The changes will cover menus in 20 of the company’s largest markets, which account for more than 85 per cent of its total sales, including the UK. They are expected to cost around $35m (£21m) and, according to the New York Times, include a marketing push, using in-store tools such as menu boards and national TV campaigns, to help customers understand the range of choices on offer and their nutritional impact.
The offerings were announced as part of former US President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Foundation campaign to reduce childhood obesity. They also include a promise to market only water, milk and juice as the drink choices in its Happy Meal deal, aimed at children, although they will still be able to buy fizzy drinks. The food outlet will also promote fruit and vegetables in a “fun way” on its packaging to teach children about nutrition and healthy eating.
This is the latest in a series of steps taken by McDonald’s to appeal to more health-conscious customers. It has already cut the salt, fat and sugar content in its burgers and chips and introduced healthier options, such as a grilled chicken wrap, as well as salads, raw vegetables and fruit.
However, McDonald’s continues to come in for criticism for the high calorie content of its food. It is still seen as the unhealthy option, with other chains, such as Subway, aggressively promoting their health credentials.
While this is a step in the right direction, campaigners say the firm still has a long way to go to improve its image as a healthy-eating destination. It will take McDonald’s three years to roll out the changes in even half the restaurants in the 20 markets it has chosen, with the remainder not getting the updated menus until 2020.
Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the children’s food campaign at charity Sustain says: “We’re pleased to see McDonald’s change their tune. But why will it take until 2020 to enact the new healthier food measures across all their outlets? There is still much more that they – and other fast food outlets and restaurants – can do to promote healthier eating choices. Enabling families to eat out without being bombarded by logos and products from Coca-Cola, Cadbury’s and other sugar-pushing brands really shouldn’t be too much to ask.”