Consumers are eating burgers more often than ever before, according to new research from Technomic. The overwhelming majority of consumers (95%) say they eat burgers at least once a month, and almost half (49%) cite cravings as one of the top reasons they purchased a burger on their most recent occasion. Moreover, year-over-year comparison data shows that the fast-casual “better burger” segment and customization formats are fueling the momentum of the burger category.

Burger-chain value menus are evolving from a sub-$1 pricing model to one that emphasizes high quality, variety and craveability for a low price, Technomic notes. “The ‘better burger’ sector continues to thrive in the overall burger category and that shows no signs of stopping,” offers Executive VP Darren Tristano. “As the burger category evolves, consumer demands are changing. Consumers expect ‘something extra’ when dining out, and better burgers—with quality ingredients and customer-chosen toppings or specialty preparations—can really help deliver that as part of a solid value equation.”

A comprehensive update of Technomic's Burger Consumer Trend Report includes the following findings…

• Burger consumption is up at fast-casual restaurants, with 51% of consumers saying they eat fast-casual burgers at least once a month, which is an increase from 43% in 2011;

• Quality is key, as 51% of consumers say it’s highly important that the burgers they order are made from never-frozen beef, an increase from 43% two years ago;

• More than half (55%) want menus to specify the type of beef used, up from 48% in 2011;

• Nearly two-thirds of consumers say that build-your-own burger concepts are appealing, and 64% also say that the ability to customize burger toppings and condiments is important;

• Data indicates that interest in special diets—driven by younger consumers—continues to grow, as more than a fifth of all consumers who eat burgers say that gluten-free (23%), vegan (23%) and vegetarian (22%, up from 18% in 2011) burger options are important.