The burger that made Burger King a household name and forced competitors like McDonald’s to up their burger game too is the mighty Whopper. Over the years, the Whopper has undergone several changes and been subject to several controversies and rumors. Check out these ten shocking secrets about the Whopper.
10. It was originally priced at 37 cents
Burger King has been a favorite fast food haunt of Americans for many decades. Well known for its delicious fast food, Burger King has been around since 1953. But it was not called Burger King back then; the founders had named it ‘Insta-Burger King’. The first ever outlet was opened in Miami, Florida. After a visit to the McDonald’s original outlet, Burger King founders were inspired to open a restaurant in the Miami area that would serve instant hamburgers to customers. The restaurant’s menu at that time consisted of simple fare like basic hamburgers, French fries, milkshakes and desserts. But the restaurant didn’t immediately take off and the owners of Insta-Burger King suffered heavy financial losses for the next few years. Soon though, two of its franchisees bought over the company from the founders and revamped the entire image of the restaurant, including the name, which was changed to the now legendary ‘Burger King’. After taking over the operations of Burger King outlet in Miami, one of the new owners, James McLamore tried to solve the mystery of the company’s falling profits. While Burger King continued to churn out the usual-sized burgers, McLamore noticed that another nearby restaurant profited tremendously by serving a larger-sized burger. The astute McLamore promptly created a larger burger and named it ‘Whopper’. As per his autobiography, McLamore’s vision in creating the Whopper was ‘to convey an imagery of something big.’ But when it made its debut in 1957, the Whopper was priced at just 37 cents. At such remarkably affordable prices, Burger King saw an increased footfall in its outlet. The Whopper was very well received and went on to achieve cult status amongst fast food fans. While it is no longer available for 37 cents, Burger King’s signature product is still priced very competitively; it will set you back by just about $4.20 now. The price of the Whopper was dropped to 55 cents back in 2012, in honor of Burger King’s 55th anniversary, but that too was part of a combo deal and a limited time only offer.
9. The Angry and Angriest Whoppers
Soon after its introduction, the Whopper became Burger King’s signature product, and a sure-fire way to attract customers at its outlets not just in America but across the world. With its ingenious marketing tactics and relentless advertising campaigns, Burger King has transformed the humble burger to the mighty Whopper that we know and love. Made of a flame-grilled beef patty, tomatoes, lettuce, sliced onions, pickles and slathered in mayonnaise and ketchup, all placed inside a toasted sesame seed bun, the Whopper is one delicious hamburger! While Burger King has introduced various versions of the Whopper over the years, the most standout variation has been the Angry Whopper. Why angry, you ask? Well, it contains ‘angry onions’ and an ‘angry sauce’ besides the regular Whopper ingredients that make this Whopper an ‘Angry Whopper.’ The ‘angry onions’ are spicy and crispy onions, and the ‘angry sauce’ is a signature sauce that gives this version of the Whopper a fiery taste. For an added kick, the Angry Whopper also has jalapeños and pepper jack cheese. The Angry Whopper made its debut in Europe before making its way to America in 2009, with a viral marketing strategy that had consumers excited to try out the new Whopper. Burger King released the Angry Whopper in Japan with a marketing campaign that encouraged people to vent their frustrations at the top of their voices in a bid to win a year’s supply of Angry Whoppers. To take things up a notch, in 2016, Burger King introduced a variation of the Angry Whopper – the Angriest Whopper! Needless to say, it was an instant hit with customers. The Angriest Whopper was the Angry Whopper but with a signature red bun that got its color from a hot sauce that was baked into the bun for an extra dose of spiciness. The limited time only Angriest Whopper also had a flashy advertising campaign and a catchy tagline to match.
8. A meatless Whopper for vegetarians
The juicy, tasty and meaty Whopper is a true fast food delight, but it is not exactly vegetarian-friendly. Considering the fact that the main ingredient in the Whopper is a 4 oz. flame-grilled beef patty, vegetarians have been left out of the Whopper movement for far too long. But not anymore! Developed in collaboration with Impossible Foods, who are known for their plant-based meat and dairy substitutes, Burger King has recently introduced a meatless version of its world-famous Whopper called the ‘Impossible Whopper’. First tested out across 59 Burger King outlets in St. Louis, Missouri, the Impossible Whopper is a meatless marvel! Introduced in April 2019, the Impossible Whopper has an all-natural vegetarian patty provided by the Silicon Valley start-up food company, Impossible Foods. The patty is made from plant proteins, water, coconut oil and other natural ingredients and has a taste, color and texture similar to that of a beef patty. Just as delicious as the original, the Impossible Whopper is a healthier choice. While the original has 660 calories, the Impossible Whopper is just 240 calories. Burger King executives stated that if the trial run at St. Louis was successful, Burger King would roll out the Impossible Whopper across the U.S. by the end of the year. Well, the Impossible Whopper was a resounding success with an increased foot traffic of about 18% in the St. Louis outlets. Burger King announced on April 29, 2019, that a nationwide rollout was expected soon.
7. What came first – Whopper or Big Mac?
Much like the classic ‘what came first – chicken or egg?’ debate, fans have always wondered what came first – Burger King’s Whopper or McDonald’s Big Mac? As we mentioned earlier, the founder of Burger King was inspired to start the restaurant after visiting the original McDonald’s outlet. So, McDonald’s definitely predates Burger King. But that is not the case with their signature products – the Big Mac and the Whopper. The Whopper was first introduced by the then-owner of Burger King, James McLamore in 1957. And it reigned supreme for quite some time, more than ten years almost, for its closest rival, McDonald’s, only introduced the Big Mac in 1968. But most experts say that the real rival to the Whopper wasn’t introduced until 1972, almost twenty years after the debut of the Whopper, and it was the legendary McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. Several other fast food chains came up with products nicknamed ‘Whopper Stopper’, but none were as successful. Competition brand Wendy’s created a similar burger called the Big Classic and McDonald’s went on to create a variety of versions, including the McDLT, Big N’ Tasty, Arch Deluxe, etc. While the Big Mac and other competitor burgers are good too, the Whopper is the big daddy of all burgers! So iconic has it become that it’s inventor, James McLamore, was part of the Burger King board in various designations till the day he died.
6. The happy accident – Whopper Junior!
As soon as the Whopper was introduced, Burger King’s fortunes turned around. Several outlets of the fast food chain were opened across America and people started lining up to try out their famous Whoppers. Soon after enjoying unprecedented success across mainland U.S., Burger King began opening outlets in Puerto Rico too. At one such opening in Carolina, Puerto Rico in 1963, the man in-charge, Luis Arenas-Pérez was in a mighty pickle – the molds for making the buns for the signature dish, the Whopper, had not yet arrived from the mainland. The grand opening date was upon him and he had to make a choice – either wait for the molds to arrive and delay the opening date, or improvise and honor the opening date. He chose the latter and fast food fans the world over can thank him for making that choice. For that was the day the Whopper Junior came into being! Perez decided to make smaller hamburgers using smaller buns that were made from molds that were available locally in Puerto Rico. And he decided to call the hamburgers ‘Whopper Junior’. The newly created Whopper Junior was a massive hit with customers in Puerto Rico, and it was even adopted by mainland Burger King outlets. The name and the product size continued enjoying popularity at outlets across the world. As a result, Perez was made the CEO of Burger King in Puerto Rico and achieved legendary status when he was inducted into the Burger King Hall Of Fame.
5. There was once a ‘Windows 7’ Whopper
Over the years, Burger King has collaborated with many brands, companies, and commemorated several events through its product lines. Burger King is known to play pranks and hoaxes on its customers, and very often, these pranks are disguised in the form of new product releases. One of the most unusual product variations that Burger King has ever released has to be the Windows 7 Whopper. It may sound like a prank or a hoax, but it’s not! In 2009, to celebrate the launch of Windows 7 in Japan, Burger King collaborated with Microsoft to create a unique version of Burger King’s signature product, the Whopper, and decided to call it the Windows 7 Whopper. This limited time only burger was a mammoth one, containing seven beef patties stacked on top of each other along with the usual Whopper ingredients. The combined weight of this Windows 7 Whopper was about 2.2 lbs. but that did not deter customers from trying it out, for about 6000 Windows 7 Whoppers were sold in the first four days and about 10,000 in a week! The Windows 7 Whopper became so popular that a huge number of seven-patty challenge YouTube videos and blog posts popped up just days after the launch.
4. Exchange your Facebook friends for a Whopper!
Known for their creative marketing campaigns, Burger King knows how to manipulate customers to promote their products. As part of a marketing strategy to boost sales numbers of the Whopper, Burger King launched a ‘Whopper Sacrifice’ Facebook promotion in 2009. Simply put, the campaign promised a free Whopper for every 10 friends that you deleted or ‘un-friended’ from your Facebook account. The campaign involved the use of an app, by means of which users could get a free coupon after they had deleted 10 friends from their Facebook accounts. But the controversial nature of the campaign was that the app would send a Facebook notification to the deleted friends that they had been un-friended by one of their Facebook friends and that their friendship did not stand a chance against the mighty Whopper! This controversial bit of gimmick met with much flak from Facebook, which promptly asked Burger King to remove the notification message. Burger King had to stop the campaign and that was the end of the ‘Whopper Sacrifice’ saga. But it came at a cost; estimates suggest that a reported 234,00 friends had been lost over the period of the campaign.
3. Whopper Virgins!
As popular as Burger King is for its tasty offerings, viral marketing campaigns and unique customer pranks, it is no stranger to controversy. Burger King invests heavily in advertising, and its commercials are known to create a significant impact on its revenues. Its 2008 advertising campaign called the ‘Whopper Virgins’ challenge created a huge stir. It featured villagers from Thailand, remote inhabitants of Greenland and farmers from Romania taking part in a Whopper vs. Big Mac taste test. The commercial claims that these people had never even heard of a burger, let alone tasted one. They were given a Whopper and a Big Mac and asked for their preference. While the advertising campaign was creative, it was quite controversial and prompted a huge backlash from the media and activists. It was deemed to be insensitive and culturally inappropriate. But the agency hired by Burger King to carry out the advertising campaign took in a positive light and stated that the idea of the campaign was to get people talking about the Whopper. It surely managed to do that!
2. Halloween Whoppers
Burger King’s flagship product, the Whopper, has undergone numerous changes over the years and multiple variations of the Whopper have also been introduced. One of the most iconic and beloved iterations of the Whopper is the Halloween Whopper. First introduced to American customers in 2015, the first version of the Halloween Whopper had an odd-looking charcoal-black bun. It was also called the ‘A1 Halloween Whopper’ because of the famous A1 steak sauce used to give the bun a dark color and a smoky flavor. The spooky looking burger also came wrapped in a creative wrapper that depicted spooky eyes of a mummy peeking through its bandage wrappings. The next variant of the Halloween Whopper came in 2018, where Burger King treated fans to a creepy looking Halloween Whopper that had a bright green bun. It was nicknamed the ‘Nightmare King’ Whopper and the company revealed that the green tint was derived from the natural coloring of watermelons. Burger King also joked that the green Halloween Whopper was guaranteed to give you nightmares! This limited time only Whopper was undoubtedly a huge hit with customers.
1. There are thousands of ways to have a Whopper!
The Whopper is an iconic and legendary burger that is widely advertised in all Burger King marketing and advertising campaigns. As the company’s flagship product, a significant amount of advertising budget has been dedicated to popularizing it over the decades. A variety of catchphrases, taglines and slogans have been attributed to it, including the famous ‘There are 1024 ways to have a Whopper.’ This was one of the very first slogans created for the Whopper and versions of it have been re-used over the years. But are there really that many ways to have a Whopper? The answer lies in probability calculations. Without getting into the complicated mathematical details, the logic can be simply explained as follows: customers have a certain number of ingredients available to them to customize and design their Whoppers. And the addition or deletion of each ingredient will create a unique Whopper. All these combinations of ingredients add up to about 1024 unique ways of creating a Whopper. But when this slogan was introduced, there were fewer ingredients available to design the Whopper. With the expansion of the ingredient list, the number of possible permutations and combinations of the Whopper also changed. Thus, the slogan was revised to ‘There are 221,184 ways to try a Whopper.’ That’s a lot of ways to try the Whopper!