Battle of thE burgers

Thursday 28th April 1994 00:00

BURGERS came under the scrutiny of taste buds both young and not so young at the third Caterer & Hotelkeeper food test. The event, which was organised in conjunction with the Meat and Livestock Commission, took place at the MLC's test kitchen in Milton Keynes at the end of March.

A wide selection of frozen burgers both economy and premium were tasted by a panel of six teenagers and then separately by a panel of seven adults, drawn from a wide sector of the industry.

The taste buds of the children were surprisingly discerning. Despite the fact that they admitted to generally eating their burgers in a bun and covered with relish, these young consumers nevertheless knew what they wanted from the burger itself. They all unashamedly described themselves as burger fiends with the majority citing McDonald's as their favourite burger.

THE PRODUCTS

All burgers were provided by leading suppliers to the catering industry, many of whom as well as their own product, make burgers to individual specifications for major players.

Nine companies agreed to put their products to the test, submitting between them a total of 17 economy and premium products. The tag of economy or premium was provided by the suppliers themselves and was not given by Caterer & Hotelkeeper.

The following products were put to the test:

Fribo Foods: premium 80% beef; economy 60% beef, chicken and pork.

Plumtree Farms: premium 100% beef; economy 80% beef, American seasoned

JL Quality Foods: premium 99.5% beef; economy 65% beef

Brake Bros: premium 99.5% beef; economy 60% meat, pork, beef and chicken

Fellside Foods: premium 90% beef; economy beef and pork 80% broiling burgers

Booker Fitch: premium 99.5% beef; economy 65% beef

Harris Pork and Bacon Group: extra premium 100% beef; economy 65% beef & pork

Pullman Foods: premium 100% beef; economy 80% meat budget burger

McKey Foods: premium only: 100% beef quarter pounder

METHODOLOGY

None of the tasters had any idea whether they were tasting an economy or premium product, nor were they told the price of the product.

So that no particular significance was attached to either the first or the last, products were tasted in a random order. The Caterer & Hotelkeeper team helped ensure that each person received the correct burger.

MLC ready meals advisor Neil Saunders and home economist Lynn Williams cooked the burgers exactly according to suppliers' instructions, thawing the product first when instructed to do so. All products were cooked to 68ºC to ensure that they reached the taster piping hot.

Candidates then marked the product according to the following criteria:

lJuiciness

lSmell

lTexture

lSeasoning

lFlavour

Each criterion was given a mark between one and five based on the following scale:

1= Dislike a lot

2= Dislike slightly

3= Neither like nor dislike

4= Like slightly

5= Like a lot

The judges were allowed to converse where it lead to a lively discussion but the final marks were based on individual opinion. This was borne out by the very different marks that were awarded.

OPINIONS

Both children and adults were asked to givetheir comments on the products they were tasting. Here they voice their opinions:

ADULTS:

Fribo Foods premium

"High gristle content, trace of bone fragment. Kept original shape and size." Viv Harvey

Fribo Foods economy

"Slightly oily appearance, and spongy texture. Onion flavour too strong." Margaret Lang

Brake Bros premium

"My impression of a reasonable qualityeconomy burger." Perry Huntley

Brake Bros economy

"Tastes better than it looks but burger is still greasy with a fatty aftertaste." Kath Young

Plumtree Farms premium

"Looks quite good, butafter this disappointing. Very finely chopped meat and strong artificial flavour." David Clarke

Plumtree Farms economy

"A little tough in texture. Middle of the road." John Braithwaite

Booker Fitch premium

"Reasonable burger, texture quite rough. Personally I'd like slightly more seasoning." Margaret Lang

Booker Fitch economy

"Poor shape, full of cereal." Catherine Chauvet

JL Quality Foods premium

"Total lack of seasoning. Poor texture and a lot of fat. I would not use this product." John Braithwaite

JL Quality Foods economy

"Low meat content. Texture rubbery. Loses the image of meat." Viv Harvey

Pullman Foods premium

"Fibrous burger indicating high meat content but is chewy due to gristle particles." Kath Young

Pullman Foods economy

"Reasonably juicy, unusually pulpy texture. Seasoning OK." Perry Huntley

Harris Pork and Bacon Group premium

"Dry. No succulence at all." David Clarke

Harris Pork and Bacon Group economy

"Too much flavour enhancer. Artificial flavour dominates the seasoning." David Clarke

Fellside Foods premium

"Average, about 80% meat content? Little too tight in texture, but flavour not bad." David Clarke

Fellside Foods economy

"Pulpy texture, artificial flavouring. Not my choice." Perry Huntley

McKey Foods premium

"Quite a nice burger, but could have been a bit juicier. Possibly too high a meat content." Perry Huntley

CHILDREN:

Pullman Foods economy

"It's full of flavour and very meaty. It's a big, fat burger and I like that very much. But I think it has too much salt in it." Stuart Wood

Plumtree Farms premium

"Very nice with a lovely flavour, but a bit too gristly. Sticks to your teeth." Jane Baranowski

Plumtree Farms economy

"The burger had a delicious smell but was too dry. It also had a dark colour which meant it didn't look very appetising." Joanne Weygood

Fribo Foods economy

"Moist and pleasant. Had a good range of seasoning although the texture was a bit pƒté-like." Lesley Andrews

Fellside Foods premium

"I liked it, it was one of the best burgers. I would definitely have it again." Amy Remington

Booker Fitch economy

"The burger didn't seemto have a lot of juice in it but it didn't taste dry at all. It had a good spicyflavour." Joanne Weygood. o

Kath Young,marketing manager, Wimpy International

Wimpy sells about 20 million burgers a year across its 250units. Burgers are manufactured to the company's specifications using 100% beef from the flank and forequarter of the animal only. Young confesses to being a burger fan and given the choice would opt either for the Wimpy product or for making her own.

Viv Harvey, presentation anddisplay specialist,Meat and Livestock Commission

Harvey is part of a five-man team responsible for developing value-added meat products. Histeam is currently looking at making different shaped burgers towiden consumer choice. Harvey confesses thathe does not eat burgers very often, but when he does he makes his own.

Perry Huntley, commercial manager,TGI Friday's

TGI Friday's sells around 30,000 burgers every month. The burgers, which are made to the company's specifications, are 9oz, 100% pure beef using only steer beef. The meat is bought in fresh, but the burgers are frozen before they leave the factory. Huntley believes the burgers on the market to be of an acceptable quality.

John Braithwaite, purchasing director, Ring & Brymer/ Town & County, outside catering divisions of Gardner Merchant

Ring & Brymer/ Town & County sell around one million burgers a year at leisure sites and sports venues nationwide. As well as a good flavour, burgers have to achieve minimum shrinkage and a low fat level. High-fat products drip on to the cooking equipment and produce clouds of smoke.

The clear winner was Fribo Foods' premium burger, polling some 94 points from the adult team and 122 from the children. It was one of only two products to feature in both top fours, the other being the overall second place, Pullman Foods' 80% meat budget burger.

The Fribo Foods' premium burger also took four of the five criteria top placings on the children's scores, losing out only on smell.

The top adult product, the 100% beef premium product from McKey Foods, was one of the least liked by the children, for whom it came in at 15th place.For adults it took three of the five criteria top ratings, losing out only on smell and juiciness.

Children and adults were unable to concur on one product as a clear winner for individual criteria.

Assessment of individual criteria, products scoring 20 points or more out of a possible 30 points.

JUICINESS:

Fribo Foods premium

Fellside Foods premium

McKey Foods premium

Fribo Foods economy

Pullman Foods economy

SMELL:

Fribo Foods economy

Fellside Foods premium

Fribo Foods premium

Fellside Foods economy

TEXTURE:

Fribo Foods premium

Fellside Foods premium

Fellside Foods economy

Fribo Foods economy

Pullman Foods economy

SEASONING:

Fribo Foods premium

JL Quality premium

Plumtree Farms premium

Fribo Foods economy

Pullman Foods economy

FLAVOUR:

Fribo Foods premium

Plumtree Farms economy

JL Quality premium

Fellside Foods premium

Plumtree Farms premium

Fribo Foods economy

Pullman Foods economy

Fribo Foods premium and economy burgers were the only ones to score 20 points or more in every category. The children tended to give higher marks for seasoning and flavour than the other categories.

Products scoring 10 points or below out of a possible 30 points.

JUICINESS:

Pullman Foods premium

Harris Pork and Bacon Group economy

SMELL:

Harris Pork and Bacon Group economy

TEXTURE:

Plumtree Farms economy

SEASONING:

McKey Foods premium

FLAVOUR:

JL Quality economy

Scoring 20 points or more out of a possible 35 points.

JUICINESS:

Fribo Foods premium

Plumtree Farms economy

Fellside Foods economy

Plumtree Farms premium

Harris Pork and Bacon Group economy

Booker Fitch premium

Pullman Foods economy

SMELL:

Plumtree Farms economy

McKey Foods premium

Plumtree Farms premium

TEXTURE:

Fribo Foods premium

McKey Foods premium

Booker Fitch premium

SEASONING:

Nothing above 20. Highest mark - 19, scored by McKey Foods' premium burger.

FLAVOUR:

Fribo Foods premium

Pullman Foods premium

McKey Foods premium

Scoring 10 point or below out of a possible 35 points

JUICINESS:

Harris Pork and Bacon Group

SMELL:

Nothing

TEXTURE:

JL Quality economy

Booker Fitch economy

SEASONING:

Booker Fitch economy

FLAVOUR:

JL Quality economy

ECONOMY VERSUS PREMIUM

Best premium product went to Fribo Foods, and best economy to Pullman Foods, 80% meat budget burger.

In the adult top three, all products were premium with both the Pullman Foods' budget and premium products inequal fourth place. In the children's top four there were two of each. Top came premium, second came economy, third premium and fourth economy.

CONCLUSION

As might be expected, the adults were more critical than the children. On the whole, they also favoured the premium products, whereas the children gave high marks to many economy products. Despite their critical ratings for some products, all the adults agreed on one point. Burgers are on the whole seen as a meal experience and many of the burgers which came in for criticism would have been acceptable served in a bun and covered with relish.

How did our tasters feel at the end of the day?

The adults agreed that they had had enough, with many saying that they did not want to see another burger. For the children, though, it was a different story. Even after tasting 17 burgers they were still game for more. They left the MLC's offices to go off for a burger. Their chosen outlet? - McDonald's.


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