McDonald's, Seeking Greener Image, to Offer Sun-Dried Coca-Cola

Oak Brook, IL, March 16, 2010 -- McDonald's, the globe-girdling fast food purveyor that has been criticized for peddling consumers consistently unhealthy food, announced yesterday its intention to begin offering "healthier choice" sun-dried alternatives. A spokesman for McDonald's said the company will be rolling out the sun-dried products in a selected range of major market areas during a preliminary testing phase, with worldwide adoption to follow.

Collection of McDonald's sun-dried hamburgers awaiting the fryerCollection of McDonald's sun-dried hamburgers awaiting the fryer

"It's more or less a truism of the preprocessed rapid food product industry," Sid McGriddle, a McDonald's spokesman, said, "that everything sounds a lot healthier when it's sun-dried. Think of a regular tomato and a sun-dried tomato. Which looks healthier? It's similar to why we put pictures of people playing soccer and frisbee on our Happy Meals. We intend to capitalize on that wrinkled tidbit of consumer perception."

Mr. McGriddle said McDonald's restaurants will launch sun-dried hamburgers, sun-dried fish and chicken nuggets, sun-dried fries, sun-dried frosted shakes, sun-dried apple confections and sun-dried salads in the key Denver, Anaheim, Birmingham and Miami metropolitan areas from early next month. Following purchase trends analysis and focus group discussion, the hamburger chain plans full-scale rollout across its entire range of franchises in the United States and Canada.

"The sun-dried hamburger carries with it a lot of advantages beyond the healthier perception aspect," Mr. McGriddle said. "For one, it contains all the grease, fat, salt and calories of the original burger, but weighs about 85% less. That's a tremendous boon in terms of truck transportation when your whole business depends on moving prefabricated frozen food from factories to retail outlets, and that's also good for the environment, another thing we like to try to convince consumers we think is important."

But key to the healthier choice product concept are the sun-dried Coca-Cola, sun-dried Sprite and related sun-dried soft drinks, Mr. McGriddle said. The sun-dried versions of the popular soft drinks consist essentially of small, button-shaped wafers that consumers will be encouraged to let dissolve on their palates as they consume their meals.

"We've taken a lot of heat over the last few decades for our drinks offerings," he said. "People say we include a soft drink consisting basically of water, carbon dioxide, and a quarter pound of sugar on virtually every menu, even the so-called healthy ones. We're hoping these sun-dried alternatives will put the final nail in that particular coffin."

In a related development, rival processed food purveyor Burger King announced it, too, will be rolling out a new "Think Healthy" menu selection in the upcoming months, based on the positive consumer perception of parsley.

"Starting in May, everything on the Burger King menu will come with a small sprig of healthy, no-fat, high-protein parsley," Rumple Flahrb, a Burger King press relations officer, said Tuesday. "Burgers, fries, shakes, desserts, nuggets, fish meals – everything comes with parsley on the side. And that's an important step for healthier living. It works as a breath freshener, too."

Upmarket competitor Wendy's Restaurants, responding to Kentucky Fried Chicken's popular "select your own chicken" policy launched last autumn, said it will shortly be rolling out "select your own cow" features at most of its 6,600 franchises worldwide. The feature will mirror that offered by Kentucky Fried Chicken, in which consumers are given the opportunity to point out the specific chicken they wish to eat, selecting from a number of live, caged chickens in the same manner as that by which one selects a live lobster at some seafood restaurants. For the Wendy's offering, consumers will select live cows from small, underground corrals generally built beneath glass-bottomed floor sections of the restaurants.

"It's all about letting consumers make their own choices about what they eat," Ernest Dribbol, Wendy's spokesman, said.

Shares of all four brands were up in late-afternoon trading, led by McDonald's as analysts predicted the sun-dried alternatives will resonate with increasingly choosy, informed and health-conscious consumers.

By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor

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