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McDonald's trying to cater to 'health nuts' with new options ... but they aren't biting


McDonalds

(NaturalNews) As the healthy eating and whole foods movements storm across the nation, certain large scale fast food retailers are struggling to keep customers waiting in line. McDonald's, for instance, has been trying to win over more food-savvy consumers with "healthier" offerings such as antibiotic-free chicken, kale salad and wholewheat muffins.

McDonald's is not alone in this new endeavor. Panera Bread Co. and Chipotle are rather expected retailers aboard the "healthier options" train; Panera, for instance, has offered antibiotic-free meat for over a decade. But there are quite a few others that are a bit more surprising. Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Papa Johns for instance, have all made promises related to improving the quality of their food or providing better options for those of us who are concerned about what is in our food.

Fast food chains around the country are spending millions of dollars to create menus that are free of artificial ingredients, preservatives and other undesirable ingredients. But will they actually draw in more health-minded customers? So far, it's hard to tell. Many consumers are unconcerned with what is in their food, so the food giants' efforts are of little value to them. Others remain unimpressed with the fast food industry's attempts at luring in more customers. In an interview with Bloomberg, a consumer named Erica Kelley told writer Leslie Patton that McDonald's new menu did little to lure her into the Golden Arches. "It's just a gimmick. I still think it's gross," Ms. Kelley said of McDonald's recently added items, such as their antibiotic-free crispy chicken sandwich.

While the industry is learning that customers who value their health and the quality of their food are hard to sway, diet experts say that these new, revamped menu options may not even be that great for you. After all, it's still fast food, and it's still loaded with calories, salt, added sugars and added fat.

As Michael Moss, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of the best-selling book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, points out, exchanging high-fructose corn syrup for sugar is not exactly a huge step forward. Moss does believe that they are doing some great things, though. He notes, "McDonald's has done some amazing stuff over the years, in recent years, in improving the quality of the meat, and meat from animals that are well treated. I really love that about them."

Moss expects that as the demand for affordable, healthy food grows, the availability of such choices will also continue to expand. He says that in many ways, McDonald's is very much a leader in the fast food industry, and that other retailers will likely continue to follow their lead.

McDonald's Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook told analysts that Chicken McNugget sales had risen 10 percent in just two months, after a single announcement that the crowd-favorite was going clean. The company has even declared that all of its poultry is now going to be free of antibiotics that are considered important for human medicine. Of course, that description is not quite what many of us are looking for – but is still an improvement.

Not all ventures into a healthier marketplace have been met with success. McDonald's reports that its salads – which were, at one time, heavily promoted – make up a meager 2 to 3 percent of its sales.

This is not really all that surprising though. In general, people do not eat fast food with the expectation of it being something healthy. As W. Douglas Evans, professor of prevention and community health at George Washington University, points out, most fast food diners are not health-conscious. "Most of the people at McDonald's aren't there to get a salad," he noted dutifully.

As "fast-casual" restaurants such as Panera Bread continue to boom, it is no surprise that McDonald's and their ilk have been forced to respond in some way. But not all retailers are responding in the same way. Burger King, for example, has doubled down on their indulgent and excessive offerings. Nothing paints that picture more clearly than their Whopperito – which features all the trappings of a traditional Whopper doused in queso sauce and then rolled into a burrito. In September, Cheetos-flavored chicken fries were also introduced. Customers appear to be enjoying the new menu items that eschew the trend of healthier food.

At this point, it seems that what the future will hold for the fast food industry is truly anyone's guess.

Sources:

Bloomberg.com

Shape.com

CBSNews.com

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