Burger consumption is up considerably since 2009 with nearly half of today's consumers saying they eat a burger at least once a week compared with 38 percent just two years ago, saysTechnomic, a Chicago-based foodservice market trends researcher.

One reason for the increase? The continued prominence of burgers on quick-service value menus.

"The value menu is certainly a big part of this increase in burger consumption," says Sara Monnette, Technomic's director of consumer research. "There are other factors at work, however, as the specialty burger craze has driven growth in a way that is almost defiantly separate from pricing. The better burger restaurants in the fast casual segment have put the burger top-of-mind for consumers, and even the quick-service chains have begun to respond and focus portions of their menus specifically on quality perceptions."

To help food industry professionals stay abreast of current issues and evolving consumer need-states, Technomic has developed a "Burger Consumer Trend Report."

Findings include:

•Younger consumers are highly interested in vegetarian burger options, with 23 percent of consumers between the ages of 18-34 saying it is important for vegetarian burgers to be available on restaurant menus.

•The importance of health-halo attributes such as all natural, hormone-free, steroid-free and antibiotic-free has grown since 2009. Half of consumers currently say it is very important to them that the meat used to make their burger is steroid free.

•The most commonly offered cheese on burgers at limited-service restaurants is American, but Cheddar is by far the most popular in the full-service segment.

Technomic says its findings utilize the firm's MenuMonitor trend tracking tool for reviews of  leading, independent and emerging chain operators. A "Consumer Insights" section examines the burger consumption, purchasing behavior, attitudes and preferences of more than 1,500 consumers, says Technomic. A "Competitive Insights" section identifies what consumers find most appealing about burgers offered at more than 40 leading limited- and full-service chains.