McDonald’s wants its commitment to food quality to be taken more seriously.
“We are ready to be better,” Marion Gross, McDonald’s supply chain senior vice president, told a room of journalists Monday at the company’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois. “We have challenged nearly every aspect of our menu.”
McDonald’s has been continuously tweaking its menu over the last year in an effort to drive up sales and improve the widespread perception that its food is unhealthy and overprocessed.
The changes have been successful so far: McDonald’s same-store sales have grown for three straight quarters, following two years of declines.
On Monday, the company announced its latest set of menu tweaks: removing artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets, eliminating high-fructose corn syrup from its hamburger buns, and transitioning to antibiotic-free chicken one year earlier than planned.
McDonald’s invited more than two dozen journalists, bloggers, and Instagram “influencers” to its headquarters to make the announcement.
“This is only the beginning,” McDonald’s USA President Mike Andres told reporters. “We are a brand on the move and we are more customer-obsessed than ever before.”
He hinted at big changes coming to the Big Mac next year, but he wouldn’t elaborate.
Following the announcement, McDonald’s ushered the group of reporters into the company’s test kitchen to watch Jessica Foust, McDonald’s head chef, cook the chain’s most popular breakfast item: the Egg McMuffin.
Foust spent a lot of time talking about the recent switch to butter over margarine — which has been credited as a major driver behind McDonald’s sales growth — and how customers primarily want “real, simple ingredients” that they would find in their homes.
She emphasised the fact that McDonald’s cracks the eggs for its McMuffins right on the grill.
“We’re really cooking with real ingredients,” she said.
Critics have come down hard on McDonald’s for not making certain changes faster, such as a switching to cage-free eggs and removing antibiotics from its chicken supply.
Gross — the supply chain executive — defended the company’s pace of change, saying the sheer size of McDonald’s makes system-wide changes a challenge.
“When you have a supply chain as big as ours, sometimes things don’t happen as fast as you want them to,” she said. “Our grocery basket is huge… we supply 14,200 restaurants daily.”
She said it’s getting easier to persuade suppliers like Tyson Foods to change their practices, however.
“Our suppliers are keenly aware of where the customer is going, that this is what consumers expect today with their food,” she said.
But Gross couldn’t provide any details on why the company hadn’t yet found a way to source beef raised without antibiotics.
When asked for specifics on that effort, she said only: “For us, it’s a journey.”
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