Healthier Generation is collaborating with McDonald’s to increase families' access to healthier food and beverage options. As the largest quick-serve restaurant chain in the world, McDonald's has the distribution system and marketing power to promote healthier products on a scale that could dramatically improve the consumption patterns of millions of children and families.
In 2013, Healthier Generation negotiated an unprecedented voluntary agreement with McDonald’s to increase their provision and marketing of fruits, vegetables, and healthier beverages, including removing soda from Happy Meal menu boards.
The results were immediate. After the first year of implementation, a third-party progress evaluation showed a 9-percentage point decrease in soda selected with Happy Meals and a significant increase in purchases of healthier options, including 21 million more servings of low-fat and fat-free milk and 100% apple juice.
While this commitment is ongoing, the results so far are impressive and progress is ahead of schedule. A 2016 milestone progress report on the commitment showed that McDonald's had met or exceeded its targets for the number of countries fully implementing each of the five components of the commitment. As a result:
- 951 million water, fruit, vegetable, 100% juice, and low-fat dairy items were served in Happy Meals across 13 countries in 2016.
- 716 million new fruit, vegetable, or low-fat dairy side items were served in Happy Meals and a la carte across 13 countries between 2014 and 2016.
- The percentage of Happy Meal customers selecting milk, water, and juice rather than soda increased by 9.4 percentage points across 12 countries from 2013 to 2016.
In 2018, Healthier Generation and McDonald’s announced that they were furthering their original collaboration with new, bold steps to serve more fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein and water. The five new Global Happy Meal Goals, which McDonald’s has pledged to achieve by 2022, include global nutrition criteria to further reduce kids’ consumption of calories, fat, salt, and sugar from Happy Meal bundles.
Goal #1: Offer Balanced Meals: On the Happy Meal menu in the United States, McDonald’s will:
- List only the following entrée choices: Hamburger, 4-piece and 6-piece Chicken McNuggets
- Replace the small French fries with kids-sized fries in the 6-piece Chicken McNugget meal, which decreases the calories and sodium in the fries serving by half
- Reformulate chocolate milk to reduce the amount of added sugar
- Add bottled water as a beverage choice on Happy Meal menu boards
Goal #2: Simplify Ingredients: Continue efforts to remove artificial flavors and added colors from artificial sources, and reduce artificial preservatives.
Goal #3: Be Transparent with Happy Meal Nutrition Information: Make nutrition information available for Happy Meal bundle offerings on McDonald’s owned websites and mobile apps used for ordering where they exist and as technologies change over time.
Goal #4: Market Responsibly: Ensure all Happy Meal bundles advertised to children will meet McDonald’s Global Happy Meal Nutrition Criteria (as stated in Goal #1) and continue to meet existing local/regional advertising pledges with respect to marketing to children, whichever is strictest.
Goal #5: Increase Purchase of Foods and Beverages that Contain Recommended Food Groups in Happy Meals: Use innovative strategies to help serve more foods and beverages containing fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein and/or water within Happy Meals
Evaluating Our Impact
Healthier Generation’s work with McDonald’s is rooted in the belief that collaboration between non-profits and the business sector can drive powerful change. To measure the impact of this collaboration, McDonald’s committed to participate in an independent process to regularly measure and verify the progress of its efforts.