BrainTrust Query: Will An Apple a Day Grow Sales?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Applied Predictive Technologies’ Food For Thought blog.
McDonald’s recently announced that it is going to fill its Happy Meal boxes with apple slices and smaller portions of French fries starting in September as part of a bid to meet the new, rigorous Council of Better Business Bureaus Food Pledge nutrition standards. I see McDonald’s move as both innovative and smart.
McDonald’s estimated that providing apples in every Happy Meal will lead to an estimated 20 percent reduction in calories of the most popular Happy Meals while also reducing fat. It also made new commitments to reducing added sugars, sodium, saturated fat and calories.
Here are five thoughts on why this move makes sense:
McDonald’s can own the healthy-options space in QSR: McDonald’s has already taken many steps to create healthier QSR options (salads, yogurt, McCafe, etc.), and they have proven they can do it while growing their brand and their sales. Putting apples in more Happy Meals represents another step on that path. Competitors are left copying, or trying to create their own space with intentionally-indulgent backlash items, or in some cases perhaps both.
Changing defaults changes behavior: By changing the "default" composition of a Happy Meal, McDonald’s will certainly sell more apple slices, for the same reason "opt-in" and "opt-out" marketing programs have very different penetration rates. Most people will choose what they believe is expected. McDonald’s will then be able to tout that change in behavior.
But the option is still Mom’s: McDonald’s isn’t actually changing what you can get in a Happy Meal. So there’s no reason to complain — you can still get the fries and soda if you want them. Or Mom can say, "That’s just the way the Happy Meal comes now, sweetheart."
PR is great but the bigger prize is sales growth: Some have implied that McDonald’s was "forced" into this move by impending regulation or, at least, that it is more of a PR stunt than a profit-oriented decision. The reality, though, is that this program could improve sales if some parents are willing to make incremental visits (or give in to the kids’ pressure one more time) because they feel better about the health of the meal.
A committed testing approach ensures success: Listen to McDonald’s USA President Jan Fields: "We did one test without fries, and that did not go well at all. We also looked at reducing the number of chicken nuggets to three from four, and that didn’t go well either. Parents bring their kids there as a treat, and fries are important."
So they have clearly tested various options and learned where the balance should be. The same Test & Learn approach can be applied as they roll the program out to learn even more, since they are planning a phased rollout through next spring.
- Will An Apple a Day Grow Sales? – Food for Thought
- McDonald’s Announces Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices – McDonald’s
- Under Pressure, McDonald’s Adds Apples to Kids Meals – The Wall Street Journal
- McDonald’s: Apple slices in every Happy Meal – The Associated Press/USA Today
Discussion Questions: Do you agree with the author that McDonald’s has made sound business decisions in with their new Happy Meals plan? Is offering increasingly healthier options a winning long-term strategy for Mickey D’s?