Last week, a 9-year-old girl asked McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson why his company continues to market junk food to kids. Thompson assured her that McDonald’s doesn’t sell junk food, pointing out that the chain also offers some healthy options like salads. But that may not be true for long.
At an investor conference on Wednesday, Thompson noted that the chain is struggling to convince customers to choose its “healthier” options, like Bacon Ranch and Southwest Chicken salads. Altogether, salads make up only 2 to 3 percent of McDonald’s sales in the United States. “I don’t see salads as being a major growth driver in the near future,” Thompson admitted.
The fast food chain is considering scaling back its advertising focused on salads. Thompson suggested that McDonald’s advertising strategy should instead be focused traditional meat products, like hamburgers and chicken sandwiches. As Bloomberg News reports, Thompson pointed to “other ways” to sell fruits and veggies, like pointing to the tomatoes, cucumber slices, and shredded lettuce in the new McWraps.
McDonald’s introduced its McWrap specifically in an attempt to appeal to young customers who are looking for more nutritious options. The new wraps play on public perceptions of healthy food, but they’re not actually that much better than McDonald’s other fare. The Crispy Chicken & Bacon McWrap, for example, actually contains more calories than Quarter Pounder with bacon and cheese.
McDonald’s has already dropped Fruit & Walnut salads from its menu, and it’s also considered getting rid of the Caesar salad. More salad products may get the axe if sales don’t improve. On the other hand, Thompson noted that McDonald’s Dollar Menu is still extremely successful, generating 13 to 14 percent of its total sales. That’s perhaps part of a larger trend in which access to healthy food is divided along socioeconomic lines. Poorer Americans often live in areas where they aren’t close to grocery stories with high-quality food, and can’t afford the transportation to get there — and fast food restaurants have traditionally exacerbated that dynamic by marketing their cheap, unhealthy food in low-income areas.