Burger King is breaking the mold in its new advertising campaign.
The burger chain is portraying its Whopper covered in mold in print and TV ads running in Europe and the U.S. The message: Burger King is removing artificial preservatives from its signature burger.
The company, already known for irreverent ad campaigns, turned it up a notch, including a time-lapse of a decaying burger on Twitter. That imagery goes beyond the print ads that show a 28-day-old burger – a week beyond.
Early reaction to the campaign Wednesday was a mix of applause for the shift away from preservatives, to disgust.
The restaurant, based in Miami, Florida, says it has removed artificial preservatives from the Whopper in several European countries – including France, Sweden and Spain – and around 400 of its 7,346 U.S. restaurants. It plans to remove preservatives from Whoppers served in all of its restaurants this year.
The Whopper is topped with onions, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and pickles, all of which will contain no artificial preservatives.
By the end of this year, Burger King said all food items – including sandwiches, sides and desserts – will be free from artificial colors, artificial flavors and artificial preservatives in the U.S. and select European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom.
McDonald’s announced in 2018 that it was removing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from seven of its burgers.
The trigger for all these changes is consumer preference. In recent years, Americans have frequently been drawn to what a product lacks more than what it contains.
The Food and Drug Administration defines it as a food product that contains no artificial ingredients or added colors and has been “minimally processed.”
When asked precisely which preservatives Burger King was doing away with, a spokeswoman for the company said that sodium benzoate would be removed from the pickles and replaced with lactic acid; ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) would be removed from the mayonnaise; and calcium propionate would be removed from the buns and replaced with cultured wheat flour.
Lisa Lefferts, senior scientist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says these changes are more about public relations then public health.
“They are replacing propionate with bacteria that produce propionic acid,” she said. “Basically just a natural source of the same preservative, but it sounds better. Kind of like using celery powder instead of sodium nitrate to cure meat.”
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