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McDonald’s to Sell Low-Fat Hamburgers Nationwide

March 14, 1991

CHICAGO (AP) _ McDonald’s is adding a low-fat hamburger to its menu to keep pace with consumers who want their food fast but less fatty.

McDonald’s Corp. said Wednesday it is expanding sales of its McLean Deluxe from five test cities to its 8,500 outlets nationwide.

The hamburger, which is 9 percent fat, will be available by April 13, said Ed Rensi, president of the McDonald’s chain in the United States.

It’s the latest effort by the fast-food business to appeal to more health- conscious consumers. Various chains have added chicken dishes and switched from animal fat to vegetable oil for making their french fries.

McDonald’s Canada also said the burger would be at all 625 outlets in Canada by late April. Rensi said it may be extended to outlets in Europe.

The burgers have less than half the fat in McDonald’s other hamburgers.

″It’ll be on the menu for as long as consumers like it, and I expect that’ll be at least a couple of years,″ Rensi said by telephone from McDonald’s headquarters in suburban Oak Brook.

The suggested price is $1.79, a cut above the cost of the Quarter Pounder. It comes with lettuce, tomato, mustard, ketchup and pickles.

And at least one analyst said Wednesday that McDonald’s had little to lose and that the low-fat burger might tap a demand for healthier food.

″People are moving away from red meat to other foods, and this is a response to that movement,″ said John C. Maxwell, Jr., a food and beverage analyst with Wheat Butcher & Singer in Richmond, Va.

″They’ve been fiddling around for some time with tacos, pizza and fish, and I’m sure some of this will come to fruition,″ Maxwell added.

Test-marketing of McDonald’s McLean Deluxe hamburger began in November in Harrisburg, Pa., and expanded to four more cities. Customers interviewed in November in Pennsylvania gave the sandwich mixed reviews.

Martha Hoak from Camp Hill thought then the hamburger was delicious. ″It tasted very good to me,″ she said. But Joan Mullis of Shiremanstown said: ″It wasn’t as tasty as a regular burger. It was kind of blah.″

According to McDonald’s, the 3.75-ounce patty is composed of 90 percent lean beef, 9 percent water and 1 percent seasonings. Counted as a seasoning is carregeenan, a gumlike product used in meats and other food.

The carregeenan, which binds fat, is the secret to the patty, said Mary Adolf of the Beef Industry Council of the Meat Board.

Groups such as the American Heart Association, the National Cancer Institute and the American Dietetic Association recommend that less than 30 percent of the calories consumed in a serving should be from fat.

The McLean Deluxe contains 310 calories, including condiments, and derives 29 percent of its calories from fat. That compares with the Quarter Pounder, with 44 percent of its calories as fat.

Officials at Burger King, Wendy’s and Hardee’s, all major competitors, said they had no immediate plans to introduce a similar low-fat hamburger.

″McDonald’s may be on a dangerous course,″ said John Merrit, a spokesman for the Hardee’s Food Systems Inc. based in Rocky Mount, N.C. ″(The McLean Deluxe) is not a hamburger. It’s a carregeenan pie.″

Phil Sokolof, president of the National Heart Savers Association in Omaha, Neb., called the move a ″revolutionary, dramatic breakthrough″ in fast-food marketing.

″This may lead to an unbelievable lessening of fat intake of Americans nationwide,″ said Sokolof, whose group promotes cholesterol awareness.

Analysts said the McLean Deluxe could improve McDonald’s nutritional image and start an industry trend.

Michael G. Mueller, an analyst at Montgomery Securities in San Francisco said the low-fat burger ″would help convince McDonald’s customers that the company is in the forefront of health issues.″

If the burger is successful, it could lead to a whole new menu in the same way the Egg McMuffin started a whole new breakfast trend, said George Rosenbaum, president of Leo J. Shapiro & Associates.

But a new lean menu could complicate service at McDonald’s, which already has about 50 different items, Rosenbaum said.

″They may not be fast-food anymore at this rate,″ he said.