McDonald’s Corp. (MCD:US), which sells 750-calorie Double Quarter Pounders with cheese, will start offering fruit, salads and vegetables instead of fries with value meals in a push to get its diners to make healthier choices.
The world’s largest restaurant chain also will only advertise water, milk and juice for its kids’ Happy Meals, according to a statement yesterday from the company and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a group founded by the Clinton Foundation and American Heart Association that works to reduce childhood obesity. They didn’t specify the type of vegetables available.
McDonald’s and rivals have been trying to shed their image as purveyors of fatty foods in a nation where about two-thirds of the population is considered overweight or obese. While the Oak Brook, Illinois-based fast-food chain in 2012 introduced a lower-calorie menu, Americans are loathe to eat their vegetables, Chief Executive Officer Don Thompson has said.
The changes announced yesterday are being made in 20 markets (MCD:US) globally including the U.S., Australia, Germany, France, the U.K. and China. They will start within three years and be effective in all 20 markets by 2020.
McDonald’s fell 1.1 percent to $97.12 at the close in New York. The shares have increased 10 percent this year, compared with 19 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
At McDonald’s, salads make up about 2 percent to 3 percent of sales (MCD:US) at U.S. restaurants, Thompson said at an investor conference in May. The chain is focusing on selling beef, chicken, breakfast and drinks, he said.
“I don’t see salads being a major growth driver in the near future,” he said.
Fast-food chains are trying to balance selling calorie-laden fare with a few healthier options. While Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW:US) earlier this week added reduced-fat, reduced-calorie French fries to its menu, it also recently added buffalo chicken that has 940 calories in five strips and a burger topped with fries.
McDonald’s introduced a Favorites Under 400 Calories menu last year and this year started selling egg-white sandwiches. In the past month, however, it has been rolling out new items including fried chicken wings (480 calories for five pieces) and a 680-calorie steak, egg and cheese bagel.
“We want to make sure we provide you the options so you can come in and get whatever you want at McDonald’s,” Thompson said at the conference earlier this year. “So one day get that Big Mac; it’s only 540 calories. Another day, you might want to get that grilled chicken salad.”
McDonald’s has more than 34,700 restaurants worldwide, and 81 percent of those are franchised.
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