Momma Told Me: Generation McNugget- How Fast Food Is Changing For The Modern Consumer

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Generation McNugget- How Fast Food Is Changing For The Modern Consumer

Note: While I was invited to attend an event  held by McDonald's, during my trip to #BlogHer2016, I was in no way compensated for sharing the following information or story- it is entirely of my doing.
McDonalds Chicken Club #McDBlogHer
What Momma Told Me: Baby steps.

I'm not going to lie, when I was a little girl the biggest fuss over eating out was whether I'd finish all of my food fast enough to get the toy that came inside my Happy Meal. We didn't eat 'fast food' often. As a result there were little rules to what I could order or eat when we did, so long as I ate the majority of my meal. Trust me, Momma made up for it with 27 other days in the month full of heaping piles of vegetables and a rotating concoction of 'grown up food' (as I called it). Yes, fast food, especially McDonald's was always considered a treat, something to indulge with on special occasions.

Let's face it, up until about a decade ago the term 'fast food' had a negative connotation. I'll admit, whenever I was asked by a coworker why I had for lunch and named one of the major chains on the corner I felt a sense of shame. Why couldn't I have delicious food prepared for me on the go, at an affordable value and convenient time frame? Of course several brands have made great strides to restructure their menu, and re-evaluate their food sourcing and preparation processes, to meet the growing demands of conscientious consumers. If you'd have asked me in 2003 if I'd buying salads at my local McDonalds on lunch breaks I would have laughed as if you were crazy.
 We give chains like McDonald's a bad wrap a lot. Yes, it is 'fast food'- but fast food no longer means 'junk food.' It's a mentality that I daresay will yet take generations more to embrace. Are golden delicious, freshly salted, french fries still on the menu, sure. It wouldn't be McDonald's without french fries! But the brand has made efforts to expand on the convenience of their delicious sandwiches as meals and offer alternative sides, and a smaller standard portioning of french fries when ordered. This was one of the first steps the brand made where I truly noticed a difference.

However, the concept that their most delicious menu items could be enjoyed in moderation wasn't the only message McDonald's worked to convey. Over the past 10 years the brand has listened fervently to consumer feedback across the United States and worked to make dramatic changes to everyday menu items, while innovating lighter, health minded, introductions to the traditional menu.
I, including myself, found myself frustrated from time to time with how slow it seemed this 'industry' was responding to the rapidly changing lifestyles and quality demands of its' consumers.What I didn't know was that something as simple as adding apple slices to the Happy Meal menu took over 3 years to achieve. And the monumental 'breakfast all day' roll out? Just consider the logistics challenges of sourcing a regular supply of quality eggs for over 15,000 locations nationwide, essentially up to tripling the chains previous product demand! It's no small undertaking- but the brand has made it very vocal that they do not intend to let such hurdles or slow progression stop them from continually bettering their brand. While you may scoff, the brand is committed to providing 100% cage free eggs for their 16k locations across the United States and Canada by 2025.

10 years? Why is it going to take 10 years? Well, you just try to hold yourself to a quality standard, while contracting enough fresh cage free egg farmers to supply and feed the customers of over 16k restaurant locations every day. I'm not an expert in the field, but something tells me there may not even be that many cage free chickens producing in the U.S. at this point in time! It IS quite the undertaking.
McDonalds HASS avocados
Of course one of the way the brand can innovate and meet customers demands for consistently fresher, never, better ingredients and recipes is by adding regional or even seasonal menu items to their lineup. The California HASS avocado is a local treat I indulge in every Summer, but McDonalds wants to look into the process of sourcing them potentially year round for fresh guacamole with pico de gallo- yes avocados are used in guacamole on McDonald's menu offerings now- but the use of real HASS avocados would add an extra depth of flavor and quality to further elevate the menu.
Speaking of elevating- raise your hand if you have happy feels (memories) when you think of grabbing a Happy Meal as a child. That 4 count McNugget box was always my treat of choice, and nothing made me squirm with delight quite like dipping a freshly nibbled nugget into that little cup of sauce. McDonalds might traditionally be a 'burger' joint, but it's their famous golden nuggets that I find myself, and my nieces and nephews craving. A Happy Meal is not just an affordable and simple solution to meals on the go at crunch time- it's a tool for connecting and making memories.
McDonalds Nuggets #MCDBlogHer
The brand understands this, and as a result have made several changes to the famous recipe throughout the years. McNuggets get a lot of flack y'all. I get it. I, too, am always skeptical of any meat product that is not served in it's original shape. But I have to admit, I feel heaps better about treating my nieces and nephews (and myself) to a McNugget meal now and then knowing that the brand has now made it's commitment to use only antibiotic free (*antibiotics important to human medicine) chicken. This in addition to their ongoing commitment that McNuggets shall always remain free of artificial colors and flavors. So go ahead, dip happy.
Of course you don't have to crave 'fast food' to crave McDonalds- I'd say the majority of my trips over the past year were actually for something very 'not' fast food- a salad. And I'm not talking about a 'side salad instead of fries with my Big Mac' sort of deal- I'm talking a full blown, artisan inspired, entree salad like the Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad featuring a Southwest Vegetable Blend, Cilantro Lime Glazed Grilled Chicken, and Chili Lime Tortilla Strips. It jut so happens to pair perfectly with a McCafe Smoothie (which I hear is being tested with a Greek yogurt base!)
McDonalds Southwest Chicken Salad #McDBlogHer
This 'food journey' the brand proclaims it's on is not one that reaches it's destination overnight. Then again, when you're working to change an entire industry, nothing does. We, as consumers think of McDonalds as a 'fast food' chain, and, as a result we expect the ingredients and food to be in line with the affordable pricing and speed. As it turns out, there is nothing fast or simple about ensuring the freshest ingredients and flavors make it to your local drive-thru window every day. Not only do I, personally, have a newfound appreciation for the business of 'convenient' revolution, but I feel a little bit of pride in knowing I choose a brand that is so actively listening to it's customers and striving to meet their needs. Now, tell me, what do you look for most on a fast food menu? Are you the type only heading in to indulge in something sinfully greasy? Or are you the consumer demanding fresher, more lifestyle driven selections on the menu?

What Daughter Says: Fast food has a bad wrap. But it's come a long way from my mother's childhood, and it continues to evolve for future generations.


  1. I'm really glad to hear that they're moving more towards natural and more healthy ingredients. I think it reflects the public's desire for better options.

  2. I like that they are offering a variety of healthier choices. McDonalds has come a long way since I was a child. I remember when they served pizza as well.

  3. 3 years just to add apples?!?! Wow, that's crazy. At least they aRe headed gealthier that's awesome :)

  4. I agree that it has come a long way, but hey at least they are trying. I think it's important to note that fast food is a good option to have within reason. Loved reading this!

  5. I have noticed that the fast food industry has definitely done a lot of changes. It's important that fast food can be healthy to, but also have some fun with some other foods too so good mix would be great.

  6. It's nice to see more healthier options. I go both ways, but I try to eat healthier when choosing fast food. There are so many great options for healthier foods too.

  7. It has seemed like for so long we had to give up healthy for fast. But, now, there are ways to eat healthier and still eat fast. I think the industry needs to catch up.

  8. I always order the Chicken McNuggets when I go to McDonalds. We like to treat ourselves once a week.

  9. Both healthy and less healthy options are out there at every single restaurant. Ultimately it's the consumer's choice what to eat!

  10. I definitely like that they are trying to make things fresher and more healthy, but I also like to indulge in the greast stuff, too!

  11. I love the photos that you got of the food and the arrangements. Everything is so clear, the displays are awesome, and the food itself (especially that salad) looks really delicious!

  12. I admit, I ate some chicken nuggets the other night. Them and the salads are my only fav McD's foods.

  13. These are really delicious and healthy at the same time.

  14. It's good to see more Fast Food places coming up with healthier options. I agree that FF places have a bad rap, because most of the food is junk. Thanks for the updated information!

  15. Sometimes I go for the greasy yumminess and sometimes I go because I need something quick and I would prefer healthy. I like that their are different options.