New fresh fruit and vegetable options are already on McDonald’s menus in some parts of the world, but the chain’s promise to offer more nutritious sides will take time to implement in the U.S.
Officials with the Oak Brook, Ill.-based restaurant chain announced their healthier options plan during the annual Clinton Global Initiative conference, partnering with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American Heart Association.
Bill Clinton said during the event that such commitments from business have already made a difference, citing agreements with the beverage industry, according to a news release.
“Those agreements resulted in a 90% reduction in total beverage calories shipped to schools between 2004 and 2010,” Clinton said, according to McDonald’s release.
McDonald’s has agreed to change menu options in 20 markets worldwide, which company officials say represent 85% of annual global sales.
Options such as pineapple spears, kiwifruit or watermelon on a stick and salads in paperboard packaging are already available in some markets, such as France and Brazil, said Stephen Mazeika, supervisor of global external communications.
The chain committed to implementing the healthier menu options in 30-50% of its 20 markets within three years and in 100% of them by 2020.
U.S. market changes take time
McDonald’s officials said they are not yet ready to reveal what the new options will be for U.S. consumers, and they aren’t sure when they will be available.
“For a company our size, developing products that meet our customers’ needs takes time given our decentralized franchised system, our complex supply chain with direct and indirect suppliers, and constrained space and operational requirements within the restaurant, to name a few,” said Becca Hary, manager of global media relations.
Known as one of Clinton’s favorite meals while he was in the White House, McDonald’s burgers and fries fare has been under fire along with many other quick-serve chains as contributing to America’s obesity problem, especially in children.
Consequently, the chain is changing its marketing to children as part of its commitment to Clinton’s organization. But the move is more of a recommitment to the McDonald’s own 2011 nutrition initiative than a new direction.
The chain’s 2013 report on the nutrition initiative shows progress with hard numbers:
- Since March 2012, McDonald’s Happy Meals have automatically included apple slices. From August 2012 through July of this year, the chain used more than 530 million packages of apple slices, or more than 130 million cups worth of apples.
- The Premium McWrap provided more than 80 million cups worth of vegetables to customers since its launch in March 2012.
- With menu offerings like Apple Slices, Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait and Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, McDonald’s introduced more than 70 million cups of fruit to customers from August 2012 through July 2013 in addition to the Happy Meal apple slices.
- In addition to the vegetables in its premium McWraps, the chain served more than 330 million cups worth of vegetables via items such as side salads and premium salads from August 2012 through July of this year.
The company also made changes to its Happy Meal policy, removing soft drinks as options advertised in stores and in the marketplace. Customers can still order them with Happy Meals, however.
McDonald’s plans to include nutrition and well-being messages on Happy Meal boxes and bag panels, and ensure all ads aimed at children will “include a fun nutrition or children’s well-being message.”
Retail Editor Pamela Riemenschneider contributed to this report.