Nutrition & Marketing Practices
As one of the most frequented restaurants in the world, we recognize the important role we have in feeding millions of people every day, and in providing families with a variety of choices to meet their needs. We also know how important delicious food is in bringing families together, to share moments and create lasting memories.
Parents are looking for menu choices that they can feel good about feeding their kids, and that’s why we’re focused on evolving the Happy Meal and making balanced meals more accessible to families across the globe. McDonald’s will continue to take a responsible approach to our Happy Meals by offering balanced options and promoting menu items that contribute to recommended food groups, such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy.
Since 2013, we have been working with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (Healthier Generation), a third-party nonprofit organization, to evolve our Happy Meal menu and use our size and scale to offer more balanced choices for kids. We also work with Keybridge, an independent third party, to measure and publicly report our progress toward our commitments. These organizations help us define our targets and measure progress, and we continue to prioritize future action and continuous improvement.
Collaboration is critical to solving our nation’s most pressing children’s health issues. McDonald’s commitment to working with Healthier Generation to increase access to fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and water options demonstrates a willingness to leverage their global size and influence for public good.
Kathy Higgins, CEO, Alliance for a Healthier Generation
We are always listening to our customers and evaluating our menu to identify ways to evolve our offerings while maintaining the great taste our customers know and love. For example, we’re working with and learning from families to find areas where our system has the best opportunity to create positive and meaningful change. We also have a team of food experts who are passionate about food and are always looking for the latest flavor and ingredient innovations.
Launching Our 2022 Global Happy Meal Goals
In 2018, we announced five new, ambitious Global Happy Meal Goals.
We developed these new goals in collaboration with Healthier Generation, focusing on kids and families, as that’s what our customers ask us to prioritize and where we believe we can have the biggest impact.
When developing these goals, we sought input from third-party nutrition experts and used rigorous criteria grounded in science and nutrition policy to ensure the goals were relevant and reflect the evolving needs of our customers.
The Global Happy Meal Goals continue our focus on Happy Meals, offering more wholesome choices that kids and parents love. We aim to offer balanced meals that provide a variety of options from recommended food groups, using simpler, quality ingredients so parents can feel good about our Happy Meal menu.
By the end of 2022, we aim to achieve these goals in all markets globally1, with measurement and reporting of progress among 20 major markets2 representing nearly 85% of McDonald’s System’s global Happy Meal sales.
These latest commitments build on work we launched in 2013, in partnership with Healthier Generation, to develop a comprehensive plan to increase customers’ access to fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and water by 2020 across the 20 major markets. The commitments, which a majority of markets achieved in 2019, encompassed five that relate to improvements in menu offerings, menu boards, packaging and advertising directed at children.
We have served over 6.4 billion fruit, vegetable, low-fat dairy and water items in our Happy Meals since September 2013 across our 20 major markets.
We’re proud of our long heritage of taking marketing to children seriously and responsibly, and we actively participate in self-regulation programs focused on this important issue.
As a global brand reaching millions of children and families every day, we understand the importance of responsibly communicating with children. This is an area that must be addressed at both company and industry level.
That’s why we participate in a number of local, regional and global pledges, such as the EU Pledge and the U.S. Children’s Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative. Our global policies are guided by these pledges as well as our own Global Marketing to Children Guidelines, which apply to all of our markets around the world.
Achieving Our 2013 Commitments
In 2019, we announced that the majority of McDonald’s 20 major markets met the 2013 commitments two years ahead of schedule. Read our Global Report on Efforts to Promote Fruit, Vegetables, Low-Fat Dairy and Water.
Across these markets, the percentage of Happy Meal customers choosing milk, water or juice as their beverage increased by 15% between 2013 and 2018. We shared this milestone in a five-year progress report on McDonald’s advancement toward achieving our 2013 global commitments to promote fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and water in our menus. The remaining markets are on track to meet them by the 2020 deadline.
Making Progress Towards Our Global Happy Meal Goals
In October 2020, we released a global progress report, demonstrating the meaningful progress we’ve made towards the five Global Happy Meal Goals. To learn more about our progress, download the Global Happy Meal Goals 2020 Interim Progress Report (PDF – 28.2 MB). Across our 20 major markets, half all beverages sold in Happy Meals were water, milk or juice in 2019, and over 2.5 billion Happy Meal items sold since 2018 contained fruit, vegetable, low fat dairy, water, lean protein or whole grains. Additionally, as of early 2020, 93% of Happy Meal menu items have no artificial flavors, added colors from artificial sources, or artificial preservatives that could be feasibly reduced.
We know there’s more work to be done as we continue towards 2022. This progress marks an important step in providing access to more wholesome, balanced options made with high-quality.
Evolving the Menu in the U.S.
We are always looking for ways to innovate and evolve our menu options. In May 2018, McDonald’s USA began serving 100% North American beef3|4 Quarter Pounder® burgers, cooked fresh to order, in restaurants across the country. On September 26, 2018, we announced that all of our classic burgers have no artificial preservatives, no artificial flavors and no added colors from artificial sources. Our pickle contains an artificial preservative, so skip it if you like.5
In early 2020, we introduced a new reduced sugar, low-fat chocolate milk that contains 25% less sugar than leading quick service restaurants’ low-fat chocolate milk6. It’s a great example of how we partnered with the dairy industry and our supply chain to create a menu innovation and offer more balanced options for our younger guests.
Nutrition Improvements in the U.K.
We want to make it easier for our customers to make balanced choices. Our nutrition strategy in the U.K. has been in place for over 15 years. During this time, we have reformulated over 200 of our ingredients and invested heavily in broadening our menu of balanced healthy options. We have introduced more salad options, as well as fruit and vegetable bags, orange juice, mineral water and organic semi-skimmed milk. To date, 89% of our core food and drink menu items contain under 500 calories.
Offering more options for children, we have also expanded our Happy Meal menu. In June 2018, we introduced a grilled chicken wrap at only 181 calories per serving, while the Veggie Wrap, launched in January 2019, is only 209 calories per serving.
As part of our broader efforts, we are leveraging technology to encourage customers to choose balanced options. Beginning in 2016, we began reordering how our menu is displayed on self-service kiosks. By showing lower calorie soft drinks first, we have shifted 1.9 million purchases over from full-sugar Coca-Cola to options with no added sugar.
The Global Happy Meal Goals apply to all markets globally with measurement and reporting of progress among our 20 major markets: U.S., Canada, Brazil, Argentina, U.K., France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia.
For more detail on our progress, including scope, exclusions and methodology, please view our Global Happy Meal Goals 2020 Interim Progress Report (PDF – 28.2 MB) . We used the latest data available for each goal in this progress report, while maintaining the rigor of verification from Keybridge, our third-party validator that monitors and evaluates our commitments.
Goal 1: Offer Balanced Meals
By the end of 2022, ensure 50% or more of the Happy Meal Bundle Offerings listed on menus in each market meet McDonald’s Global Happy Meal Nutrition Criteria of less than or equal to: 600 calories, 10% of calories from saturated fat, 650 mg of sodium, 10% of calories from added sugar.
8 of the 20 major markets met the 2022 goal in 2019, up from 3 markets in 2018.
From 2018 to 2019, we improved the average nutritional profile of Happy Meal Bundles by decreasing 28 calories, 37mg sodium, 0.6 grams of saturated fat and 1.4 grams of added sugars.
Goal 2: Simplify Ingredients
By the end of 2022, remove artificial flavors and added colors from artificial sources in Happy Meals and reduce artificial preservatives where feasible in Happy Meals without sacrificing the safety, taste, quality or value of our food.
12 of the 20 major markets met the 2022 goal in early 2020.
Goal 3: Be Transparent With Happy Meal Nutrition Information
By the end of 2022, ensure that nutrition information for Happy Meals is available and accessible through all owned websites and mobile apps used for ordering where they exist.
12 of the 20 major markets met the 2022 goal in Q2 2020, up from 6 markets in Q1 2019.
Goal 4: Market Responsibly
By the end of 2022, all Happy Meal bundles advertised to children will meet McDonald’s Global Happy Meal Nutrition Criteria and continue to meet any existing applicable local/regional advertising pledges.
16 of the 20 major markets met the 2022 goal in 2019.
Additionally, 100% of ads shown to children in 2019 featured water, milk, or juice as the Happy Meal beverage and fruit, vegetables, or dairy as a Happy Meal side.
Goal 5: Leverage Innovative Marketing
By the end of 2022, leverage innovative marketing to help increase purchase of foods and beverages that contain recommended food groups in Happy Meals.
16 of the 20 major markets sold an increased share of Happy Meal items containing recommended food groups in 2019 versus 2018.
1 It is important to note that our global System consists of both Company-owned and franchised restaurants. The franchised restaurants are operated by conventional Franchisees, developmental licensees (i.e., a Franchisee that operates most or all of the McDonald’s-branded restaurants in a specific market) or pursuant to other licensing arrangements, and make up the majority of McDonald’s-branded restaurants around the world. Our Franchisees make independent decisions for their own business organizations, subject to their obligations under the operative franchise or other license agreements and core standards required for the McDonald’s brand. McDonald’s does not prescribe all business requirements for our Franchisees, but rather we work in collaboration with them to raise awareness and provide tools and opportunities to assist them as part of the brand’s food journey. We also work with Franchisees to mutually set objectives and targets and to help monitor their related progress. As a result, while we will encourage Franchisees to participate in the important goals outlined in this document, we cannot guarantee their compliance. However, we can drive change in our Company-owned restaurants so much of this work will start with Company-owned restaurants, with a plan to demonstrate success and expand measurement, and that will ultimately help to support independent Franchisees that choose to join us on this journey.