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Marketing and Comms
While McDonald's Burgers Get More Real, Chipotle Reminds Us It's Been 'Real' All Along

McDonald’s USA has announced that its seven classic burgers are now free from artificial preservatives, artificial flavors and added colors from artificial sources. The ingredient changes affect all 14,000 U.S. restaurants, marking this the next major milestone in McDonald’s food journey and another way the fast food giant aims to help customers feel good about its food.

“From switching to 100% fresh beef* in our quarter-pound burgers, cooked right when ordered, to removing artificial preservatives in our Chicken McNuggets and committing to cage-free eggs by 2025, we have made significant strides in evolving the quality of our food,” said McDonald’s USA President Chris Kempczinski. “We know quality choices are important to our customers, and this latest positive change to our classic burgers demonstrates our committed journey to leading with the customer and building a better McDonald’s.”

The classic burgers include the hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, McDouble, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Big Mac. To achieve these changes, artificial preservative(s) were removed from McDonald’s real American Cheese, Big Mac Special Sauce, the regular bun, the Quarter Pounder bun (also known as the sesame seed bun), and the Big Mac Bun. One remaining ingredient — the pickle — contains an artificial preservative, and customers can opt to skip it, if they prefer.

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“We understand that now more than ever, people care about their food — where it comes from, what goes into it and how it is prepared — and we are committed to make changes to our menu our guests feel good about,” said Linda VanGosen, McDonald’s VP of Menu Innovation.

Following in the footsteps of forward-thinking quick-service chains such as Panera — which in 2017 celebrated a menu “100% clean” of artificial ingredients and now even lists the calories and added sugars contained in its fountain drinks — McDonald’s removal of artificial ingredients from its classic burgers is its latest US customer-driven initiative. Previous commitments include sustainably sourcing all McCafé coffee by 2020, and transitioning to cage-free eggs in US and Canada by 2025. By 2020, McDonald’s has also committed to sourcing a portion of its beef from its top-10 beef-sourcing countries from suppliers participating in sustainability programs aligned with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef principles and criteria.

*Available at most restaurants in the contiguous US. Not available in Alaska, Hawaii and US territories.

Meanwhile, Chipotle Mexican Grill has launched its new “For Real” integrated marketing campaign, emphasizing its long-standing commitment to preparing real food made with real ingredients.

A follow-up to 2017’s As Real as It Gets” campaign, the new ads continue to celebrate the real ingredients with which it makes its food. The chain now features all of its ingredients prominently in its nearly 2,500 restaurants, on, its social media channels and in advertising.

"Chipotle's new ‘For Real’ tagline and mission bring us back to our roots and reflect the principles we were founded on 25 years ago," said Chris Brandt, chief marketing officer at Chipotle. "Chipotle has always emphasized food prepared fresh daily in all of our restaurants and we wanted this campaign to highlight that, reflecting our real principles and 'real' as a way of acting in the world. While often long and complicated ingredient lists are common in today's food industry, we like to say the only ingredient that's hard to pronounce at Chipotle is 'Chipotle'."

New campaign creative will feature Chipotle's very short list of 51 ingredients — items everyone can both recognize and pronounce — in an effort to make this information accessible to all consumers and encourages other restaurants to follow suit. Chipotle's new campaign will be featured across traditional TV ads, out of home ads, digital and print ads as well as all of Chipotle's owned channels including social media and their website. Additionally, Chipotle is also launching a second Instagram account, @ChipotleForReal, designed to educate followers about each of Chipotle's 51 ingredients.

The chain has been trying to regain its footing after being sidelined by a series of food-safety scares — the most recent one earlier this summer — in recent years. It has responded by retraining its staff on best practices and addressing the food safety concerns head on in a series of videos in 2016. Analysts predicted then that Chipotle wouldn’t recover until at least this year — time will tell whether stricter protocols and reminding customers what’s “real” will be enough to put its sickening past behind it.


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