Industry News | May 12, 2011

McDonald's Wants Its Healthy Options to Be 'Just for You'

McDonald’s is personalizing its healthy-menu efforts by launching a new “Made Just for You” platform. The company debuted the new platform yesterday at its First Taste Event in New York City.

McCafé beverages, chicken-based options, and salads have all been placed under the “Made Just for You” banner. McDonald’s also used the First Taste Event to announce the addition of two “Made Just for You” items: the Mango Pineapple Real Fruit Smoothie and the Asian Salad.

Chef Dan Coudreaut, senior director of culinary innovations for McDonald’s USA, says restaurants can no longer develop menu options without having a conversation about their nutritional profile, and that this more intense look at nutrition encouraged McDonald’s to launch the “Made Just for You” platform.

McDonald’s development team, he says, is actively balancing flavor with the healthy attributes of each new menu item.

“We need to be able to evolve with our guests, we need to be able to evolve our menu … and look at our menu as there are no real sacred cows,” Coudreaut says. “We’ve got to figure out what’s the best thing for our business, what’s the best thing for our customers.”

For McDonald’s, Coudreaut says, that means thinking outside the box to bring in healthier foods previously unheard of in the fast food industry, like oatmeal. But while McDonald’s is working with the portion sizes of some of its menu items, the chef says developing healthier menu options does not mean tinkering with the iconic McDonald’s dishes like the Big Mac.

“Rather than going after the negative [nutritional components] … it’s really going after the presence of positives,” he says. “Can we start introducing more fresh produce? Can we start introducing more vegetables, more fruit? Like the smoothies, like the oatmeal, like the Asian Salad, edamame, things like that. That’s where I think we’re going to win.”

Julia Braun, nutrition manager of product innovation and development for McDonald’s, has the task of tracking the nutritional data of every menu option Coudreaut and his team develops. She says the development team uses three filters to establish whether or not a new dish is up to snuff nutritionally: food groups, nutrients, and portion size.

“In most cases, taste leads; we let the chefs be creative, we let the product development team do their thing, and then we take a look at the nutrition and say, ‘Are there any red flags, are there any opportunities to improve it?’” Braun says.

Braun says calories are a major component to the healthy eating landscape in the U.S. today, and that McDonald’s is trying to get calorie counts—as well as the counts of other nutritional components—in front of every customer.

But she says Americans should go beyond simple calorie counting when managing their diet.

“More than the [calorie] numbers, our customers and America in general should be focused on food groups—getting in food groups that you need,” she says. “I feel like when you focus on getting in the food groups that we don’t get enough of, like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, you crowd out all of the bad stuff naturally.

Not coincidentally, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are some of the stars of the “Made Just for You” platform. And future menu development at McDonald’s, Coudreaut says, will continue to focus on these food groups and the ability for consumers to pick and choose the components of their meal.

“People have everything they want accessible to them,” he says. “We need to address that trend, and I think we are and we are able to.”

By Sam Oches

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