At a time when consumers are increasingly interested in local food movements, where their food comes from and what's in it, McDonald's is highlighting some of its growers.
On Jan. 2, the world's largest restaurant chain by sales will launch a campaign featuring four of its U.S. beef and produce suppliers."We thought putting a face on the quality of the food story would be a unique way to approach this," said U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Neil Golden. "We acknowledge that there are questions about where our food comes from. I believe we've got an opportunity to accentuate that part of our story."
The campaign will include TV, print and digital, as well as additional paid and earned media. It's expected to run sporadically through 2012.
The four featured providers are Frank Martinez and Jenn Bunger, potatoes; Dirk Giannini, lettuce; and Steve Fogelsong at Black Gold Ranch, beef. They are secondary sources; McDonald's works directly with 250 suppliers, including Cargill, Lopez Foods, Golden State Foods, Simplot, Lamb Weston and Coca-Cola.
Mr. Golden held a chat on McDonald's Twitter feed @McDListenTour today about the company's marketing communications and linked to a video of one of the ads, which was created by Omnicom's DDB, Chicago. The talk was third in a series of "listening tour" conversations that McDonald's executives have participated in as part of a transparency and communication effort.
In recent years, several food companies, including Domino's and consumer packaged-goods brands, have put farms in their advertising. McDonald's has emphasized product quality -- rather than the actual suppliers -- in its breakfast ads and the "What we're made of " campaign.
In its list of leading U.S. restaurant trends, Technomic cited a movement toward local sourcing and customers wanting more information."Consumers want transparency -- disclosures of everything from calories and allergens on menus to labor and local-sourcing practices," Technomic said in a press release. "A small but growing number are serious about nutrition, labeling, sustainability and community involvement, and they are using such knowledge to make purchasing decisions."
In November, McDonald's dumped one of its suppliers, Sparboe Farms, after reports of unsanitary conditions and animal cruelty. An investigation conducted by ABC News and animal-rights organization Mercy for Animals produced video indicating abuse at some facilities. Sparboe had also received warning letters from the Food and Drug Administration citing violations.
At the time, McDonald's VP-sustainability Bob Langert said in a statement: "Based upon recent information, we have informed our direct supplier, Cargill, that we are no longer accepting eggs from its supplier, Sparboe. ... Regarding the undercover videos, the behavior on tape is disturbing and completely unacceptable. McDonald's wants to assure our customers that we demand humane treatment of animals by our suppliers."Mr. Golden said that the Sparboe incident did not spur the upcoming campaign, which had been in the works for nearly a year.