After decades of serving people food and beverages that can cause customers heart problems, diabetes and perhaps cancer, McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) has finally done what it should — make a good public relations move and pretend to back healthy food habits. If Americans actually go in the direction of more healthy diets, McDonald’s history as one of the most successful American companies will be destroyed. Its sales always will be based on the appeal of food and beverages filled with empty calories and sugar.
McDonald’s was clever enough to use the Clinton Global Initiative as the banner under which it made its new commitment. However, offering healthy food and actually getting customers to order and eat it are another thing.
McDonald’s is partnering with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the Clinton Foundation and American Heart Association, to increase customers’ access to fruit and vegetables and help families and children to make informed choices in keeping with balanced lifestyles. President Bill Clinton, founder of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, Don Thompson, President and CEO of McDonald’s, and Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, announced the groundbreaking Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment today at the 2013 CGI Annual Meeting in New York City.
McDonald’s worked with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to develop a comprehensive plan for 20 of the restaurant chain’s largest markets.*
McDonald’s specifically commits to: •Provide customers a choice of a side salad, fruit or vegetable as a substitute for French fries in value meals. (Salad, fruit or vegetable option will vary per participating market.)
The commitment also includes the following related to the promotion and advertising of Happy Meals: •Promote and market only water, milk, and juice as the beverage in Happy Meals on menu boards and in-store and external advertising •Utilize Happy Meal and other packaging innovations and designs to generate excitement for fruit, vegetable, low/reduced-fat dairy, or water options for kids •Dedicate Happy Meal box or bag panels to communicate a fun nutrition or children’s well-being message •Ensure 100 percent of all advertising directed to children to include a fun nutrition or children’s well-being message
“We’ve seen voluntary agreements with industry have profound impact—including our work with the beverage industry to limit the amount of calories shipped to schools. Those agreements resulted in a 90 percent reduction in total beverage calories shipped to schools between 2004 and 2010,” said President Clinton. “If we want to curb the catastrophic economic and health implications of obesity across the world we need more companies to follow McDonald’s lead and to step up to the plate and make meaningful changes. I applaud them for doing it.”
McDonald’s will retain an independent, reputable third party organization to verify progress on the commitment in a clear and transparent manner as part of the agreement. All pieces of this commitment will be implemented in 30-50 percent of the 20 major markets within three years and 100 percent of the 20 markets by 2020.
“This commitment reflects McDonald’s progress regarding nutrition and well-being,” said Thompson. “Our partnership with the Clinton Foundation and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is another important step in our journey. And we know there’s more to do. We will continue to use our size and scale around the world to help educate, empower and encourage our customers to make informed choices so they can live a balanced and healthy lifestyle.”
This global commitment builds on the nutrition initiatives underway in many countries where McDonald’s does business. Today, McDonald’s USA announced progress related to nutrition goals set in 2011; that report can be found at mcdonalds.com/nutrition.
Working with industry has been a critical strategy for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national nonprofit working to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity. The Alliance has brokered voluntary agreements with more than 100 industry leaders in school food and healthcare to ensure children have access to healthier foods and beverages and healthcare benefits to prevent and treat childhood obesity.
“This is an essential step in the fight against obesity. Effective promotion of healthier choices can have a substantial impact on the food and beverage choices that get made,” said Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “It is imperative for McDonald’s and other industry leaders to leverage their market share and cultural relevance to help inform and influence the way families eat outside the home.”
*McDonald’s will take these actions in 20 major markets representing more than 85 percent of global sales. The markets are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China (includes Hong Kong market), France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and United States.
And to think, McDonald’s even sent its CEO.