MENU INNOVATIONS | Staff Reporter, Australia

McDonald's to offer healthier Happy Meals across 120 markets

It announced the company’s long-term global growth plan to impact children’s meals.

By 2022, McDonald’s will make improvements to the Happy Meal menu across 120 markets to offer more balanced meals, simplify ingredients, continue to be transparent with Happy Meal nutrition information, reinforce responsible marketing to children, and leverage innovative marketing to help impact the purchase of foods and beverages that contain recommended food groups in Happy Meals.

“We recognise the opportunity that we have to support families as one of the most visited restaurants in the world, and remain committed to elevating our food, celebrating the joy of reading, and helping those in need through Ronald McDonald House Charities,” said Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s president and CEO. “Given our scale and reach, we hope these actions will bring more choices to consumers and uniquely benefit millions of families, which are important steps as we build a better McDonald’s.”

In 2013, McDonald’s began working with the not-for-profit Alliance for Healthier Generation (Healthier Generation) to develop a comprehensive plan for 20 major markets to increase customers’ access to fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy and water; and many of those markets are ahead of schedule in their progress on those prior commitments.

Now, the company is furthering its efforts with Healthier Generation to set five new Global Happy Meal Goals through 2022. These include using rigorous nutrition criteria grounded in science and nutrition policy, so that by the end of 2022, at least 50 percent or more of the Happy Meals listed on menus (restaurant menu boards, primary ordering screen of kiosks and owned mobile ordering applications) in each market will meet McDonald’s new Global Happy Meal Nutrition Criteria of less than or equal to 600 calories; 10 percent of calories from saturated fat; 650mg sodium; and 10 percent of calories from added sugar.

Currently, 28 percent of Happy Meal combinations offered on menu boards in 20 major markets meet these new nutrition criteria. To reach the goal of 50 percent or more, markets will add new menu offerings, reformulate or remove menu offerings from the Happy Meal section of the menu board. McDonald’s Australia is currently exploring new vegetable and lean protein options and McDonald’s France is looking at new vegetable offerings.

As consumers’ tastes and preferences continue to evolve, markets will prioritize Happy Meals and simplify ingredients by removing artificial flavors, added colors from artificial sources, and reducing artificial preservatives where feasible. In 2016, McDonald’s USA removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets, which also have no artificial flavors and colors, and the Chicken McNuggets from McDonald’s France and Canada have no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

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