Industry News | September 20, 2012

McDonald's Plays Ahead of Nutrition Curve

Though impending federal legislation will soon require all 20-plus-unit chains to post calorie info on menus, many were shocked that McDonald’s was one of the first to proactively do so nationwide.

McDonald’s, however, sees its move more as a sign of the times, realizing that consumers are more concerned than ever with what and how much they’re eating.

“We know our customers want to know more about our food and beverages and our menu,” says Molly McKenna Jandrain, director of public relations for McDonald’s USA.

She points out that, while McDonald’s has been providing nutritional information access to its guests for more than 30 years, this step take it to a whole new level.

“What’s different with this is it allows people to see the calories at the point of purchase when they’re making their decisions,” she says. “We’ve always been committed to providing the information, and this is just the latest step.”

And though McDonald’s is excited about and proud of its decision to launch the calorie-labeled menuboards in stores beginning this week, Jandrain says it was an operational challenge the brand had to long prepare for.

“We obviously can’t turn things overnight, so we’ve been planning this for quite a long time in terms of deploying this in our restaurants, working with our suppliers to get the menuboards ready, analyzing and continuing to stay current on all of the nutrition information,” she says. “We planned for it and took all the right steps so we could put it in our restaurants in a unified and timely manner.”

So far, Jandrain says customers have appreciated the brand’s efforts to provide them with more nutritional knowledge. And many guests are shocked—in a good way—over the number of calories in some of their favorite items, she adds.

“Sometimes people expect things might be higher than they really are, and so it’s been really positive in terms of people being pleasantly surprised that we have some great choices … that really can fit into their diet,” she says.

And McDonald’s didn’t just stop at posting calorie counts; it’s also testing a number of more nutritious and wholesome items to add to its menu. Jandrain says it is continuing to look at seasonal vegetable and fruit options—playing off the success it had recently with blueberries—and may even add a blueberry-pomegranate smoothie to the lineup.

For the breakfast daypart, it’s playing with egg-white sandwich options, which Jandrain says are similar to the Egg McMuffin, but made with 100 percent grilled egg whites and white Cheddar cheese. The sandwich rings in around 250 calories and comes on an English muffin with 8 grams of whole grains.

In Chicago, it’s also testing McWraps in a number of varieties, including Chicken & Ranch, Sweet Chili Chicken, and Chicken & Bacon. These better-for-you products include produce like spring mix lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

But whether these items stick around is up to the customers. “With any test, to be successful, our customers have to like them and be purchasing them,” Jandrain says, noting that customer feedback has been positive so far.

McDonald’s is also trying to get its employees involved in the healthy mission by providing a voluntary nutrition e-learning program for its almost 750,000 crew members.

Jandrain says the company wants its staff to be proud of the food they’re serving, as well as be educated on the nutritional information of the items so they can answer any customer questions.

“We feel that it’s important that, just as we’re trying to educate our customers on the calorie information and the food and the choices that are best for them, we need to do the same thing with our crew,” she says. “We want to make sure they’re equipped with the right information and really proud to continue serving our food and beverages.”

By Mary Avant

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