McDonald’s iconic “golden arches” have been an international icon of American junk food for decades. With its fatty burgers and savory fries, the burger chain has become the perfect example of what fast food restaurants once aimed to be: quick, cheap and predictable, but not necessarily healthy.
However, changing consumer tastes and demand for healthier food have resulted in tough times for McDonald’s, with sales plummeting both nationally and internationally. The iconic burger chain has tried a host of new initiatives in the United States – from an all-day breakfast menu to a kale salad – to reverse its plummeting profits. Now the company has turned its attention to overseas. In his latest effort to attract the health-conscious European market, this month he launched his first 100% organic beef burger for a limited time in Germany. But marketers and dieticians predict that an organic burger at a fast food outlet won’t be enough to overthrow McDonald’s global reputation as a supplier of greasy American food.
McDonald’s decision to launch its first organic burger in the German market, instead of its largest market in the United States, is not too surprising. With a large global presence, the fast food giant has always offered different menu items in its global stores to meet local demand. In India, McDonald’s offers a variety of vegetarian items not found in the United States, including McVeggie and Veg Pizza McPuff. In Malaysia, McDonald’s has revisited a local Malaysian dish with its Burbur Ayam McD, and in Korea, McDonald’s customers can find a shrimp burger on the menu. Yet the burger joint has seen its profits plunge into the world. For the second quarter ending July 23, global comparable sales declined 0.7%, reflecting negative customer traffic in all major segments. In Asia, sales are down in Japan and China after the meat processing scandals.
McDonald’s, known for its calorie-dense Big Macs and savory fries, has particularly struggled to attract health-conscious German consumers, making Germany one of its toughest markets. In the fourth quarter of 2014, weak French and German markets for McDonalds, which has nearly 1,500 restaurants, contributed to a 1.1% drop in comparable sales in Europe, according to Reuters. In fact, Britain, France, Russia and Germany together accounted for only 67% of European sales in 2013. However, Germany’s quarterly sales recently increased for the first time since 2012 , which makes it one of the leading European markets.
Colleen Liace, 27, resides in Washington, DC but lived in Germany from January to September on a professional assignment. Liace said he noticed that most Germans instantly associated McDonald’s with an unhealthy American lifestyle, but the chain still remained popular there. She predicted that the organic burger might do well in the German market, but its lasting success would depend on prices.
“I have a feeling that the meat standards in general are higher in Germany, which can lead to more popularity,” Liace said in an email. “I ate there myself and feel like the quality of the ingredients is day and night compared to the US”
But 19-year-old Nico Bokesch, a resident of Taufkirchen / Vils, Germany, predicted that an organic burger would fail. Germans are aware that the fast food chain is “unhealthy and fattening”, according to Bokesch, but they always go to McDonald’s because “it just tastes good.”
“The Big Mac is the most popular burger and most consumers eat it,” Bokesch said. “I think McDonald’s shouldn’t be trying to get healthy … nobody goes to McDonald’s because they want a good, healthy meal … McDonald’s strengths are tasty and quick meals.”
Dieticians have also noted that offering an organic burger to a fast food chain is unlikely to appeal to the typical McDonald’s customer, who values time and price above all else. Organic beef is priced higher than regular beef, and a loyal McDonald’s customer probably won’t shell out the extra cash just to eat organic, according to Lisa Moskovitz, registered dietitian and founder of NY Nutrition Group.
“Most people who eat out are not really influenced by health for the most part. Most of the time they are influenced by speed, by money, by time, by taste. I would automatically assume that organic meat is not going to appeal to a lot of customers (at McDonald’s), ”Moskovitz said. McDonald’s health is not a priority so I don’t think it will be a success. “
Christine Palumbo, an RDN registered dietician and nutritionist from Naperville, Illinois, also agreed that most people skip salads at McDonald’s and generally go for the cheap and quick option, but said she thought McDonald’s could eventually. undermine its image as a fast food restaurant. However, it will take time, money and an open-minded consumer base, Palumbo said.
“Unfortunately, there is a mistrust of big business, and McDonald’s is one of those companies where people are suspicious of them,” Palumbo said. “People will probably say, ‘Well how can this be organic if it’s McDonald’s? “But it was they (McDonald’s) who started offering sliced apples years ago … anything could happen.”
While McDonald’s has not indicated whether the company is considering introducing an organic burger to other markets, the potential launch of an organic burger in the United States is not too far-fetched. The company’s new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, recently introduced a myriad of changes in an effort to transform the company into a “modern, progressive burger company”. McDonald’s tested a kale salad at its California stores this year, and in the past, Easterbrook has said McDonald’s USA plans to switch to chicken raised with fewer antibiotics.
All of these changes bring McDonald’s closer to popular chains like Chipotle and Panera Bread, both of which have healthier images, but its staple, traditional burgers, would suffer, according to Larry Light, CEO of consulting firm Arcature and McDonald’s global. . marketing director from 2002 to 2005. If McDonald’s launches an organic burger in the United States as a long-term item, it could be a recipe for disaster.
“I think the commodities are being ignored,” Light said. “The quality of the commodity has deteriorated, while the quality of the competition has improved. Burger King and Wendy’s say ‘thank you very much,’ and are growing at McDonald’s expense.”
Light said McDonald’s should focus on revitalization, not growth. “You are not building a big building on weak foundations,” he said.