Industry News | November 7, 2006

On the APMEA Trail with McDonald's: Day One

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McDonald's Asia Pacific Middle East and Africa, or APMEA, group includes markets as diverse as Taiwan and South Africa. Over 7,600 units operate within the system, which serves 2.2 billion a day. But all things APMEA lead to the former British stronghold Hong Kong, home to approximately 7 million. APMEA's corporate offices are based there. Its president, Tim Fenton resides in the city, as does the group's six-month-old food studio. Inside the new studio the unique regional dishes McDonald's is known for--Hong Kong's Rice Burger, for example--are developed under the eyes of two men, Dr. Romeo J.P Leu and Chef Leslie Bailey.

Together Leu and Bailey run APMEA's R&D department. And on the day QSRvisted, the duo showcased eight of the products that have come out of their kitchen and into over 10 countries in the APMEA region.

First up was the McCurry Pan, a french-bread pizza-like dish that sells for $1.10 (U.S.) in India. The version we tried was vegetarian curry and paneer mixture. A chicken option is also available.

Next there was the Ebi-Fileto, a shrimp-patty burger targeted towards Japanese women. Like its U.S. cousin the Filet o Fish, the Ebi sits on a steamed bun, which, according to Bailey, ladies like the world over. The year-old sandwich sells for $2.30 (U.S). Felton credits introduction like the Ebi for driving McDonald's Japan's best year in a decade. Also pushing numbers are extended hours and a new 100-Yen menu, similar to the state's dollar one.

Japan's best-selling product is the Teriyaki McBurger. Introduced in 1990, the burger's pork patty is marinated in an apple-twinged teriyaki sauce and served with a lemon-flavored mayonnaise.

In the Middle East, McDonald's serves a regional version of its chicken wrap. The McArabia features not only a flavored flatbread holder, but also the type of on-the-go packaging more quick-serves should be employing. It is possible to eat the flatbread sandwich without spilling, even when writing and dining.

Breast meat is not king in Asia as it is in the U.S. McDonald's has found such success with its Tawainese Grilled Chicken Burger that the company has struggled to maintain a steady supply of the thigh meat that serves as the sandwich's protein.

Popular in Korea is the Bulgogi Burger, a takeoff on Korea's popular bulgogi barbeque sauce. McDonald's coats a pork patty in sauce. The burger has been the number-one seller in the region over the last six years.

Where apple slices are replacing fries in the U.S., sweet corn is doing the job in Asia--even in Happy Meals. In Hong Kong, you can find two sizes of the sweet grain, one adult-sized, one kid-sized. Eight markets in Asia carry the dish. Again demand outweighed supply until recently.

Wrapping up Leu and Bailey's APMEA culinary tour was a product still in test, the Chicken Mushroom Pinwheel. More than any other dish highlighted during the tasting session, the pinwheel has possible applications fit for almost any market or daypart. Think Taco Bell's Crunchwrap Supreme, and you get the idea. McDonald's is considering the stuffed pinwheel shape pastry as an option at breakfast or during the snack daypart or as a light dinner entree.

Speaking of breakfast, that daypart is certainly on the APMEA radar too. Though specific numbers were not given for the region as whole, Fenton did say that breakfast accounts for 22 percent of sales in the Hong Kong market, 19 percent in Singapore, 13 percent in Taiwan, and 15 percent in the Phillipines. Mainland China stores are just getting into the daypart. Over 350 units there currently serve breakfast, which represents 4 to 6 percent of sales in that market.

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by QSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.