Hamburger Trends in Brazil

happy woman eating a burger

A close look at 80 Brazilian hamburger restaurants shows how brands are differentiating their menus to attract discerning consumers

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In the first year of the pandemic, three in 10 Brazilian businesses that offered food outside the home closed, according to the Brazilian Association of Bars and Restaurants (Abrasel). Now, with the sector recovering, we’re starting to see a major boost in revenue, trends and innovations, as well as a more demanding and curious consumer who wants foods and meals with higher added value.

To see how foodservice is innovating and diversifying to keep customers satisfied and loyal, we studied the burger industry in Brazil, mapping 80 burger restaurants—ranging from artisan spots to big chains—that were honored with a “Best by Guia do Hamburguer 2021” award.

We studied four categories across the restaurant menus:

  • Burgers and sandwiches
  • Hot dogs
  • Sides
  • Desserts

Our intention was to evaluate how burger restaurants are adapting and working to draw back consumers, using the findings to pinpoint top trends for 2022. Foodservice brands can use these insights to help deliver more attractive options to consumers that celebrate traditional flavors, comfort and indulgence.

Burger and sandwich highlights

Bread: From the evaluated hamburger restaurants, 40% chose a brioche bun, followed by traditional hamburger (23%), Australian (13%) and a sesame bun (13%). The bun’s versatility it allows for the customization of colors to align with seasonal limited time offers, such as green buns on St. Patrick’s Day or black or red bread on Halloween.

quote about burger trends in Brazilwoman eating burger

Meat proteins: For meat-based burgers and sandwiches, the hamburger format prevailed, followed by sliced meats and shredded beef and pork. For chicken sandwiches, fillets and strips were also relevant. Beef was the leader with more than 83% of category menu mentions, followed by chicken (12%), pork (5%), and fish (less than 1%). Several ways to innovate with flavor, texture and presentation were identified during our analysis, such as adding the famous "bolovo" crunch to hamburgers using different breading systems such as panko, tempura or conventional breading.

Vegetarian proteins: The most relevant vegetable bases were falafel, mushroom, lentil, pumpkin, chickpea, eggplant and soy. Burger shops often innovated in their presentation, replacing the hamburger format with whole mushrooms or breaded items such as cheeses or zucchini slices.

Cheese: Cheddar was used in most burgers and sandwiches—accounting for 43% of cheese menu mentions. Regional favorite “prato” was used in 26%, followed by mozzarella (10%), gorgonzola (6%), catupiry (4%) and American cheese (4%) with emmental, colby, brie, cream cheese and provolone rounding out the list. Here we saw strategic combinations with proteins, such as pairing beef with intense cheeses like cheddar or gorgonzola, partnering chicken with creamier cheeses like catupiry and serving pork with softer cheeses such as mozzarella and curd. Cheese was often used to add visual interest to presentations, such as inside a burger or grated atop a bun.

Sauces: Mayonnaise was used on 35% of sandwiches and burgers, followed by barbecue sauce (22%), green mayonnaise (9%), ketchup (7%), cheddar (6%), mustard (6%) and sour cream (3%). In addition, several variations of mayonnaise appeared on menus, including mayonnaise blended with mustard, bacon, garlic, chimichurri, herbs, gorgonzola, kimchi, molasses, oyster sauce, spicy sauces, truffle and paprika. Multiple barbecue sauce variations were also represented, including guava BBQ, cachaça BBQ, pineapple BBQ and ranch BBQ. The sauces added creaminess and flavor to the sandwiches as well as color variations.

Salads: Lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, arugula and onion were the most common add-ons in the category. Watercress, basil and chives are also considered relevant, although more limited. One highlight was the use of the American coleslaw, which brings creaminess and has been increasingly common on the menus of hamburger restaurants.

Additions: By far, bacon was the top add-on option, with 49% of menus offering it, followed by caramelized onion (15%), fried egg (9%), onion rings (9%), jalapeno (4%), crispy onion (3%) and mushrooms (3%). Variations of bacon also made a strong showing with bacon bits, smoked bacon and bacon farofa appearing on around 2% of menus. Other examples that stood out were fried banana, pepperoni, Doritos, cracklings, potato chips, parma ham, nachos, grilled avocado and mushrooms.

Hot dog highlights

The two most common forms of "hot dog" were a frankfurter-style hot dog, which accounted for 71% or such menu mentions, and sausage—or “linguica”—which appeared on 29% of hot dog menu items. Of these, about half were smoked and handmade and the other half were industrialized/commercially made. Some of the more innovative hot dogs were wrapped in bacon; in one option was shaped Hereford beef into a sausage, then stuffed it with Monterey cheese and wrapped in bacon. The most common sauces were mustard (23%) and mayonnaise and cheddar (20% each), followed by ketchup (13%), barbecue (10%), chipotle (7%) and mustard with honey (7%).

quote about burger trends in Brazilman eating burger

Side and accompaniment highlights

French fries made it onto a whopping 60% of menus in our research, followed by breaded chicken (13%), rustic potatoes (11%), onion rings (10%) and chicken drumsticks (6%). The fries were presented in several ways, including paired with cheddar and bacon; seasoned with lemon pepper; topped with a fried egg and pesto mayonnaise; served with truffled honey and grana padano mayonnaise and even accompanied by cheddar sauce and shredded pastrami. Breaded gouda cheese pillows are on the rise, along with breaded bacon slices, tapioca cakes and rib cutlets. Some hamburger restaurants are offering regionally typical flavors, such as pururuca—or nachos covered with shredded pork, cheddar sauce and jalapeno—as well as spring rolls stuffed with wagyu and cheddar.

Dessert highlights

For desserts, the milkshake reigns supreme in hamburger restaurants, with 40% of establishments offering at least one flavor, including innovative ones such as lemon pie, caramelized scones, condensed milk pudding, caramelized popcorn, "pé de moleque", bubble gum and even bacon milkshakes. Brownies and churros also make frequent menu appearances, often served with ice cream. International favorites, including red velvet cake, apple pie, cookies, American pancakes and even dorayaki—a traditional Japanese sweet made with beans—appeared on some menus. Many of these desserts were designed to be "Instagrammable", such as a "hamburger" made of ice cream.

To learn more about our research, or to find out about how we can partner on ideating and producing innovative menu items, contact us.

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