For years, McDonald’s has worked in partnership with health non-profit Alliance for a Healthier Generation to set healthier goals for its Happy Meals. Some of those efforts include offering fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; removing artificial preservatives and colors; and offering more Happy Meals under 600 calories. To reach those goals, McDonald’s has recently tweaked Happy Meals by nixing cheeseburgers as a Happy Meal option and offering bottled water at no extra charge. So, how’s progress been?
Overall, pretty good. An independent report released today by McDonald’s and analyzed by Nation’s Restaurant News found a full half of Happy Meals served in 20 global markets are ordered without soda, in favor of low-fat milk or water. Consulting firm Keybridge, which conducted the report, found that as of September 2018, 48% of those global Happy Meal orders chose a non-soda option, up from 35% in September 2013. That was the year McDonald’s announced it would remove soda as a Happy Meal beverage option displayed on menu boards, though customers can still order Happy Meals with a soda. Now, 52% of Happy Meals ordered in the U.S. don’t contain soda.
The fast-food chain says it’s also had success introducing non-fry sides in Happy Meals, which vary from country to country. Australia serves grape tomatoes as a side, for example, while Austria has heart-shaped carrots as a choice. McDonald’s U.K. even offers a just-short-of-vegan Happy Meal anchored by a Veggie Wrap.
Overall, the company is on pace to meet its global nutrition goals by the 2020 deadline.