Burger King has joined a growing number of food and beverage makers eager to ride the popularity of the low-carb diets. The introduction of the bunless Whopper and future salad offerings are expected to improve sales by allowing Burger King to bite into the lucrative low-carb market.

Surging interest in low-carb diets, such as Atkins and the Zone, has prompted Miami-based Burger King to make changes to its menu. Burger King has been catering for dieters since September with three low-fat chicken baguette choices. However, this week it will begin to cater for those seeking low-carb fare by offering a bunless Whopper.

Debuting at 8,000 US restaurants, the bunless Whopper is part of a slew of innovations targeted at the low-carb dieter in an attempt to improve sales. The aim is to reverse the 22% decline in consumer traffic that has occurred over the last six years. Dieters will be able to order Whopper meals and replace French fries with salad and soft drinks with bottled water. Burger King will also be rolling out salads featuring steak, chicken and shrimp over the next few months. It is already offering the Fire-Grilled Angus Steakburger Wrap, further capitalising on its fire-grill image and setting itself apart from restaurants that fry meat.

To support its efforts, the company is kicking off an advertising campaign that highlights the Whopper as a low-carb option with the bun removed. It is also launching a Website, www.haveityourway.com, that shows how many carbohydrates, calories and fat each meal component contains.

Burger King is not alone in its endeavour to capitalise on the Atkins craze. On 15 January, Skyy Vodka and Miller introduced Skyy Sport, a low-carb version of their flavoured malt beverages. PepsiCo's Tropicana introduced Light 'n Healthy low-carb orange juice last week, while Coke's Minute Maid will launch a line of four fruit-flavoured low-carb drinks under its brand in March. With the low-carb juggernaut showing no signs of slowing, such offerings have become a must have for food firms wanting to stay competitive.

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