Burger King Tries to Satisfry

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"Satisfries." The best part of Burger King Worldwide Inc.'s greasy (but not too greasy) creation may well be the name.

According to Burger King, Satisfries, which premiered in North America yesterday, have 40 percent less fat and 30 percent fewer calories than McDonald's fries. That's due to a coating that is supposed to be less porous, resulting in decreased oil absorption.

So, a 70-gram serving of Burger King's newest creation has 150.5 calories versus the 226.8 in the same size portion from McDonald's. And a small order of the crinkle-cut Satisfries has 70 fewer calories (270 vs. 340) than Burger King's regular fries.

The technical brilliance behind these fries may be their commercial downfall.

When fast-food restaurants add healthier items to their menus, not that many peopleorder them. That's why, according to Burger King's North American chief marketing officer, the company opted against adding another healthy option to the menu and instead decided to re-jigger a popular fatty food. The fries are also an effort to snatch back wayward customers thinking about bidding goodbye to greasy friends and turning to the dark -- kale-colored -- side. Burger King isn't saying these new fries are healthy, just that they're less unhealthy than the regular kind (and the kind at that place with the golden arches).

Satisfries will be offered right alongside traditional fries, which more than half of Burger King's customers order. It will be just as easy for consumers to skip the lower-cal fries option as it is for them to pass over a salad for the bulging burger combo meal. If you really want to eat healthy -- or at least healthier - you probably shouldn't go to Burger King in the first place.

Of course, people don't eat fast food only because it's soaked in grease. It's also cheap. So Burger King isn't doing any favors by suggesting that franchisees make Satisfries 20 to 30 cents more expensive than regular fries (although on children's meals, they'll be the same price). The slight premium seems especially unfair given that the company has said it will be saving money on oil. Then again, one imagines that two years of work with McCain Foods to engineer the Satisfries came at no small cost.

Previous attempts to introduce low-fat fries haven'tturned out so well. But those fries weren't named Satisfries. The ultimate fate of Burger King's latest offering may rest in how utterly awesome -- or completely humiliating -- it is to order your burger with a side of Satisfries.

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To contact the author on this story:
Zara Kessler at zkessler@bloomberg.net