If you had to pick a couple of phrases to describe culture in North America, Capitalism and Fast Food would cover most of the bases nicely. Healthy may not. Burger King is taking those three ideas and are running to the bank, or at least running to the fryer. But do we want it their way?
Burger King has just announced their latest, 10 years in the making creation, Satisfries™ in the US, and Gratifries™ in Canada. A new crinkle cut fry with less fat and fewer calories than their regular small order of french fries. The difference, they say, is in the batter that coats the fries before they get the canola sauna: The batter on the new fries doesn’t allow as much oil to soak in when they’re cooked, making them “healthier” than regular fries. They’ve made them crinkle-cut, not just so they can hold hold more ketchup goodness while we consume, but so the staff can distinguish them when they make them. That’s because they go in the same oil, for the same amount of time as the regular fries. They’re free to try in Canada on Friday (obvious day choice), but regularly they’ll cost an extra $0.30 for a small.
There are two ways to look at this: The first is in a positive light. Here’s a fast food company that’s giving us an alternative eating choice, one that is admittedly healthier than their regular fare. We haven’t even talked about the sodium levels, which are 35% lower vs the uncrinkled kind. Options are good, and people who want to have their guilty snack should be happy with any choice that saves them up to 90 calories to put towards other food later in the day. So good on them!
The second light is not so positive.
These things cost $0.30 more than their regular fries. Why? Is it the cost of the batter? Are they making up for 10 years of research? Business is business, but if you’re looking for me to really be swayed to a healthier choice, make it the same price. If BK is hedging their bets in case this doesn’t take off, I can understand that from a business standpoint, but if I’m looking at it from the consumers side, everything that’s “healthier” costs more. It’s why we sometimes struggle with eating healthier foods. If you want it to take off, and you really believe in it, sell it at a loss, make it the same price as your “old” fries, and see what happens. You’re taking a variable out of the “what reason are/aren’t these selling for” equation.
Secondly, I’m a little concerned that they’re putting out a second choice when it comes to french fries. By that I mean…they’re french fries. They’re either delicious or they’re not. These aren’t potato chips, where you pick up 45 different flavours a week and companies have competitions to pick the next taste senstation. They’re FRENCH FRIES. Cut a potato, deep fry it, throw on the salt, get in my mouth, DONE. McDonald’s went through their french fry change and didn’t tell anyone until after it had happened. And they stayed with ONE kind. Two kinds saturates your selections, and to me projects a kind of “well, if you don’t like these, we’ve still got the regular ones” belief in your product. If you really think this is a good change, and you think it’s where people want to go, make it the ONLY kind you offer. This is who we are, this is what you get, because we believe in it. That worked for New Coke, right?
Speaking of fail-tacular new products, this isn’t the first healthy “fast food” to be offered. Fast food chains are throwing salads and wraps and apple slices on the menus, and that’s good for selection (even if the salads cost $9 instead of a $5 value meal.) But what about the foods we crave? Do you remember this sandwich from the 90s?
91% less fat? I’ll give them credit, because the last people to try 100% fat-free couldn’t really keep their costs down. The McLean even tasted pretty good. The problem? Pretty good isn’t what drives the hungry masses or pays the bills, and five years later the McLean Deluxe was off the menu. (Side note: Am I the only one who liked the McDonald’s Pizza? Throw in a Crystal Pepsi on the side and I’m in 90s fast food heaven!)
No matter how you look at it, at least Satisfries™/Gratifries™ are another option for us to chew on. So go ahead! Throw in an order of diet fries with your diet drink and your 3/4 pound hormone injected burger! The choice is yours to make. But in today’s ever more complicated world, who would’ve thought “Do you want fries with that?” would become a two-part question?