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For the past few posts, I’ve been writing about the importance of healthy lifestyles, and particularly, healthy eating. In addition, there have been many efforts made by organizations like the government in helping push the healthy eating agenda. Beyond the political side of things, companies themselves appear to be taking on an initiative towards providing consumers with healthier food options. While the addition of healthier options (theoretically) represent the good intentions of fast food restaurants, there is uncertainty with whether these efforts are truly benefitting society.
In a similar vein, other research has found that consumers often perceive of all food items at so-called healthier restaurants as having fewer calories than thoseВ В found at restaurants that are not primarily positioned as being healthy. In what can only be described as a masterstroke of public relations, McDonald's (MCD) has laid out a brilliant plan to neutralize its critics and simultaneously keep the risks to its business at an absolute minimum. Promote water, milk and juice as the drinks for Happy Meals on its menus and in ads (this doesn't mean you aren't allowed to buy a Coke for junior if you choose).
All this will come to pass in McDonald's 20 biggest markets, which make up about 85% of its sales. Previously, efforts at forced healthy eating haven't resonated at the House of Ronald, but that hasn't stopped it from trying. That said, if you think this is what McDonald's is about, check out the menu section of its website and look at what's listed first. For years, McDonald's has been assailed by its haters with accusations of cackling away with billions in profits while making kids fat, giving everyone diabetes and destroying forests. The counter to that is McDonald's is still in line to make a profit of more than $5 billion this year, and to open hundreds more units on top of the more than 34,000 it already has globally. Bottom line: The company undoubtedly will sell some of this healthier product, but it'll be largely incremental to revenue.


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As part of its London 2012 Olympics sponsorship, McDonald’s this summer launched a campaign highlighting its several menu options below 400 calories each. The new menu entries could be among McDonald’s most significant better-for-you items ever. Importantly, however, the definition of healthy isn’t always clear, and that this confusion often leads to negative effects. For example, fast food chains like Subway position themselves almost entirely as being a healthier option than the typical burger joints. In work by Chandon and Wansink (2007), consumers were found to underestimate the total number of calories in foods from restaurants positioned as being healthy.
Over the years, McDonald's has listened to some of the (many times well-meaning) concerns, getting nicer to the animals it feeds us and serving us greens.
McDonald's same-store sales have been weaker in recent months than they've been in years, and it's even missed earnings estimates a couple of times.
To add a flourish to its tactical genius, McDonald's made its announcement with the endorsement of the Clinton Global Initiative, which is near to being sainted in certain circles. Instead, the global fast-food leader keeps adding to its shift toward better-for-you fare and toward making healthier food not only accessible to its customers but palatable as well — even including the health of its own employees. One of them will be McWrap, inspired by McDonald’s in Europe, featuring fresh vegetables in three different chicken-based recipes and starting at 350 calories (although it reportedly went up to 600 calories in the UK). Even restaurants like Dunkin Donuts, the epitome of unhealthy eating, have joined in on the fight and changed their recipes towards healthier alternatives.
Additionally, this health halo generalized onto the side dishes they chose: the healthier the restaurant was perceived to be (due to the availability of healthier menu options and a little bit of marketing), the more unhealthy side dish options consumers chose.


But now it's going to ostensibly make it easier to purchase these items with a meal, along with serving up a few regional alternatives.
According to McDonald's, the plan will be rolled out to 30% to 50% of the markets that are affected within three years of the announcement, and in every one of the markets by 2020. Sure, it takes time to get new marketing copy written and food supplied to stores, but it's only going to require more than half a decade to get carrots to the Austrians if McDonald's wants it to. It's put items billed as healthier on the menu more than once, things such as egg whites and grilled chicken. McDonald's will now just get back to selling burgers by the millions and making money hand over fist.
Moreover, a huge trend in the past few years has been the addition of altogether healthy menu options. Quite surprisingly, findings suggest that when menu included healthy options, consumers were more likely to choose the most unhealthy option than when the menu included only unhealthy options. One of the pioneering retailers to do this was McDonald’s, whose salads, fruit side dish, and even whole wheat bun options have led others to follow suit.
Further examination of this effect provided support for a vicarious goal fulfillment explanation–that is, when consumers saw the healthy options on the menu, they felt like they vicariously fulfilled their health goals, and thus were licensed to indulge by choosing the most fattening, unhealthy option instead.



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