McDonald's celebrates its salad days as sales of healthy meals rocket

The fast-food giant McDonald's posted its fastest sales increase in 17 years yesterday, in a remarkable turnaround the company credited to its new line of salads and other "healthy" options.

Just 18 months after the company posted its first quarterly loss and saw its share price drop two-thirds of its value, it announced second-quarter net income of $591m (£320m), up from $471m for the same period last year. The 25 per cent increase was the biggest single-quarter jump since 1987.

McDonald's has faced every obstacle imaginable in the past two years - complaints about its service, lawsuits attempting to blame the company for America's obesity epidemic, a mad-cow disease scare, increases in beef and cheese prices, attacks from anti-globalisation protesters and, most recently, the documentary Super Size Me, in which a New York-based film-maker eats himself sick on a steady diet of McDonald's cheeseburgers and fries.

McDonald's and other fast-food chains appear to have revived customer interest, however, by diversifying their menus and giving at least the appearance of healthier options. Wendy's, a McDonald's subsidiary, and Burger King have also increased their salad, low-fat and low-carb options, with similar positive effects on the bottom line.

"We are encouraged by this progress and confident that our service, food, value and marketing initiatives will generate steady improvements over the long term," an ebullient McDonald's chief executive, Charlie Bell, told reporters in a conference call.

In the United States, as in Europe and other parts of the world, customers can now order fruit slices for breakfast, bunless sandwiches and lettuce-wrapped burgers, bottled water instead of soda, and full meal-style "premium salads". As of a couple of months ago, the company has begun offering Stepometer machines so customers can monitor how much exercise they are getting in the course of their day.

It is not clear whether the company's new-found success is due to a perceived increase in quality and healthiness on its menu - something that has been contested by its detractors - or simply to the increased variety of food on offer.

In his film Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock uses McDonald's own nutrition statistics to show that the salads, too, are chockful of fat, cholesterol and other health no-nos - because of the dressings and because of their non-green ingredients. The Caesar salad with chicken premiere, for example, contains more fat than a cheeseburger.

Mr Spurlock's film has been a public relations, if not a commercial, disaster for the company. Shortly before it was released in the United States, McDonald's abandoned the practice of "super-sizing" - offering monster portions of fries and Coke - and moved to introduce the Stepometer.

Stock analysts commenting on the McDonald's turnaround have credited much of it to improved management of the chain, starting with Jim Cantalupo, chief executive until his sudden death from a heart attack in April, and continuing under Mr Bell.

Mr Bell is not well either - having just undergone a course of chemotherapy - and he said in his conference call that although he felt good the company had a succession plan in place, just in case.

A WEIGHTY ISSUE

Food companies and outlets are increasingly turning their attention to producing more healthy fare for reasons from customer preferences to the threat of legal action.

In the name of "consumer demand", Birds Eye gave a guarantee this month that all 130 of its products are free from artificial colourings, flavourings, preservatives and, therefore, nearly all E numbers. It also announced it was substantially cutting salt and saturated fat levels.

But adverse publicity was what stung several firms, including United Biscuits and Cadbury Schweppes, into action. As a result, both companies announced they were reducing levels of hydrogenated vegetable fat, a hardening agent that doctors say has a similar effect on human arteries.

The Department of Health last month "named and shamed" 27 companies including McDonald's, Heinz and Nestlé, for failing to form adequate plans to cut salt levels. Manufacturers responded with a 5 per cent cut in salt in sliced bread - food experts said was just a third of that which should be put into effect immediately.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?