McDonald’s USA keeps focus on whole grain items

by Jeff Gelski
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ROSEMONT, ILL. — The decision of McDonald’s USA to use bakery-style buns with whole grains and English muffins with whole grains, as well as offering oatmeal, amounts to selling 836 million servings with whole grains per year, said Jerry Volkman, director of product innovation and development for McDonald’s USA. He spoke Feb. 28 at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Wellness 13 in Rosemont.

The bakery-style buns used in premium chicken sandwiches have 16 grams of whole grains. McDonald’s USA sells 218 million servings per year of the sandwiches. The company’s fruit and maple oatmeal also has 16 grams of whole grains. McDonald’s USA sells 218 million servings of the oatmeal per year.

The English muffins used in Egg McMuffins have 8 grams of whole grains, Mr. Volkman said. McDonald’s USA sells 400 million servings per year of Egg McMuffins. The company considered having 16 grams of whole grains in each English muffin but decided against it, Mr. Volkman said. He said McDonald’s never wants to change a core product so radically that it upsets people who have bought the product for 30 or 40 years.

The product development approach at McDonald’s USA starts with taste, Mr. Volkman said. Product developers also seek to enhance perceived quality, such as through the use of clean/simple ingredient labels and local sourcing. Nutrition, such as whole grains, also fits into product development.

McDonald’s USA has increased the number of food scientists and nutritionists on staff over the past few years, Mr. Volkman said. Nutrition targets for products at McDonald’s USA include less than 300 calories, 32 grams of whole grains, 5 grams of dietary fiber and 0 grams of trans fat labeled per serving.

Mr. Volkman said his company understands many people think McDonald’s offers a lot of unhealthy food.

“We do listen to our critics, and there are many of them,” he said.

The company responds when appropriate, he said. McDonald’s USA, however, has no plans to quit selling cheeseburgers or other menu items that sell well even though they may not have the most positive health attributes. Mr. Volkman said McDonald’s USA includes 14,000 restaurants and 2,600 owner/operators who expect product developers to come up with new items that have customers lining up outside the doors at their respective restaurants.

McDonald’s USA will continue to offer a range of product choices, some healthier than others.

“Choice is kind of the watch word,” Mr. Volkman said.
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