Across our iconic packaging series, we’ve covered not only a brand’s packaging, but the brand itself. Sometimes it’s one piece of their packaging that stands out and makes the world take notice, other times it’s the brand itself that elevates everything it does. That’s what makes this next showcase so interesting. Not only is the Burger King Whopper a signature product, it’s also got brilliant packaging, and is a brand unto itself.
Founded in 1953, this world-famous burger chain began life as Insta-Burger King (due to using an insta-broiler to cook burgers quickly and evenly). Unfortunately, it hit financial difficulties rather quickly, and in 1954 it was bought out by two Miami-based franchisees named David Edgerton and James McLamore.
Renaming their new venture to Burger King, they switched to a flame broiler (a conveyor belt that cooked the meat at a similar rate, seared it properly and broke down less often than the insta-broiler) and found the company and its fortunes on the rise. In 1957, they debuted the first major addition to their menu, the Burger King Whopper, and it quickly became their signature offering.
The quarter-pound hamburger—served with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, pickles and ketchup–was larger than the burgers typically served by their competition, and beat the Big Mac to the market by 11 years (it debuted in 1968).
Since then, the Burger King Whopper has been tailored to appeal to international markets. It comes with teriyaki sauce in Asian countries, beetroot and a fried egg in Australia, a halal or kosher burger in the Middle East and Israel, and even a frosty beer in Germany, Italy and Spain.
Original Burger King Whopper Box
If you look closely at the image above, you’ll notice it’s not quite the original Burger King Whopper box. Turns out there aren’t too many collectors who own one of those, but Burger King was kind enough to release a 55th anniversary retro edition of the box in 2012.
This box maintains the original diamond background, font choices, and the OG Burger King himself. For anyone who can remember when Burger King was on the rise, this packaging probably gives them the warm fuzzies.
Burger King has used paperboard for its burger containers right from the start. So, when the uproar over Styrofoam containers reached its peak in the late 80s and McDonald’s dropped their Styrofoam clamshell, Burger King saw a great opportunity to lovingly elbow them in the ribs. By saying “welcome to the club,” they started what would turn out to be a brilliant run of lambasting their competition.
Burger King Whopper Wrappers
As their product line grew, Burger King began paring down much of its burger packaging to wax paper wrappers. And as proof of the cleverness and sense of humor they had as a brand, Burger King took the opportunity to use the wrapper printing to their advantage.
First, they added a line of icons representing the toppings offered on their burgers, which could be circle or crossed out depending on a customer’s preference. Then they started getting really creative with their advertising, matching the wrapper to the style of Whopper they were offering.
Look at the image above, and you’ll get a great sense of their branding and personality. Christmastime brought a Whopper clad in Santa’s jacket and featured two burgers and a spatula for the buttons and belt. The Halloween Whopper featured a black bun and looked like it was wrapped in a Mummy’s bandages, the Angriest Whopper (the sequel to the Angry Whopper) featured a red bun and two jalapeño eyes burning with fury, and the Proud Whopper is bright and vibrant, just as it should be.
Burger King Whopper Real Meals
Launched during Mental Health Awareness Month in May 2019, Burger King partnered with Mental Health America and offered a line of Whopper boxes that reflected how a customer felt in the moment. Built around the idea that no one is happy all the time, the Real Meals were also a dig at the McDonald’s Happy Meal (continuing Burger King’s jab-taking history).
Containing the Pissed Meal, Blue Meal, Salty Meal, YAAAS Meal and DGAF Meal, reception’s been a little mixed. Many people see the product line as Burger King using depression to sell their products, and in the process, minimizing and lampooning difficult mental health states.
Burger King Impossible Whopper
Developed as a competitor to the vegetarian, vegan and Beyond Meat fast food products out there, Burger King began offering the Impossible Whopper in April 2019. Made from soy protein, potato protein, coconut oil, sunflower oil and heme, it’s flame broiled just like all its other beef-centric brothers and is proving be quite the hit.
Starting as a test rollout in the St. Louis area, it took just 5 short weeks for sales to surge 28%, with the Impossible Whopper quickly rivalling the demand for the original Whopper. It’ll be going nationwide even sooner than intended, which is quite the impressive feat.
Burger King Whopper Wine
This is real, it’s not a concept, and no, it doesn’t taste like a Whopper. Released in 2015, and exclusively in Spain, the Burger King Whopper wine is aged in ‘flame-grilled’ wooden barrels that apparently give its wine some quite lovely charred notes in its flavor profile. We’d try it. You?
A sense of humor and a knack for style clearly permeates everything Burger King does. Together, we think they contribute nicely to a brand and feel that’s interesting, notable and, we daresay, iconic. What other brands, products or packaging designs do you think are worthy of the iconic packaging mantle? Be sure to let us know—we’d enjoy showcasing it here.