McDonald's launches new nutritional guidelines

OAK BROOK, IL: McDonald's announced new nutritional guidelines that will kick off in September to appeal to health-conscious consumers and encourage healthy eating among children and adults.

OAK BROOK, IL: McDonald's announced new nutritional guidelines that will kick off in September to appeal to health-conscious consumers and encourage healthy eating among children and adults.

In a live webcast today, McDonald's US President Jan Fields said the company's goal is to be “transparent and accountable” with consumers, which is why the fast-food restaurant is making its nutritional information more readily available through a new mobile app.

“We want to stay on the leading edge of technology,” stated Dr. Cindy Goody, McDonald's senior director of nutrition.

The downloadable app, which was created by the company's IT team, will provide nutrition information, such as calorie and fat content, as well as the locations of the company's 14,000 stores throughout the country.

“We know that people are connected to their devices and we want them to be able to have the flexibility to interact with our brand and exchange content in that type of environment. In the area of nutrition, we want people to be able to have that information and use it to make decisions whenever and wherever they need to do so,” Rick Wion, director of social media at McDonald's, told PRWeek.

“Just like our restaurants are open and available, we want all of our information to be easily accessible, as well,” he added.

The McDonald's internal communications team has been working closely with two of its key agency partners, GolinHarris and Porter Novelli.

McDonald's is making a major change by including apple slices in each Happy Meal. The kids' meals will still include fries, but the size will go down to 1.1 ounces from the current 2.4-ounce offering.

In addition to social media outreach via Twitter and Facebook, the company is launching a “listening tour” in the fall, which will allow McDonald's executives to interact one-on-one with customers and media outlets. The tour will begin at the BlogHer conference in San Diego on August 5-6 with the goal of receiving feedback and suggestions from customers and the media about the new nutrition guidelines and healthy options.

According to Goody, McDonald's has three commitments with its new initiative: Improving children's wellbeing, enhancing the nutritional balance of the menu, and increasing consumer and employee awareness about nutrition and healthier lifestyles.

By the end of the first quarter of 2012, Happy Meals will undergo a 20% reduction in calories and Happy Meal packaging will include nutritional information. McDonald's will also be funding community-based nutrition programs to help children learn the importance of healthy eating.

In 2015, McDonald's will work to reduce sodium in all of its products by 15%, and by 2020, the company is planning to use new innovations to decrease portion sizes and the amount of added sugars, saturated fats, and calories in its food.

Ben Stringfellow, VP of US communications for McDonald's, said the overall campaign has been an “all-hands-on-deck approach” in terms of PR and outreach. For the launch today, McDonald's reached out to traditional media outlets and influential bloggers for the webcast, and the company also began tweeting and posting Facebook messages this morning about the new guidelines. 

The company developed the new healthy campaign in reaction to consumer feedback and data from the National Restaurant Association and the USDA.

“This is such an important topic and we have the opportunity now to really serve up to customers the things that they believe are important,” Fields stated in the webcast.

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