Cuties Season is Here! The Latest on Our Work with McDonald’s

By Anne Ferree, Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer

Last week I stopped into the McDonald’s across the street from a local store my husband and I frequent and saw a poster for clementine Cuties being promoted in Happy Meals. Right away, I purchased two pieces of fruit (a la carte) for our dessert that evening! It’s Cuties season at McDonald’s and I was proud to see the restaurant proactively promoting this whole, fresh produce. It’s a wonderful example of our results with McDonald’s over the past few years.

When we announced our partnership with McDonald’s to increase access to healthier food and drink options for families, we faced some tough criticism. Why would an organization promoting children’s health want to work alongside McDonald’s? Our answer was simple — why wouldn’t we?

Millions of young people are growing up in communities lacking fresh fruits and vegetables. The numbers are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 percent of children do not eat enough fruit to meet daily recommendations and 93 percent of children do not eat enough vegetables.

Working with McDonald’s to play a role to address this nutritional gap for children was an intentional choice for us. McDonald’s, as the largest quick-serve food brand in the world by far, has the food distribution system in place and the marketing power to promote healthier products on a scale that could dramatically improve children and families’ food and beverage consumption.

The introduction of Cuties is one example of that distribution and marketing strength. As we have been tracking McDonald’s progress on their agreement with us — we’ve seen a variety of new fruit, vegetable and low-fat dairy options introduced For example, Denmark has offered melon, Italy has introduced grapes, and the United States has included a lower-sugar Go-Gurt Yogurt as a choice with the Happy Meal.

We announced this agreement in 2013 and we continue to work toward fully achieving all goals by 2020. What have we learned so far? First, we learned when McDonald’s makes a change it impacts the entire restaurant industry. That was most apparent when McDonald’s committed to removing soda from it’s Happy Meal menu boards through their agreement with us. The decision quickly cascaded to drive many of the nation’s largest fast food chains to follow.

And while McDonald’s has clearly demonstrated industry leadership in this work and driving innovation — we also acknowledge that not every innovation will be a homerun.

We are committed to continuing to track the data and work with McDonald’s to find ways to both increase access to healthier options and to increase promotion of those options — you can’t do one without the other — simple supply and demand.

I’m energized by the continued progress we see in our effort to increase healthier options across the country. Beyond our work with McDonald’s, the Alliance serves as a catalyst to improve the nutrition landscape for children and families by continuously working with a wide array of companies to reduce sugar in products and increase availability of healthier products — including fruits and vegetables.

When you stop by your local McDonald’s restaurant, please join me in selecting the healthy choices they are introducing. We’re all in this together.

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