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Marketing and Comms
McDonald's Announces Commitment to Promote Balanced Food and Beverage Choices

McDonald's announced it is partnering with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the Clinton Foundation and American Heart Association, to increase customers' access to fruit and vegetables and help families and children to make informed choices in keeping with balanced lifestyles. President Bill Clinton, founder of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation; Don Thompson, President and CEO of McDonald's; and Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, announced the groundbreaking Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment on Thursday at the 2013 CGI Annual Meeting in New York City.

McDonald's worked with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to develop a comprehensive plan for 20 of the restaurant chain's largest markets.*

McDonald's specifically commits to:

  • Provide customers a choice of a side salad, fruit or vegetable as a substitute for French fries in value meals (Salad, fruit or vegetable option will vary per participating market.).

The commitment also includes the following related to the promotion and advertising of Happy Meals:

  • Promote and market only water, milk and juice as the beverage in Happy Meals on menu boards and in-store and external advertising
  • Utilize Happy Meal and other packaging innovations and designs to generate excitement for fruit, vegetable, low/reduced-fat dairy or water options for kids
  • Dedicate Happy Meal box or bag panels to communicate a fun nutrition or children's well-being message
  • Ensure 100 percent of all advertising directed to children includes a fun nutrition or children's well-being message

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"We've seen voluntary agreements with industry have profound impact — including our work with the beverage industry to limit the amount of calories shipped to schools. Those agreements resulted in a 90 percent reduction in total beverage calories shipped to schools between 2004 and 2010," said President Clinton. "If we want to curb the catastrophic economic and health implications of obesity across the world, we need more companies to follow McDonald's lead and to step up to the plate and make meaningful changes. I applaud them for doing it."

As part of the agreement, McDonald's will retain an independent, third-party organization to verify progress on the commitment in a clear and transparent manner. All pieces of this commitment will be implemented in 30-50 percent of the 20 major markets within three years and 100 percent of the 20 markets by 2020.

"This commitment reflects McDonald's progress regarding nutrition and well-being," said Thompson. "Our partnership with the Clinton Foundation and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is another important step in our journey. And we know there's more to do. We will continue to use our size and scale around the world to help educate, empower and encourage our customers to make informed choices so they can live a balanced and healthy lifestyle."

This global commitment builds on the nutrition initiatives underway in many countries where McDonald's does business. Last week, McDonald's USA announced progress related to nutrition goals set in 2011; that report can be found at

Working with industry has been a critical strategy for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national nonprofit working to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity. The Alliance has brokered voluntary agreements with more than 100 industry leaders in school food and healthcare to ensure children have access to healthier foods and beverages and healthcare benefits to prevent and treat childhood obesity.

"This is an essential step in the fight against obesity. Effective promotion of healthier choices can have a substantial impact on the food and beverage choices that get made," said Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. "It is imperative for McDonald's and other industry leaders to leverage their market share and cultural relevance to help inform and influence the way families eat outside the home."

The timing of the announcement coincidentally coincided with the release last week of a new film from Food Mythbusters called The Myth of Choice: Is Junk Food Really What We Crave? — which calls out McDonald’s for marketing junk food to kids — along with a corresponding petition to shut down for the same reason.

McDonald’s is the latest “junk food” purveyor to commit to helping its customers improve their health and make wiser dietary choices. In March, Nestlé announced it will begin providing portion guidance on all children’s products by 2015 and label guideline daily amounts (GDA) on the front of pack on more products by 2016. And in May, Coca-Cola pledged to offer low or no-calorie beverage options in every market and provide transparent nutrition information that feature calories on the front of all packages. To help promote exercise, the company also will support physical activity programs in every country in which it operates. Coke also committed to marketing responsibly, which includes no advertising to children under 12 anywhere in the world.

In other McDonald’s sustainability news, the burger giant also announced last week that it will replace its polystyrene beverage cups with paper cups at its 14,000 U.S. outlets, in response to a 2011 shareholder resolution filed by As You Sow (AYS), a nonprofit organization that promotes corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy.

*Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China (includes Hong Kong market), France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and United States.