Outgoing CEO Jim Skinner said during the meeting that McDonald's
advertises responsibly to kids and families. He said the company is
proud of its food and the nutritional changes it's made to the
menu, and that McDonald's, which serves 68 million people a day
globally, has done more than anyone else in the fast food industry
to improve nutrition and offer healthier food options. The proposal
was voted down; only 6.4% voted in favor.
"While these are global issues that require actions that go well
beyond what our company or any other provider of prepared foods can
take on its own, we are committed to being part of the effort to
address the relevant issues underlying these concerns," said the
company in its opposition statement. "We offer a variety of food
choices to our customers; provide nutrition information about our
menu items in a variety of accessible ways so that families can
make informed decisions; communicate with children in a responsible
manner through age appropriate marketing and promotional
activities; and encourage children and families to live balanced,
Aside from the kids' debate, Mr. Skinner, who is retiring at the
end of June and will be replaced by Don Thompson, also talked about
the company's improved sustainability tactics, as well as
operational improvements such as store remodels.
Mr. Thompson said the chain's top priorities include
continuously innovating its menu globally, including more fruits,
vegetables and grains, such as it's done with apples in Happy
Meals. He also the chain has a continued investment in promoting
core menu items in new ads, such as one by DDB that touts
fries. He added that the chain aims to open about 1,300 restaurants
this year globally, and noted that around the world the chain has
already remodeled 45% of store interiors.
The CAI proposal is essentially an extension of one CAI made
last year, when the group CAI worked with, the Sisters of St.
Francis of Philadelphia, who are also McDonald's shareholders, to
propose a similar measure. That proposal included an assessment "of the
potential impacts of public concerns and evolving public policy on
the company's finances and operations."
The proposal last year got a 6% vote. The prior year, CAI
launched an initiative calling for the retirement of Ronald McDonald. And
just last month, CAI urged hospitals to end their contracts with
At today's meeting, CAI also addressed the issue with hospitals,
and Mr. Skinner said that McDonald's is only in 26 hospitals in the
Animal welfare was also discussed at the meeting by groups like
the Humane Society, which recognized McDonald's for saying that it
would work with suppliers to phase out gestation crates. But the
group noted that the chain still had more work to do on the
Obesity, especially among children, has become an increasingly
major concern. Fast-food chains and the restaurant industry on the
whole relatively recently began announcing changes to menus in an
effort to offer more-healthful fare. The National Restaurant
Association, the industry's biggest lobbyist, in July announced Kids LiveWell, a voluntary initiative by
the restaurant industry to spur chains to offer and promote
healthful kids-meal options.
McDonald's the same month announced revamped Happy Meals that included a reduction in
sodium and calories, and has refocused it marketing of the Happy Meal to
highlight apples and milk, now automatically included in the meals.
Its messaging illustrates the importance of nutrition, and in the
case of its messaging around the Olympics, physical activity.
McDonald's, according to Kantar, has reduced its measured-media
spending on Happy Meals. Last year spent about $92 million on the
product -- close to 10% of its total U.S. measured-media budget,
but down from $115.2 million in 2010. By far the nation's top
restaurant ad spender, McDonald's spent $963 million on measured
media in 2011, up 8.6% from 2010. Sales of kids meals at U.S.
fast-food restaurants have been declining since 2007, according to
NPD Group, with visits last year dropping 5% over the previous
Just last month, a California state court dismissed a lawsuit
against McDonald's that looked to stop the chain from using toys in
Happy Meals to market directly to kids. The suit was filed by
consumer group Center for the Science in the Public Interest on
behalf of Monet Parham, a Sacramento mother who said she was
concerned about McDonald's "getting into my kids' heads without my
permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat."