McDonald's Move To Fat/Calorie Labeling Will Cut Both Ways For The Brand

McDonald's move this week to labeling its individual products with
David Kiley

McDonald's move this week to labeling its individual products with "nutritional" information, such as fat, calories, protein, sodium, carbs was inevitable. And from the standpoint of image and sales, I'll bet it cuts in both directions.

A former McDonald's exec recently told me that the company's senior management "got it" about two years ago. "It's all about the Moms" was the cutting edge insight that gripped the company's moves since then. If Mom's don't respect McDonald's, sales are going to sink. That was the conclusion reached.

Nutritional labeling (if in fact hamburgers that have almost 800 calories can be called nutritional) is a move to say, "We have nothing to hide." McD's is looking for some respect. And in today's corporate and consumer worlds where information is currency, McD's is putting its money on the table.

On the other hand, people who have been buying McD's high-calorie high-fat stuff for years and telling themselves that an Egg McMuffin with Cheese and hash-browns is a healthy breakfast, will cut back. At least, I am willing to bet on it. There is something about seeing all the calories and fat piled up on the wrapper before you eat, and thinking how much work it is to burn off 100 calories on a treadmill. I dropped 150 pounds from where I was in 2000. And that was the single biggest thing that's kept me out of fast-food joints; knowing how many minutes on the damned treadmill it will take me to burn off the calories consumed in an Egg McMuffin or Quarter-Pounder.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has been needling fast-food companies for years to list nutritional info, is not satisfied. CSPI wants the info on the menu board for the consumer to scan before he or she orders. Good idea, but I think CSPI is splitting hairs. If people aren't exercising, and thus dn't have that sense of how may treadmill or bicycle minutes it takes to burn off a Sausage McMuffin, then either they won't be swayed by any information provided or they are blessed with a body that doesn't pack on the fat.

I think the people who need to see the calorie count of McDonald's food will get the message fast, assuming they know how to read.

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