McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD) has announced that beginning next week it will begin posting calorie counts of all menu items on its menu boards. This is part of the company’s ongoing “Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices” program. McDonald’s had previously released a mobile app giving customers access to nutritional information that the company claims has been downloaded by over 290,000 people, and has long provided detailed nutritional information on its website.
While this move might be seen by some as a cynical move in advance of a proposed federal regulation that would require chains to provide this information, McDonald’s can point to a long history of providing nutritional information and more recently offering healthier choices, particularly in kids’ meals.
In its just released “2012 Nutrition Journey Progress Report” McDonald’s president Jan Fields, who began her career as a McDonald’s crew member in 1978, stated “Along with our iconic burgers and french fries, McDonald’s serves fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. I’m proud of how far we’ve come since the days I worked behind the counter.”
But unfortunately, all this ostensibly good corporate behavior is unlikely to change consumer behavior much. In places like New York City which has required calorie information for some time, and even with McDonald’s itself which has long made this information available, the evidence has shown that it does little to change consumer behavior.
It could be that this information will actually have a bigger impact on corporate, compared to consumer, behavior. In the spirit of its “Commitments to Offer Improved Nutrition Choices” program, McDonald’s has introduced a new Happy Meal that automatically includes a side of fruit, and has instituted an ongoing program to reduce sodium that has already reduced the amount of sodium in all of its chicken items. It is also committed to reducing sugars and saturated fats in its products.
And whether or not the proposed federal regulation ever becomes effective, McDonald’s competitors will be under increasing pressure to follow the company’s lead.