You Reap What You Sow

Fast Food News points us to an article that states that fast food restaurants are discovering that people tend not to purchase items marked as “healthy”.

From the article:

Cathy Kapica, director of global nutrition for McDonald’s, said her company has stopped using the word “healthy” because the word has lost all meaning in a society addicted to fad diets. She said McDonald’s customer research found that the word “healthy” is a turnoff when customers see it on a menu.

“If Americans wanted tofu, McDonald’s could provide the best-tasting, most convenient, most affordable, freshest tofu there is,” she said. “The problem is, Americans don’t want tofu.”


Well it’s nice that Ms. Kapica feels as if she can speak for all Americans. But her reality is far different than the one I’m used to.

Whenever it comes to fast food restaurants and healthy eating, I’m reminded of the story of RJ Reynolds Cigarette company. In an order to attract the non-smoking market and the health conscious market, RJ Reynolds developed a cigarette that was smokeless and had reduced cancer-causing compounds typically inhaled by smokers. Their thinking, in typical corporate logic, was that the only thing preventing people from smoking was the smoke and the cancer. Eliminate those two variables and the market would come banging on the doors to buy cigarettes.

As you can guess, the product flopped in test marketing. One of the reasons? Non-smokers don’t smoke…period. There’s no percieved obstacle preventing them from smoking other than the fact that they choose not to. (Another reason the product flopped was apparently it also tasted like horse droppings. Not being a smoker, I’ll have to take their word on this).

Fast Food rational is similar here. The reason people don’t buy healthy foods at McDonald’s and other Fast Food restaurants, is not because “people don’t buy healthy foods”. The schizophrenic diet industry is clearly proof that there is a large segment of the population who want to eat healthy.

No, the real reason fast food restaurants don’t make money at healthy foods is that people who eat healthy don’t eat at fast food restaurants. No amount of yogurt parfaits, or fat free lean beef tacos is going to convince those who eat healthy otherwise.

The lesson here for all restaurants is that you cannot be all things for all people. This is Economics 101 theory here. Long ago, the McDonald’s and Burger King’s of the world staked their business on hight-fat, high-sugar products. Their reputations are predicated on this basic business decision. So they shouldn’t be surprised when healthy eaters avoid their restaurants like the rich avoid Wal-Mart.

So in case you were wondering Ms. Kapica, in America, there is a market for Tofu. I can head to several supermarkets and restaurants right at this moment and find it on the menu. What you meant to say is that McDonalds customers don’t want Tofu sold at McDonalds.

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