Burger King is a leading force in the world of kitchen innovation, and Chief Executive Brian Niccol said Wednesday that the fast-casual chain is “going to be the leader in food and grocery store innovation.”
The company said it is investing $20 million to bring its new “leaner, faster, more healthy” menu concept to more restaurants, and is working with a food science company to develop a new type of ingredient, a hamburger burger, that uses more of the meat.
The new ingredients will be “the ultimate in convenience, taste, and convenience,” Niccol told a conference call with investors.
The company will also partner with food scientists to develop “lean burger” products, which will include a burger patty with the beef patty removed.
“Our goal is to be at the forefront of innovation in the food and nutrition world, which means we’re going to be leading in the restaurant kitchen,” Nicco said.
The chain plans to launch the burgers at its first new locations in 2019, and in 20 more locations by 2020.
Niccol, who joined the company in 2013, said the goal was to provide more options to customers, while improving the restaurant experience.
“It’s not a question of just opening a new restaurant, but opening a whole new dining experience,” he said.
“And the way we do that is by making it easy for customers to make a choice.”
He said Burger King was also committed to improving its product safety.
“We will continue to invest in our product safety program and continue to push for safer food choices,” he added.
The announcement comes amid growing concerns about food safety.
In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that a number of food products, including burgers, had been found to contain potentially unsafe levels of nitrosamines.
The agency said those products were made by a company that does not have a safety clearance from the agency, and did not test the products.
The FDA also said some of the products could contain “a highly potent carcinogen.”
The announcement Wednesday comes as Burger King faces mounting concerns about a number other ingredients in its menu.
The fast-food chain has come under scrutiny after a Food and Wine magazine survey found that customers who ate at the chain were more likely to feel they were being served at a “bland and overpriced” restaurant.
Some diners have also been expressing concern about the way the restaurant is prepared and served.
Last week, Burger King said that it was making changes to its burger recipe and will work with a “new, more sustainable meat sourcing” company.
The “lean hamburger” is being developed by a team of scientists at the company’s new Food Science division.
It will also include a “flexible meat” product that will be made from different cuts of meat that could be “more versatile and flexible,” the company said in a news release.
“By using lean, faster and healthier ingredients, we are also working to create a leaner, fresher, more nutritious burger, a burger that’s more convenient and can be prepared in less time.”
The new menu concept will be available at select restaurants, but the company is still working to develop the new ingredients, Niccol added.
“What we want to do is get our new menu to more places and serve it to more people, and we want our customers to be satisfied,” he told the conference call.
“So we’re very excited to be in this space.”
The Burger King chain has been under pressure for years to do more to address the health risks associated with meat consumption.
Last month, the company was hit with a lawsuit from the American Meat Institute, which claimed that the burger chain was violating federal law when it didn’t provide “sufficient information” to the FDA on meat consumption, according to a news report.
Last year, a federal judge ruled that the food giant could be held liable for violating federal regulations by failing to adequately warn consumers about the potential for meat-related health problems.
“They have a responsibility to do the research,” said Adam Kowalczyk, a professor at George Washington University’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition who studies food safety issues.
“There are lots of other companies that are trying to do things in this arena that are less risk-averse and don’t use so many additives and ingredients.”
A 2013 study by the Institute of Medicine found that meat consumption is associated with a greater risk of cancer.
“If we want meat to be healthier, it needs to be produced in a way that doesn’t contain any carcinogens,” Kowalecki said.