McDonald’s recently generated headlines for the announcement that it is removing chocolate milk and cheeseburgers from its Happy Meal menu boards in the U.S. While this has understandably raised some questions and concern within the dairy community, there is more to the story than what media headlines may have led some to believe.
Neither chocolate milk nor cheeseburgers are disappearing from McDonald’s. Rather, as part of McDonald’s global initiative to achieve its goal of 600 calories or less in the Happy Meal, as well as reductions in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar, chocolate milk and cheeseburgers will no longer be featured on the Happy Meal menu board or in advertising. Customers can still request both items with a Happy Meal and white milk remains a featured beverage choice on the menu board and in advertising.
Reformulation is underway
McDonald’s is reformulating chocolate milk to achieve its Happy Meal nutritional goals, and this is happening with input from our onsite dairy checkoff scientists. Once the chocolate milk is reformulated, it will return to the national Happy Meal menu board.
McDonald’s is one of the largest users of U.S. dairy in North America. This is a key reason why Dairy Management Inc., which manages the national dairy checkoff, has had a partnership with McDonald’s for nine years. Our partnership has delivered some high-profile wins over the years, starting with assisting McDonald’s with the change from serving milk in cardboard containers to the kid-friendly “Milk Jug.”
Key dairy advancements
Then, in 2009, McDonald’s launched its McCafé specialty drinks line. Today, 90 percent of McCafé beverages feature dairy.
Another blockbuster move came in 2015 when we helped McDonald’s switch from margarine to butter. This means nearly 40 million pounds of butter — or an incremental 700 million pounds of milk — moves through the chain each year on high-profile offerings such as the Egg McMuffin.
And in the past three years, there has been 5 percent annual dairy volume growth at McDonald’s, which speaks to the strength of our efforts to expand and improve the dairy experience for its customers.
This level of growth and the number of wins over the course of our partnership are the result of our checkoff team representing your priorities and keeping dairy front and center at McDonald’s, now and in the future.
Gallagher is the CEO for Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff and dairy promotion program.