[As forecast below, BK rolled out ribs on May 17. Read it here.]
[May 3 Update: Country Pork sandwich has moved into select Chicago restaurants and Indianapolis. Oddly, radio ads describe it as a "pork fritter" on a bun.]
Burger King and pork producers are old friends, primarily through a shared affection for bacon. Now the QSR is ratcheting up its relationship with the Other White Meat by trying a pork tenderloin sandwich and preparing for the long-awaited rollout of grilled pork ribs.
Des Moines, Iowa, not only is home to the National Pork Board, it’s the epicenter of affection for one of the Midwest’s iconic foods, the pork tenderloin sandwich. From Iowa across Illinois and Indiana, it’s revered much as burgers are elsewhere. Check out the Des Moines blog Des Loines or Indiana’s The Tenderloin Connoisseur if you doubt it. So Burger King is showing moxie in offering its Country Pork sandwich in Des Moines. In line with tradition, BK’s is breaded and fried pork tenderloin on a bun, priced at $3.49 alone; $3.99 for the deluxe version (dressed with mayo, lettuce, tomato, as well as onions and pickles) and $5.99 for the meal with fries and drink.
Like McDonald’s peripatetic pork sandwich, McRib, versions of the Country Pork sandwich have popped up occasionally as an LTO on Burger King menus in the Pork Tenderloin Belt over the past several years. Also like McRib, Burger King’s Country Pork got development help from the Pork Checkoff Program (pork producers’ marketing contributions to the National Pork Board). Burger King did not respond to a request for confirmation of the test or comment.
Burger King’s hog-wild celebration comes next month when the chain introduces Fire-Grilled Ribs to its menu nationwide. The ribs were tested last year in 300 units in Indianapolis; Greensboro, N.C.; Las Vegas and Orlando in three-, six- and eight-piece servings. According to sources, the national porkfest will be an eight-week limited-time offer of ribs that begins May 17 and continues until July 4.
With Fire-Grilled Ribs, Burger King gives consumers a literal taste of what is possible with the new batch broilers now installed in all U.S. locations. The ribs reportedly can be cooked in 5 minutes or less. According to an earlier research note from Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Mark Kalinowski, Burger King also plans to use the new equipment for a premium-price ($4.29) Tuscan Grilled Chicken sandwich in June or July.
“This new broiler is a game-changing piece of equipment and a significant point of differentiation for us,” John Schaufelberger, BK SVP-global product marketing and innovation said in a February company announcement. “Not only is the technology revolutionary to our industry, it is proprietary to the Burger King brand. It allows us to up the ante in our product development across the board-from superior quality food and unconventional menu innovations to even more competitive value offerings.”