Yum Brands to List Calorie Info on Menus

Discussion
Oct 02, 2008

By George Anderson

Yum Brands, the parent company of A&W All-American Food, KFC, Long John Silver’s, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, will begin posting calorie information from its menu selections in restaurants nationwide this year with the goal of having all its restaurants compliant by Jan. 1, 2011.

Jonathan Blum, a spokesperson for the Yum Brands, told The Associated Press, “We believe this is the right leadership role … to be providing more information so consumers can make better-informed purchase decisions about the food they eat.”

“It’s not going to defeat obesity instantly,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “But calorie labeling is one of many elements that needs to be adopted to help Americans lose weight.”

Mr. Jacobson called Yum Brands’ decision a “game changer” and said he hopes others would follow its “bold example.”

“We think every supermarket, restaurant, convenience store – anybody who sells prepared food – ought to follow one standard, uniform guideline,” Mr. Blum said.

Not everyone, however, appeared ready to get on the calorie listing bandwagon.

McDonald’s offers nutritional information on its website. Walt Riker, a company spokesperson, told The Associated Press, “Customers are telling us that they are satisfied with the information we’re providing.”

Denny Lynch, a spokesperson for Wendy’s, said, “Consumers are already saying, ‘Boy those menu boards are hard to understand.’ Now you add a whole extra set of numbers.”

Yum Brands’ Blum said the company is not concerned that listing calories might negatively affect sales. “All food can be part of a balanced diet if eaten in moderation and balanced with exercise.”

Yum Brands has roughly 20,000 restaurants operating in the U.S. with 4,000 being company-owned.

Discussion Questions: Is it a good or bad move for Yum Brands to list calories information on its menu boards? Will others follow? Will government bodies require this information in the future?

[Author’s Comment]
New York currently requires some chains to post calorie information in restaurants. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation requiring chains with 20 or more restaurants to post calorie information on menu boards beginning in 2011.

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12 Comments on "Yum Brands to List Calorie Info on Menus"


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David Livingston
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

I don’t see how this sends a positive message to the consumer that Yum Brands food is good for you. Seems to me the last thing a fast food chain would want is for a customer to make a better informed decision on the purchase of food. They need to rethink this so they send a message to the consumer that calories don’t matter and that their fast food is actually healthy.

I think fast food companies are better off putting up pictures of tasty food rather than confusing numbers. The sizzle sells the steak, not the how many calories are or are not in the steak.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
13 years 7 months ago

When Yum Brands and other fast food chains list the calories inside their products they will be talking to folks who already have jumped over the hurdle for yummy taste versus nutrition. Why else would they be there? Governmental directions are necessary but the greatest savior from our obesity is ourselves.

Lisa Bradner
Guest
Lisa Bradner
13 years 7 months ago

Gene’s point hits the mark and it’s why I think Yum Brands is doing the right thing. They’re pushing the responsibility back on the consumer to make informed choices about what they eat and how much they eat and when: as my grandmother used to say, “it’s not the use of anything, it’s the abuse.”

By providing information transparently Yum Brands is allowing consumers to make their own choices and own those choices instead of being in the role of a company that is perceived as trying to fool people for its own gain. I applaud it–people say they want to live healthier and eat better but they don’t usually make the tough choices to do so. Taco Bell tried its Border Lights line but their target market didn’t embrace it. So, okay, tell them what they’re eating, see what they choose and if they still choose fat and salt over health, it’s their choice.

James Tenser
Guest
13 years 7 months ago
Quick service restaurant menus are always subject to criticism from the health perspective. Yum Brands seems to be acting in the right spirit by posting calorie information on its menu boards. The alternatives, publishing the numbers on brochures available by request or on Web pages, places too many obstacles between the information and the consumer. On the other hand, packing data into restaurant menu boards may make them hard to decipher. I’d like to know more than just total calories–especially calories from fat and total carbs. I doubt all that will fit. And I doubt most customers can do the mental math necessary to make rapid choices while standing at the counter. So here’s a half-baked proposal: Organize menu boards by calorie groupings: Light, Medium and Linebacker choices, and include some order-by-number “calorie watcher” meals along side the other combo deals. Post caloric content of sauces, dressings and beverages. And mount a little flip book or informational touch screen on the customer-facing side of each register for quick reference to item nutrition stats. Just tagging… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

I don’t see this as a bold move or anything aggressive–least of all a game changer. I think if you walk through the doors of KFC, Taco Bell, or Long John Silvers, you know your not making a healthy choice. You simply are making the choice that is what you want to eat. If you want it, eat it.

There is a problem with getting this message to kids at college age when they make the choice for Taco Bell in particular, because they can eat cheap. To them, it’s quantity for the dollar not quality or healthy or even tasting good.

The game changer would be if they were introducing something that actually was good for you and was also exceptionally reasonably priced. Finding that combination will be a game changer in fast food. Until then, it’s the same game.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

I applaud Yum’s leadership in this area. Consumers’ antennae are raised and they are seeking information before making any food purchases. Spend some time in any supermarket observing purchase behavior and you will be amazed at the amount of time spent reading nutritional labels. With a couple of exceptions, up to now this option has not been prevalent in the restaurant or food service arena. I can tell you this that my undergrads (Gen Y) are mandating this from the university’s food service provider.

I understand the disconnect between most Yum offerings and nutrition. However, I am of the school of thought that there are no bad foods, only bad eating habits. In the words of my 93 year old father, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Yum has dignified its customers by providing information and choices.

Also, I like that Yum has taken a preemptive approach to this issue, not waiting until the legislation goes into effect. That’s leadership!

Mark Lilien
Guest
13 years 7 months ago

Yum Brands’ innovation and bravery cannot be denied. I assume they did some market research before posting the calories and found customer appreciation. Women go to fast food restaurants and many of those women appreciate calorie info.

And calorie data is no more costly or confusing than anything else posted on a menu board. If the customer can understand the posted prices, they’ll understand the calories.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
13 years 7 months ago

This is a gamble that speaks very well for their sense of responsibility in helping us deal with our obesity problem. I’m not so sure that it is a good idea that will increase their sales. If customers are informed and reminded of how bad some of their favorite food really is, they may go to the competitors where they will feel less guilty. The old “ignorance is bliss” concept. I know that the food at Yum Brands restaurants is high in calories and bad for me but I don’t know for sure if it is as bad elsewhere.

Big, risky gamble in my opinion that I will be surprised if many others follow.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
13 years 7 months ago

Making better choices is key in healthier eating. There is a part of the demographic who wants to know, particularly parents with children. If you are an occasional customer, finding something better for you on the menu may influence your opinion.

While calorie info will not likely mean much to a number of patrons, customers who think of these meals as a treat or an outing with friends may want to know. Think this is one of those times when not having the nutritional info available for those are missing an opportunity.

Liz Crawford
Guest
13 years 7 months ago
It is a bold move, but not entirely unprecedented. I believe you can see the calorie count on Weight Watcher menu items at Applebee’s. Certainly, Starbucks lists calories on their website for their drinks. I think that there is an opportunity for an interesting phenomenon to occur: calorie creep. If you shop long enough in high end categories, for example, handbags, the sticker shock wears away. After repeated exposure, $1000 doesn’t seem like a lot by comparison. If the “anchor” number is high enough (the first one or two a consumer sees), the other numbers are relative around that. After a time, 1200 calories for a sandwich may begin to seem acceptable. Both the handbag and the sandwich examples are distortions of the mean, of course. But perception doesn’t work on a mean. It works on anchoring and re-setting. We saw this phenomenon in portion size about 10 years ago. It was a kind of “portion creep.” Bigger tubs of popcorn just seem like a regular size now.
Gene Detroyer
Guest
13 years 7 months ago
Liz’s comment is interesting and may have some veracity. My comment is not really from me, but from my wife, Mary Jane, who is dietitian in private practice and a speaker on the national level. She says, “Yes, the calorie counts are somewhat helpful. But, in many cases they are meaningless without the context of how many calories a person can consume without gaining weight. Depending on the person, a burger, fries and soft drink may be equal to an entire day’s calorie allotment.” She points out that context is interesting. “A study was recently done in the Netherlands on the behavior engendered by the 100 calorie snack packs. It found the subjects were more likely to go for snack-sized bags–but eat more in total–if they were thinking about weight issues. They never considered the impact of multiple 100-calorie packs. After all, it is just 100 calories.” McDonald’s and Wendy’s ought to wake up. Their statements are self serving. The broad trend on giving consumers all types of information is accelerating and this will be… Read more »
Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
13 years 6 months ago

I, too, applaud this effort. Consumers want to be informed. Although not every consumer will read the listing, it should be readily available at point of purchase for those who want the information and make their purchase decisions based on it. Posting calorie information should also include fat content as the consumers who care about calories also care about grams of fat, as well as types of fat.

Providing this important information on a website only is just not adequate for the growing number of consumers (and that includes a lot of moms) who care about their health and their family’s health.

As a result of Yum Brands efforts to provide calorie information, maybe we will find some healthier alternatives there that taste just as good.

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