McDonald’s will make its ‘McWrap’ a permanent menu item with the launch of a big ad campaign starting April 1, and it’s clear the company is working to make sure the new product looks like a ‘healthier option’ on the menu.
On Monday, a leaked internal memo showed that McDonald’s believes it would lose 22 percent of its 18–34 year old customers to what’s perceived as the healthier option, sandwich chain Subway, without adding the wrap onto its menu. McDonald’s is also looking to alter its unhealthy image with its green label. Just last week, researchers at Cornell University released a study showing that consumers view green labeling as a shorthand for healthier food:
People tend to think a candy bar with a green calorie label is healthier than ones with red or white labels, even when the number of calories is the same, a Cornell University researcher found.[…]
“Our research suggests that the color of calorie labels may have an effect on whether people perceive the food as healthy, over and above the actual nutritional information conveyed by the label, such as calorie content,” [a Cornell news release] said.
Of course, Subway uses green packaging, along with the tagline “Think Fresh” to convey nutrition. But its sandwiches are not significantly healthier by any means; they contain an average of 608 calories, and the highest calorie sandwich checks in at 570 calories for a six-inch, translating to about 1,140 for the chain’s signature ‘footlong.’ The sandwich chain does offer lower fat content options, however, and some of its options have “Heart Check” approval from the American Heart Association. That perception is paying off; Subway now has more stores in the U.S. than McDonald’s does.
High-calorie, high-salt, high-fat foods that fast food chains serve pose a huge health risk, causing damage to organs including the heart and liver, and obesity. The perception about fast food might be different when it comes to something like a wrap, but the effect is the same. The McWrap pictured above is 590 calories and contains 44 percent (PDF) of a person’s daily fat intake.