McDonald's (Oak Brook, Ill.) supersize demise (announced in early March and expected to eliminate the extra-large fries and beverages from the chain's menus by 2005) may have garnered the chain unwanted attention. The Voices column in the March 8 Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, Pa.) performed its own evaluation of supersized portions of French fries versus the smaller “large” option. After comparing the two, the writer found the supersize version had two more fries. How these results were derived was not explained clearly, but it is difficult to imagine equally sized and cut fries in each box, so the counting option seems inappropriate. Maybe the writer stretched them end-to-end? Regardless, the obviously scientific comparison attempted to demonstrate the nutritional similarities of the two sizes. Meanwhile, according to the McDonald's website, the supersizes weigh in with 70 more calories, 3g more of fat, 9g of extra carbohydrates and 40mg more sodium.

On another front, conspiracy theorists point to the success of “Super Size Me” at this year's Sundance Film Festival as one inspiration for the fast food giant to drop the enlarged portions. The movie's director lived on nothing but McDonald's fare for an entire month and, “packed on the pounds, watched his cholesterol soar and became depressed,” according to his website. The argument is that McDonald's is trying preemptively to assuage any criticisms resulting from the movie's wide release (expected on May 7).

Unfortunately, these theories seem to discount the simple business facts behind the decision. Supersizing has been contributing less and less to McDonald's sales over the past year. In fact, any analysis of McDonald's financial rebound demonstrates the chain's success at luring consumers with more health-oriented fare, i.e., salads, yogurts, fruit, etc. Not to preach to the choir too much, but innovation has fueled this recovery, innovation in keeping with the changing needs and wants of consumers.

However, McDonald's success and, indeed, its innovation efforts fly in the face of what has been the major food industry trend of late. Fast food adversaries have been quick to hitch a ride on the low-carb bandwagon; Burger King (Miami) and Hardee's (Rocky Mount, N.C.) both have bunless burgers, and low-carb menus can be found in various chains. McDonald's, on the other hand, has been content to steer clear of the low-carb terminology, if not the trend itself. The reason could be a simple one: why bother revamping menus to reflect a trend that may pass shortly?

Internet Information

For more information on this issue's articles, see the Internet sites provided below.
Frozen Desserts: Heating Up?
Mintel International Group
Epicurious' definition of cheesecake
Screaming for Ice Cream
International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association
International Dairy Foods Association
Sing a Song Of Soy
Soy Information Clearinghouse
FDA website's “Soy: Health Claims for Soy Protein, Questions about Other Components”
A Culinary Journey Through North Africa
A wide variety of N. African recipes, with regional music as an accompaniment
Moroccan culture, history, recipes and more
Functional Futures
September 2003 overview on claims that can be made for conventional foods and dietary supplements
Summary of Qualified Health Claims Permitted (generally applicable only for dietary supplements)
Emerging Formulations—
The New Starting Lineup
Food Protein R&D Center at Texas A&M University
Tiax LLC — Food and nutrition
Flavors Fire Up Dairy Favorites
News, company info. and more
Atlanta Journal-Constitution's take on the diet drinks industry
Caramel Color-Conscious
Oregon State Food Resource