As one of the industry’s top ground beef processors, Cargill’s North American protein business segment counts on robust demand for burgers from its foodservice customers for its success. Heather George, senior marketing manager for the segment, said consumer demand for burgers, at home or at foodservice outlets, is strong, based on the company’s recent research. In fact, about 71% of beef in the United States is consumed in the form of a burger and 79% of consumers eat burgers away from home at least monthly. A median of 3.8 burgers have been consumed away from home in the past 30 days, according to Cargill, and 55% of consumers eat burgers weekly, either at home or at a restaurant. There are currently more than 50,000 burger-focused or burger-themed restaurants in the United States, Cargill found, which makes up 7.5% of all restaurants in the country.
Cargill offers its TNT Burgers to foodservice customers committed to offering a premium burger on menus that delivers quality, food safety and back-of-house convenience. TNT Burgers are one of the leading, seasoned frozen beef patty brands in the industry, George said. She went on to provide insight on the brand’s production and history and how it checks all the boxes for many operators in the burger segment.
MEAT+POULTRY: TNT Burgers aren’t exactly a new offering from Cargill, can you discuss how long the brand has been available, how it was developed and with what goal or solution in mind?
Heather George: TNT Burgers have been providing foodservice customers premium patties for 25 years. In creating the brand, Cargill set out to craft the ideal premium patty to meet operators’ needs for high-performance and low-maintenance, great-tasting premium patties. We’re proud of the impact that the brand has had. TNT Burger patties have helped set the standard for foodservice burger quality. The brand’s mission remains the same – help operators deliver a tasty burger experience every day. Core tenants of that experience are quality, taste, performance and convenience.
M+P: What category of foodservice customers are TNT Burgers targeting?
George: Our engagements span across independent restaurants, QSR/FSR and bar restaurants. We also count a number of non-commercial engagements on our client list as TNT Burgers are optimal for recreation-based foodservice environments such as entertainment and amusement park venues and lodging/hospitality environments which include large events and catering.
M+P: Where are the products processed and can you detail the variety of patties being produced currently?
George: TNT Burgers are currently produced in Cargill’s Butler, Wis., facility. Our product mix speaks to the variety of customer demand across patty shapes and sizes that allows them to customize their burger menu items. We invest heavily into research and category insights that help our customers stay ahead of trends and offer ideas/inspirations that help them introduce new burger concepts.
M+P: With IQF being an important patty processing step and a big selling point of TNT Burgers, what are the benefits of IQF in terms of quality, food safety, shelf life and back of the house logistics?
George: TNT Burgers offer customers a consistent assurance that every single burger delivers a sensory experience comparable to fresh. Additional advantages for frozen include:
- Cost savings: Frozen means zero food waste when menu demand shifts. Longer shelf life means fewer throwaways. And frozen results in reduced kitchen labor costs and more stable pricing.
- Efficiency/uniformity: As they cook from frozen, TNT Burgers are portion controlled and are preformed for consistency while cooking.
- Food safety: Freezing helps inhibit microbial growth, enhanced shelf life, reduces spoilage concerns and limits the need for kitchen staff to interact with raw ground beef.
M+P: Besides providing customers with the raw material, how do Cargill’s burger gurus work with foodservice customers to help keep their menus relevant and offer premium craft burgers? Also how prevalent are TNT Burgers in national restaurant chains?
George: As part of the work we do, we provide our customers with creative ways to grow their burger sales, report on burger trends and offer inspiration for new burger concepts from limited time offer ideas, plating suggestions and even how to craft a new burger name. We are the brand leader in the seasoned patty space, so it’s very likely that you have enjoyed one of our burgers in a location near you.
M+P: Is there a stigma about frozen being perceived as “less-fresh” than non-frozen patties?
George: It’s our goal to deliver the preparation and storage convenience of an IQF patty with a taste and sensory experience that can rival fresh. This is an area that we comparatively test among consumers to ensure our patties perform. Our most recent consumer testing (completed in Oct 2021) found that our frozen patties perform at parity or better than fresh patties in overall liking, flavor, juiciness and texture.
M+P: What types of blends are available and in what size/weight of patties?
George: TNT Burgers offer a variety of grinds, sizes and shapes, all crafted from premium ingredients and then frozen to lock in taste and performance. We have dozens of SKUs available across both our seasoned TNT Original Beef Patties and TNT Original Angus Patties. Shapes range from homestyle, oval, round and wide. Sizes vary from 2 oz to 12 oz.
M+P: What style of cooking works best for cooking the burgers (flat top or grill) and how does cooking time vary from traditional, fresh patties?
George: TNT Burgers are created to just grill and build. Our proprietary recipe locks in moisture and ensures that each patty is consistently seasoned for a “just off the grill” taste. Our cooking instructions are simple: Keep patties frozen until ready to cook. Preheat either flat top or grill to 350°F and turn when juices start to pool and run clear. Remove patties when internal temperature reaches 160°F.
One major point of difference for TNT Burgers as compared to traditional unseasoned or competitive seasoned patties, either fresh or frozen, is our hold time. TNT Burger patties retain their juiciness, texture and flavor for 3-plus hours. That attribute helps our customers ensure their consumers have a consistent burger experience even in the most demanding environments. It helps our customers increase efficiencies and protect profits.
M+P: How did the brand perform during the height of the pandemic, and are there attributes that made TNT Burgers better suited to consumers’ changing purchasing patterns (with an uptick in delivery and to-go orders)?
George: The pandemic caused unprecedented change for the foodservice industry given the uncertainty in demand as consumer dining behaviors were dramatically altered. TNT Burgers did see an increase in customer inquiries and volume as a result.
More than just the benefits of a frozen patty, TNT Burgers were uniquely positioned to help foodservice customers deliver consistency even as their own orders shifted to delivery and carry out during the pandemic. TNT Burgers were an effective choice for operators due to our patties’ unique hold time of three-plus hours. Customers could ensure a consistent burger experience (including juiciness, texture and flavor) for their consumers as they shifted to the rapid increase in demand for a delivery/carry out model.