In 2013, McDonalds, in partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, committed to a set of actions to increase families' and children's access to affordable fruits, vegetables, and low-fat/fat-free dairy in 20 major markets by 2020. Progress has evolved in Italy and the USA, and is evident through data collected from both McDonalds and Keybridge external sources.
Keybridge confirmed progress when no sodas appeared on the menu boards in July 2014 and after. Instead, these images featured only low-fat white milk, fat-free chocolate milk, and 100 percent apple juice. Furthermore, sales data reported by McDonalds USA, showed that when McDonalds USA removed sodas from the list of Happy Meal beverage options shown on menu boards, there was an increase in the percentage of customers who selected either milk or juice with their Happy Meals. Specifically, take rates for low-fat white milk, fat-free chocolate milk, and 100 percent apple juice increased nine percentage points to 46 percent in the first 11 months following the change in menu boards (July 2014May 2015). Meanwhile, the take rates for sodas fell from 56 percent to 48 percent . This shift in take rates contributed to a 21 million unit increase in the total number of milks and juices sold in Happy Meals and a la carte.
It was also reported by a Nielsen survey that as of mid-February 2015, 83 of 100 restaurants included side salads, vegetables, or fruit as a potential substitute for fries on the Extra Value Meal section of menu boards. Seventy-three of these restaurants offered side salads only, one offered a vegetable option only, and nine offered multiple side salad, fruit, or vegetable options. The remaining 17 restaurants indicated that fries were the only side option available.
In 2014, McDonalds USA also reported the introduction of new low-fat dairy and fruit side options in Happy Meals. The Happy Meal bundle consists of an entre, beverage, kid sizeportion of fries, and a fourth item. Since 2012, this fourth item had been apple slices, but restaurants introduced Go-GURT low-fat strawberry yogurt, which contains 25 percent less sugar than the retail version, and Cuties clementines as alternatives to apple slices. Yogurt was introduced in July 2014 and remains a side option for Happy Meals, while clementines were offered while they were in season from November 2014 through March 2015.
McDonalds Italy provided Keybridge with images of the Happy Meal section of in-store and drive-thru menu boards used in restaurants during 2014. These menu boards listed peach juice and showed logos of the following beverages: Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero, Fanta, Sprite, Lipton Iced Tea, and Lilia bottled water. McDonalds Italy also provided images of menu boards planned for use in its restaurants beginning December 31, 2014; the new Happy Meal menu board section lists the following options: water, peach juice, and abeverage of choice. The change that was introduced at the end of December 2014 represents progress, but additional effort is needed to completely fulfill their commitment, including the removal of two listings: peach juice, which includes added sugar andthe term beverage of choice, which can be interpreted as referencing soda.
McDonalds Italy in 2014 also started to offer side salad, fruit, or vegetable options as alternatives to fries in value meals (i.e., McMENUand McMENUCLASSIC). Side salads were the most commonly offered among those options.
Of the 81 McDonalds restaurants surveyed in Italy, 78 listed side salads, a fruit option, or a vegetable option as a potential substitute for fries on the value meal section of menu boards. Of those restaurants, 68 offered a side salad only, three offered different vegetable or fruit side options only, and seven offered a side salad and one or more fruit or vegetable options. In the remaining three restaurants, fries were the only side option available in value meals. With 96 percent of sampled restaurants offering at least one salad, fruit, or vegetable side option in value meals.
Fruit consumption at McDonalds restaurants in Italy has increased steadily over the last two years. McDonalds Italy reported monthly data on the total units of Happy Meal side and dessert items, including seasonal fruit options, cheese, and low-fat yogurt. The data show that low-fat yogurt is the most popular dessert item, followed by cheese, and then fresh fruit. The data also show that fruit is steadily gaining in popularity. Between 2013 and 2014, take rates for fruit sold as part of a Happy Meal increased by nearly 50 percent (49.3 percent ). This growth could be a sign that McDonalds efforts to encourage fruit consumption are succeeding, though take rates for fruit are still lower than take rates for yogurt and cheese.