McDonald's Move To Fat/Calorie Labeling Will Cut Both Ways For The Brand

Posted by: David Kiley on October 26, 2005

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McDonald’s move this week to labeling its individual products with “nutritional” information, such as fat, calories, protein, sodium, carbs was inevitable. And from the standpoint of image and sales, I’ll bet it cuts in both directions.

A former McDonald’s exec recently told me that the company’s senior management “got it” about two years ago. “It’s all about the Moms” was the cutting edge insight that gripped the company’s moves since then. If Mom’s don’t respect McDonald’s, sales are going to sink. That was the conclusion reached.

Nutritional labeling (if in fact hamburgers that have almost 800 calories can be called nutritional) is a move to say, “We have nothing to hide.” McD’s is looking for some respect. And in today’s corporate and consumer worlds where information is currency, McD’s is putting its money on the table.

On the other hand, people who have been buying McD’s high-calorie high-fat stuff for years and telling themselves that an Egg McMuffin with Cheese and hash-browns is a healthy breakfast, will cut back. At least, I am willing to bet on it. There is something about seeing all the calories and fat piled up on the wrapper before you eat, and thinking how much work it is to burn off 100 calories on a treadmill. I dropped 150 pounds from where I was in 2000. And that was the single biggest thing that’s kept me out of fast-food joints; knowing how many minutes on the damned treadmill it will take me to burn off the calories consumed in an Egg McMuffin or Quarter-Pounder.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has been needling fast-food companies for years to list nutritional info, is not satisfied. CSPI wants the info on the menu board for the consumer to scan before he or she orders. Good idea, but I think CSPI is splitting hairs. If people aren’t exercising, and thus dn’t have that sense of how may treadmill or bicycle minutes it takes to burn off a Sausage McMuffin, then either they won’t be swayed by any information provided or they are blessed with a body that doesn’t pack on the fat.

I think the people who need to see the calorie count of McDonald’s food will get the message fast, assuming they know how to read.

Reader Comments

Donny Harry

October 26, 2005 3:09 PM

"McDonald's move to labeling fat & calories content will probably have little to no effect on sales.

The persons REALLY concerned about health/weight issues that may arise from eating McDonald's food probably already know the calories, fat, protein, carbs, etc. in the food - this stuff is probably already on the internet somewhere (I should take the time to look but won't as I believe this really is the case). These folks already know what foods to avoid should they visit McDonalds. The label will provide nothing more than reading material to snack by.

Everybody else that enjoys McDonald's food will continue to do so and won't give the info on the wrappings or packagings a second glance.

Business at McDonalds will go on as usual.

Mark

October 27, 2005 1:08 AM

Ruby Tuesday put the calories, fat, and sodium on their menus, and the customers stayed away in droves. This sort of thing may need to be legislated so that no single company is out front taking the hit. But if McDonald's move doesn't cause them much harm, maybe others will gingerly start to disclose more.

I think that disclosure in the end won't drive away customers, but it will increase demand for smaller portions and more healthy options that are imaginative, tasty, and attractive. The fast food companies aren't really trying. They throw out a Ronco Chop-o-Matic salad and then say told-you-so when it doesn't sell.

Jason Steinberg, MD

October 27, 2005 1:38 PM

Listing the "nutritional" information regarding, (strictly meat), on whatever labeling McDonalds plans to use is all well-and-good however; this is, by far, the least of the major problem.
A problem that, if not listed in quantitative terms, can lead to illness in perpetuity or death.

Exactly what/which chemicals are injected into beef on the hoof, and to what amount?

We have tried to get this information from McDonalds for years when faced with children and/or adults who's symptoms left us completely puzzled, mystified and doubting our intelligence, understanding and worth as physicians and scientists.

The only fact we all had in common, (nationally), with regard to the majority of our sick patients or patients who expired was their propensity for McDonalds hamburgers.

When we attempted to get this information from McDonalds, some Vice President would politely say that beef on the hoof was not of concern or the responsibility of McDonalds and would not comment any further other than to ask if we wished to have a "nutritional fact sheet" mailed to us.

I can not speak for any other fast food company.

Unless and until we know what is in McDonalds beef, from the birth of the cow, to the hamburger we now put into our stomachs, it is my contention that this "food" could be poison.

Beale_J

October 29, 2005 7:56 AM

Several years ago I read the book Fast Food Nation and basically that ended my interest in the main fast food outlets and saw my consumption of processed foods drop quite a bit. The real question to be asked here is whether McDonald's (or as some have dubbed thee) whether McDeath's can be or should be held responsible for the epidemic of obesity that is sweeping the country. Spurlock implies that McDonald's should be held responsible at least for its advertising aimed at children. I agree with this. But I also think that adults ought to know what they are doing. If they choose to chow down at a place that loves to super size and under nourish them, perhaps they themselves should be held responsible for the consequences. However, some people feel that the advertising has been so insidious for so long and the food so addictive to susceptible individuals that McDonald's ought to be taken to court just as the tobacco companies have been.

Jolliedjunkie

October 29, 2005 1:14 PM

Agreed on previous comment. The label won't do much. If a person really cared whether or not on what they eat, they wouldn't even be eating at McDonalds in the first place. However, forlornly, some people are ignorant into the rise on how much calories, fat and carbs a McDonald's meal actually contains. With the labeling it could be an eye opener for those who constantly goes to fast food places like McDonalds.

Heck, we all need that little nudge or nod of knowing whether we're binging on the food we're eating, or having a small reward. In a sense, it could benefit those. As most binger's would feel, "Emotion is to food, as Food leads to emotion." (Refering to those who feel sorrow, rely on food to comfort them, as those who eat constantly feel the need to eat fast foods would lead to a sorrow emotion due to the fact of their body appearance) Quite a continuous cycle would you not agree?

santanna

November 1, 2007 8:57 AM

OMG EWW I EAT THERE EVERYDAY!

katty

November 19, 2007 7:13 PM

ewww i hate that place and i'm doing a project about how bad it was

katty

November 19, 2007 7:14 PM

ewww i hate that place and i'm doing a project about how bad it was

shivani

July 2, 2008 12:00 PM

i hate izz itt izz too oilllll
ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

lia

July 29, 2008 10:34 PM

hello,
i am writting a speech on face the facts mcdonalds..and this has realy helped me!
-cheers.

Marie-Louise

November 6, 2008 9:55 AM

Im making a prodject in how much fat there is in food, how much it helps by working out... well, a health prodject.. this pretty good!

karli

February 2, 2009 12:11 PM

i think its good there putting out that iinfo but i dont think it will make much of a difference though sadly i think there just trying to prove therethe best in fast food indastreis i love mcdonalds and all but it is UNHEALTHY

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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