The hamburger is an iconic part of American cuisine, but other countries have had their own developments and innovations in the burger world as well. As interest increases in blended burger patties, Thomas Foods, a family-owned Australian meat processor, has introduced a new blended burger patty to the U.S. market. The burger, made with a beef and vegetable blend, debuted with a large retailer in March.

Thomas Foods is the largest family-owned meat processor in Australia and a leading processor of lamb, mutton and goat, as well as beef. It’s U.S. branch is headquartered in Swedesboro, N.J. The company showcased its blended burger patty earlier this year at the Annual Meat Conference. The burger incorporates a serving of vegetables into each patty.

“The feedback has been great, and it’s an easy way to get vegetables into the diet,” explains Levor Henry, marketing manager.

The goal of this type of product is to appeal to flexitarians — people who eat a vegetarian diet but are not averse to eating meat as well. It also is a beneficial product, says CEO Michael Forrest, for parents who want to get more vegetables into their children’s diets and for meat-eaters who want an alternative to an all-beef burger.

“This product has been in the marketplace offshore for over 12 months,” he says of the product’s rollout in Australia. “All that work has been done to get the right flavor. I think, without being rude about some of the 100% plant-based products that are in the market, this eats quite well.”

The product looks like a typical beef patty, but there are some differences in the production process. The equipment is the same, Forrest explains, but the process is a little bit more complicated.

“There is a little more complexity naturally — adding the vegetables, getting the meat right, temperature control,” he adds.

Additionally, the process of adding vegetables to the ground beef requires the addition of other ingredients, so the label isn’t as simple as one would think.

Thomas Foods is one of many companies looking to add some variety to the ground beef category. Forrest points out that the ground beef category hasn’t changed fundamentally in the last 50 years. The company has made some attempts to add a new product into the category, such as pre-seasoned ground beef for tacos. This product, which is flavor neutral, has tested the best.

More companies have added inclusions to their burger patties, such as bacon or cheese, in recent years. Others have been including items like mushrooms to create a burger for more health-conscious consumers. Thomas Foods hopes that its blended patties appeals to a wide cross-section of consumers, from meat-eaters looking for a different type of burger to parents looking to insert more vegetables into their children’s diet to the flexitarian demographic.

“We’ve looked at research to really understand that there is a rise in flexitarians,” Henry says. “People want to still eat meat, but do it in a different way. This is a way where they [don’t] just add vegetables, but it becomes easier to make that transition and still get what they want from the protein point of view.” IP