The origin of the hamburger is somewhat subjective, but its growing popularity today is undisputed. When it comes to hand-held meals, burgers continue to be king.

One out of every four dollars spent within the foodservice channel in 2016, was spent on a handheld item, whether that was a sub, wrap, burrito or burger. Of the total $205.36 billion in foodservice sandwich sales in 2016, $90.57 billion were spent on burgers (that’s 44 percent of total sandwich sales), according to global market intelligence firm Technomic Inc.

“Burgers remain as popular as ever, constituting 44 percent of all handheld sales in the US,” says Dave Henkes, senior principal of Technomic’s Advisory Group. “They are remarkably adaptable, and often serve as the basis for flavor innovation in sauces, toppings and even proteins.”

Fast-food establishments and full-service restaurants continue to add new burger options to their menus in an effort to keep up with consumer demand and changing tastes.

Of the $90.57 billion in burger sales, 57 percent were sold in limited-service (or quick-service) restaurants and 19 percent were sold in full-service restaurants.

“While burger sales are obviously driven by ‘big burger’ concepts like McDonald’s and Burger King, the penetration of this versatile item is high across nearly every foodservice segment,” Henkes says. “In fact, over 40 percent of burger sales occur in segments other than fast food.” Other segments where burgers were sold include travel and leisure, bars and taverns, education, retail and healthcare.

The burger category has seen 3.2 percent in growth between 2013 and 2016, according to Technomic research, and the firm predicts 3.4 percent growth in the burger category between 2017 and 2019.

“As the industry shifts toward greater usage of takeout and delivery, burgers are well-positioned to capitalize,” Henkes says. “Very few handheld items travel as well as burgers, and they should benefit from the increased emphasis on off-premise consumption.”

The segment that has seen and will continue to see the most growth in burger consumption is travel and leisure, with 4.7 percent growth between 2013 and 2016 and a projected growth of 5.1 percent. Limited-service restaurants and full-service restaurants will continue to see growth in the burger category by 3 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively.

As the burger category continues to grow, foodservice operators will keep finding ways to answer consumer demand for new products.

“The things we’re watching in the burger category (and with burger operators) right now include transparency, antibiotic-free meats, cage-free eggs and improved conditions for animals,” Henkes adds. “We certainly believe sourcing antibiotic- and hormone-free beef will become a long-term initiative for many operators serving burgers.”