TAMPA – Carl's Jr. and Hardee's won the National Turkey Federation’s 10th Annual Turkey on the Menu (TOM) Award in the fast-food category for introducing healthier alternative charbroiled turkey burgers on their menus. They received the awards on Feb. 16 during NTF's annual convention in Tampa.

Accepting the award on behalf of CKE Restaurants Inc., which is the parent company of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, was John Koncki, CKE’s director of research and development. Both businesses operate 3,219 franchised, licensed or company-operated restaurants in 42 states and in 23 countries, including 1,292 Carl's Jr. restaurants and 1,917 Hardee's restaurants.

CKE Restaurants Inc. is credited for being the first national fast-food chain to add turkey burgers to its permanent menu.

"Consumers today are looking for burger options that are better for them and taste great," said Koncki. "That's why we teamed up with Men's Health Magazine and Eat This, Not That! to develop a line of delicious charbroiled turkey burgers that are indulgent and don't skimp on taste."

CKE partnered with Matt Gould, co-author of the Eat This, Not That! book series, and Men's Health Magazine to produce five varieties of charbroiled turkey burgers: traditional, teriyaki, guacamole, mushroom Swiss and BBQ ranch. This line launched in March 2011 as permanent menu items at Carl's Jr.and Hardee's restaurants throughout the US, as well as in select international units.

Creator and supplier of the turkey patty, AdvancePierre Foods, nominated the burger chains for NTF's award. The TOM Award was presented to CKE by Dick Elmore, vice president of strategic accounts for AdvancePierre Foods, during the awards presentation.

The turkey patties are a combination of ground dark and white turkey meat. Product specifications allow the turkey burgers to remain moist after going through the charbroiler, Elmore said. Guests were able to get the same backyard barbecue, charbroiled flavor they expect at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, but with a much leaner, lower calorie alternative, he added.

Consumer awareness of the lower-fat, healthy menu options was accomplished through advertising and marketing campaigns. An integrated marketing campaign included national television advertising, radio and billboards. Digital marketing included Facebook and Twitter integration. Publicity for these turkey burgers resulted in 188 million earned media impressions and advertising reached hundreds of millions.

NTF members nominated foodservice chains they felt exemplified the criteria of the TOM Award. Entry applications address questions regarding turkey menu applications, the items' consumer appeal, how the chain promotes the menu items through marketing plus turkey's food-cost percentage.

A foodservice panel then rates each entry on consumer appeal, versatility, taste, value and how the turkey applications benefit the chain operation. The entry receiving the most points from the judges is awarded the TOM honor at NTF's annual convention.