered at QSRs. There were 6.4 billion beef burgers ordered at QSRs in the year ending May 2019, and although growth is flat compared to year ago, beef burgers are still the top sandwich ordered at U.S. restaurants, reports NPD’s CREST® service, which continually tracks how U.S. consumers use restaurants. The strong year-over-year growth of plant-based burgers is primarily due to increased availability at major QSR chains.

The increased availability of plant-based burgers on QSR menus has created trial on the part of beef burgers buyers. Beef burger buyers, who purchased beef burgers at QSRs an average of 18 times in the year ending April 2019, did give plant-based burgers a try, purchasing them at QSRs two times in the period. Another way to look at it is that 95 percent of plant-based buyers have made a beef burger purchase within the past year, according to NPD’s receipt harvesting serving, Checkout.

Although vegetarians and vegans are certainly contributing to the growth in plant-based, they still represent a small (single digits) percentage of the U.S. population and aren’t the primary contributors. A larger percentage of the overall adult population, 18 percent, are trying to get more plant-based foods into their diets, reports NPD’s Health Aspirations and Behavioral Tracker. The popularity of plant-based foods is being fueled by consumers’ want to get more protein in their diets (60 percent of U.S. adults want more protein in their diets), concerns for animal welfare and how meat products are brought to market, sustainability, and what they perceive to be healthier nutrition. 

“Plant-based burgers allow consumers to substitute without sacrifice. They get the ‘burger’ experience while assuaging their need for more protein and social concerns,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “With that said, U.S. consumers have not given up on beef burgers but are willing to mix things up every now and them.”


About The NPD Group

NPD offers data, industry expertise, and prescriptive analytics to help our clients grow their businesses in a changing world.  Over 2000 companies worldwide rely on us to help them measure, predict, and improve performance across all channels, including brick-and-mortar and e-commerce.  We have offices in 27 cities worldwide, with operations spanning the Americas, Europe, and APAC.  Practice areas include apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, books, B2B technology, consumer technology, e-commerce, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, juvenile products, media entertainment, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, toys, travel retail, games, and watches / jewelry. For more information, visit npd.com. Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.

Checkout offers robust data for tracking and improving performance across all channels plus buyer analytics to help businesses keep current customers and win new ones.  The Checkout Omnipanel tracks online and in-store sales.  A complementary e-commerce panel delivers more granular views of sales through the fastest growing channel with access to over 1 million consumers via our research partner Rakuten Intelligence.  Buyer analytics deliver insight into most valuable customers, brand loyalty, brand leakage / lift, brand launches, and more.