Burger King Drops Lower Calorie Fries

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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By Julie Jargon

It turns out consumers weren't too satisfied with Burger King Worldwide Inc.'s Satisfries.

The fast-food chain Wednesday said it is dropping from its U.S. menus the lower calorie French fries it introduced with much fanfare less than a year ago.

The Miami company had been trying to reach consumers who had cut back on French fry orders because of health concerns. The fries, which were made with a less-porous batter that didn't absorb as much oil during frying, were marketed as containing 20% fewer calories and 25% less fat than Burger King's classic fries, and 30% fewer calories and 40% less fat than McDonald's fries. The smallest portion of Satisfries contained 190 calories.

Burger King continued selling its regular fries, but trumpeted the new version when it started selling them last September, calling Satisfries "one of the biggest fast food launches."

Burger King on Wednesday said that it always intended to let customers determine how long Satisfries stayed on the menu. When franchise owners of its 7,500 North American restaurants were given the option of continuing to offer Satisfries earlier this week, owners of just 2,500 restaurants decided to do so. "The remaining restaurants will treat the product as a limited time menu offering and have begun phasing it out after this unprecedented run," Burger King North America President Alex Macedo said in a statement.

The Satisfries flop comes at a time when Americans generally have been eating fewer potatoes--long a mainstay of the national diet--in part because the tubers are seen as unhealthy, and companies such as Burger King have been seeking new ways to keep sales of spud products growing.

The failed fries experiment also speaks to the fickle and sometimes confusing nature of Americans when it comes to more healthful eating. Food makers trying to cater to health trends often have found that consumers don't react favorably when they know their favorite indulgences have changed. That has led companies to take a stealthy approach to reformulating products. Boston Market, for example, reduced the sodium content of menu items without telling customers.

When McDonald's first announced in 2002 that it would start cooking its famous French fries in oil free of trans fats, its customer-service lines were flooded with complaints about the fries tasting different, even in cities where nothing had yet changed. It took another six years for McDonald's to settle on a canola-oil blend that tasted right.

This isn't the first time Burger King has tinkered unsuccessfully with its fries. In the late 1990s, Burger King altered its French fry recipe, but customers didn't like the new version. The chain changed the formula in 2001 and again in 2011.

Write to Julie Jargon at julie.jargon@wsj.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires


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