Keeping the avocado in the fast food spotlight, Burger King Corp.’s menu for a limited time includes the California Whopper — and California Whopper Jr. — featuring guacamole.
The guacamole burgers come on the heels of Subway’s summer promotion offering avocado spread on its sandwiches.
Miami-based Burger King is the fourth of the top five quick-serve chains with recent campaigns featuring produce.
Wendy’s introduced a line of salads with fresh berries and apples and McDonald’s announced that its Happy Meals will include fresh sliced apples along with the standard french fries. Starbucks is the only one of the top five not yet in the fresh produce deal.
Even though the Burger King guacamole isn’t made fresh at each location, California Avocado Commission officials believe the new campaign will keep the fruit in the forefront with consumers.
“By creating the usage concept for consumers and keeping the avocados out there in the eye of the public it can only be a good thing for overall consumption numbers,” said Jan DeLyser, vice president for the Irvine-based commission.
DeLyser said when consumers see restaurants using avocados it reminds them that they can use the fruit at home.
Burger King officials declined to comment on the amount of avocados and fresh produce the chain uses. They also declined to comment on who is supplying the guacamole. A source at an avocado distributing company, speaking on condition of anonymity, pointed to J.R. Simplot Co., which supplies frozen french fries for Burger King. Simplot officials declined to comment Aug. 25 on the Burger King guacamole, citing customer confidentiality policies.
Regardless of the supplier, the avocado category will certainly benefit from the Burger King promotion, according to several companies that handle the fruit.
Ross Wileman, vice president of sales and marketing for Mission Produce of Oxnard, Calif., said the category has seen 10% annual growth in recent years. Mission Produce handles fresh and processed avocados.
“These are exciting times for the avocado worldwide,” Wileman said. “The growth in Japan is very exciting, and interest in China is growing with the increase of Western influences there, and Chile’s numbers are going through the roof.”
Wileman said there is no way to speculate what volume of avocados Burger King will use with its promotion, partly because the international chain has more than 12,000 restaurants.
R.J. Hottovy of Equity Research said his company stopped following Burger King when the chain went private. However, he said in the restaurant world of today innovative menu items such as the California Whopper are key to driving traffic.
Jose Luis Obergon, managing director of the Hass Avocado Board, Irvine, echoed comments made by Hottovy and Wileman and said the exposure in mainstream America can only be a good thing for avocados.
“The education campaign that the industry started 10 years ago is paying off,” Obergon said. “This will ultimately help maintain good prices because overall demand will increase as more people become familiar with what you can do with avocados.”
Al Ahmer, vice president of sales and production for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif., agreed that the Burger King promotion is good news for avocados. He said even if only 1 ounce of gaucamole is used per sandwich it will translate into a larve volume of avocados being used.
"The rule of thumb is for every two pounds of avocados you have about one pound of fruit flesh," Ahmer said.
The introduction of the California Whopper, which includes Swiss cheese and bacon along with the guacamole, is hitting television screens and billboards across the nation as Burger King says so long to its mascot, The King. No longer will the big-headed character be wielding his scepter or peeping into windows during Burger King’s commercials.
The fast food chain, purchased by the global investment firm 3G Capital less than a year ago, recently switched ad agencies. It ditched Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, the company behind the commercials with what many media observers referred to as that “creepy king guy,” for McGarryBowen, which created a new line of TV spots that reflect Burger King’s new “food-centric” approach.
The new spots started airing nationwide Aug. 20 and feature a montage of shots of fresh avocados, lettuce, tomatoes and other fresh produce being sliced and chopped. The new commercials with upbeat music and limited voiceovers are expected to attract the attention of health-conscious moms.