In conjunction with our 2013 Burger Report, editor-in-chief Andy Hanacek discussed some of the recent moves by McDonald’s on its burger offerings with Raul Reyes, director of marketing, McDonald’s USA. What follows is their conversation:

Andy Hanacek, editor-in-chief: Let’s discuss the burger as consumers see it today. There have been a swarm of “higher-end” burger offerings, from the experience to the toppings, down to the specific cut of meat ground for the burgers. What have you seen as far as consumer preference goes? Are consumers reaching deeper into their pockets for that higher-end burger, or are the “standards” still winning the battle at the foodservice counter? Is there a need for a company like McDonald’s to refine its menu further to respond to this angle?

Reyes: At McDonald’s, we recognize that the burger market as a whole is evolving, and in order to stay relevant with our customers, we continue to expand and enhance our burger offerings with new flavor varieties and new ingredients. By adding premium offerings to our menu and adding toppings such as thick-cut Applewood-smoked bacon, fresh veggies and habanero ranch sauce, McDonald’s wants to stay top of mind for customers who are looking for quality burgers with unique flavors at a great value while also convenient.

Hanacek: I think McDonald’s is in a good position to comment on the Angus phenomenon, obviously. Is the term oversaturated? Do consumers truly care anymore about Angus? Why did McDonald’s choose to discontinue the Angus burgers they were featuring?

Reyes: We introduced Angus burgers in 2009 and had great success with them. However, as consumers tastes and needs [changed,] we began focusing our efforts on what is relevant in the marketplace and with our consumers. That is why we continue to look for ways to enhance and evolve our menu offerings. The new Quarter Pounder options are not meant to replace the retired Angus Third Pounder line. We began testing ways in which to enhance the Quarter Pounder a year ago, which has not changed since its introduction in the 1970s. And what we learned from customers guided our decision to phase out the Angus Third Pounder to make room for even more burger varieties. As a food company, adding and removing menu items is part of doing business.

Hanacek: That leads into the new Quarter Pounders — what types of trends fed into that program? Should consumers expect additional varieties forthcoming? Why does McDonald’s believe the Quarter Pounders have more potential than the Angus burgers did?

Reyes: We have been testing ways in which to enhance our iconic Quarter Pounder with Cheese, which has not changed since its introduction in the 1970s. The new Quarter Pounder burgers offer a variety of flavors to a classic customer favorite and feature a bun containing eight grams of whole grains, thick-cut Applewood-smoked bacon and new bold flavors like habanero ranch sauce. Select flavors will cross over from the previous Angus line, including the Deluxe and Bacon & Cheese. We are always looking for ways to enhance and evolve our menu, including expanding our Quarter Pounder offerings with new flavors. Price was not a driving force in the decision to remove the Angus burgers, however the Quarter Pounder will offer customers an even greater value with new flavors options.

Hanacek: How can McDonald’s combat the perception/message that the fast-casual type burger joints have put into the marketplace? They tout their ingredients (both for the burgers and the toppings/condiments), the experience, the service, etc. Or, is McDonald’s not necessarily “worried” about losing business to this particular segment of the consumer marketplace?

Reyes: McDonald’s provides our customers with good food fast at a great value, and that’s what we will continue to do. Our menu is constantly expanding in order to satisfy our customers’ tastes and wallets.