McDonald's Adds Healthy Adult
By DAVE CARPENTER
Striving for a healthier image in the age of obesity, McDonald's is
rolling out new Happy Meals specially for adults with salad, bottled
water and pedometers - and coming soon for the kids, fresh fruit instead
Now it's up to the patrons of Big Macs and fries to decide how big an
appetite they have for a healthier McDonald's, which unveiled its latest
low-fat offerings Thursday as part of a new marketing blitz.
I want to eat healthy, I'll eat at home,'' said 33-year-old Chuck Horton
as he lunched at a crowded McDonald's in Garrisonville, Va. ``I come
to McDonald's for one reason: the fries. ... I think this healthy eating
thing has gone too far,'' he said.
Horton and other fast-food lovers need not panic. The restaurant giant
isn't changing the recipe for its burgers and fries - the financial
meat-and-potatoes of its $6 billion-a-year U.S. operation - or dropping
its triple-thick shakes.
A target of obesity lawsuits and a magnet for criticism that fast food
is bad for you, McDonald's Corp. is simply trying to meet health issues
head-on and show that it, like many of its customers, has become more
diet-conscious. Top executives announced the new campaign in Washington,
where U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson applauded
McDonald's for promoting balanced eating and exercise.
The new ``Go Active!'' adult Happy Meals will be available in all 13,600
U.S. McDonald's on May 6, accompanied by brochures offering some gentle
exercise advice: Walk more. Other changes will soon follow.
``We want to help adults achieve the right balance between their daily
calorie intake and physical activity, and to help children adopt active,
balanced lifestyle habits early on,'' said Mike Roberts, president of
McDonald's U.S. business.
McDonald's is recommending its new ``Go Active!'' adult Happy Meals
sell for $4.99 each.
Food-industry experts credit McDonald's with taking steps in the right
direction but voiced some skepticism about its new pro-health stance.
Bob Goldin, an analyst for the restaurant consulting firm Technomic
Inc. in Chicago, called it ironic that the world's leading purveyor
of fast food, ``which has a lot of calories, fat, sodium, you name it,''
is trying to portray itself differently.
The introduction of adult Happy Meals is just one in a series of related
moves by McDonald's, which introduced white-meat chicken nuggets late
last year and is phasing out super-sizing.
As part of the campaign, the company said that in June it will roll
out healthier choices in its Happy Meals for kids nationwide, such as
the option to substitute apple slices and juice for fries and soft drink.
It also will distribute brochures telling customers how to modify their
McDonald's orders for lower fat, calories and carbohydrates, such as
by skipping the cheese or bun. The promotion has been employed at its
New York-region restaurants since January.
Also new: lowfat salad dressing, a fourth variety of salad, and providing
nutrition information on Happy Meal packages starting in test markets.
Obesity and diet concerns have been forcing sweeping changes in the
U.S. food and restaurant industries. McDonald's introduced entree salads
in the United States about a year ago, helping lead to a surge in long-lagging
U.S. sales, and has been moving to add some healthier options to its
restaurants worldwide, including salads in Europe this spring. Fitness
whiz Bob Greene has signed on to help the company promote walking.
Its competitors, too, have been responding to changing consumer concerns.
Wendy's added entree salads well before McDonald's, and Burger King
started promoting bunless burgers in January, following the lead of
smaller chains, Hardee's and Carl's Jr.
Blaming McDonald's for Americans' rising obesity and physical inactivity
is ``not reflective of reality,'' Roberts said in an interview.
``But it's part of what we're dealing with as a country right now, and
we've got to lead'' by providing lots of choices and educating consumers
about them, he said.
Back at the Garrisonville Golden Arches, Dave Cabott was enjoying his
Big 'N' Tasty and fries.
The menu additions are a good idea, said the Port Charlotte, Fla., ex-caterer.
But McDonald's is about convenience, not healthy food, he said.
``People are not expecting to have a gourmet meal here,'' said Cabott.
``I always eat the crap.''