Thinking locally

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Marketers are wrangling with ways to address the obesity issue region by region. Here's a sampler of how McDonald's is adapting:

In Scandinavia, popular healthy local foods have been added to the McMenu, like cod fish wrapped in rye bread in Finland. In Norway, some outlets sell a salmon burger wrapped in rye bread. In Sweden, no salt is added to the food served.

In the U.K., McDonald's is running two-minute educational ads featuring fruit- and vegetable-shaped characters called the Yum Chums. The brightly colored Yums explain to kids through song and dance routines how to keep fit, healthy and happy with a balanced diet, plenty of fluids and exercise. McDonald's said the ads, by Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett, were a "direct response" to government calls for food marketers to work on promoting more active lifestyles.

In Australia, McDonald's took a different approach, cutting back its marketing to kids dollars by 50% a couple years ago.

McDonald's French operation raised the ire of the parent company in 2002 by running a print ad in a women's magazine quoting a nutritionist's suggestion that kids shouldn't eat at the restaurant more than once a week. While the ad was meant to promote "McDo's" and seems reasonable since the French only visit quick-service restaurants every two weeks on average anyway, such a campaign would have been heresy in the U.S.

McDonald's Corp. later issued a statement claiming that "the majority of nutritionists" believe McDonald's can fit into a balanced diet. Two years later, the company recruited a pair of French nutritionists who declared the Big Mac and cheeseburger healthier than traditional French fare such as quiche.

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