How the Grimace Got His Groove Back

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In one more sign that America is no longer the home of the brave or the land of the free, McDonald's has announced a line healthy, adult "happy meals" that come with salad, bottled water, a pedometer, and syrup of ipecac. And somewhere the Grimace is crying salty, syrupy tears as he forces down the last legal McGriddle sandwich in this once-sweet-now-sour land of liberty.

From a Reuters account:

The company said it will launch the "Go Active" meals for adults on May 6 nationwide. The meals will be boxed with a brochure urging customers to walk more….

"It's the right thing for our customers … and it's good for our business," Mike Roberts, head of McDonald's U.S. business, said of the new campaign.

Shares of McDonald's fell 7 cents to close at $26.93 on the New York Stock Exchange.

While shareholders cringe, multi-chinned Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has given the burger-meisters a big greasy thumbs up, saying, "It's important to recognize companies doing the right thing."

Food mullahs like Michael Jacobson of Center for Science in the Public Interest are predictably non-plussed. He told Reuters, "The company's small steps seem more designed to forestall the big steps the government should be taking to prevent obesity and heart disease."

Rounding up the McDonaldland characters for show trials and forced fitness regimens would be a good start. Mayor McCheese and Big Mac may claim they were only following orders, but we all know they were giving as well as taking. The Grimace is a natural for an Extreme Makeover (lipo, chin implant, DaVinci veneers, weight training, the whole nine yards). And Ronald McDonald, like Mel Gibson's Jesus, should pay for all of our dietary sins: Hey clown, all your good works are like rags in a fire compared to the obesity epidemic you unloosed on America; get ready to spend eternity in hell's own fry vat.

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  1. “Food mullahs” – that’s great!

  2. Jacobson’s line “advances public relations more than it does public health” is better.

  3. Syrup of ipecac?

    Great. They go from encouraging obesity to encouraging bulimia. 😉

  4. i see what you mean – i’m thinking of a loss of freedom for the consumer, not the company. regardless of what mcdonalds does their critics are going to claim all sorts of victories, but so long as the gubmint stays out of the fray that’s just the market at work.

    as far as your cig example goes, near as i can see it they didn’t do that to appease their critics so much as they did to avoid legislation.

  5. DJ, sing along with me:

    “Two all-beef patties
    Special sauce
    Lettuce, cheese
    Pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.”

  6. I had to bring donuts to the lab.

    The bakery charges $0.55 per donut, but a dozen donuts is just $6. Since it would be $6.05 to get 11 donuts, they’re basically encouraging you to get 12 instead of 11.

    I’m going to call John Banzhaf and ask him to sue these people who are making it cheaper to get an extra donut! We must put a stop to this!

  7. At this rate we won’t be allowed to do anything unless we can first prove in writing that it’s for our own good. Put down that hamburger and pick up a carrot! Turn off the Howard Stern show and watch an educational documentary that will help you advance in your career! Put down that cigarette and go jogging instead! Get those herbs and spices out of your spice rack–they just encourage you to eat more than you need!

    As the great humanitarian Joe Stalin once said (presumably in Russian): “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”

  8. What pisses me off about these adult happy meals is how crappy the “toy” is. A Pedometer? My 9 year old nephew gets transformers and Lego, and I get a friggin’ pedometer? Bah.

  9. Grimace, Nick, has already enjoyed a significant makeover. When he was originally introduced in commercials, he was known as “Evil” Grimace, a monicker he earned by taking away kids fries, shakes, and burgers. I once asked a McDonalds flack about this change, which must have occurred soon after the character was introduced, but she would not admit that Evil was ever part of his name. Alas, there isn’t much on the Web in the way of back up on this, and an Alt.McDonalds FAQ that supposedly supported this bit of nearly forgotten history has vanished.
    http://gwis2.circ.gwu.edu/~kmhebert/alt.mcdonalds.html
    Alas!

  10. Grimace, Nick, has already enjoyed a significant makeover. When he was originally introduced in commercials, he was known as “Evil” Grimace, a monicker he earned by taking away kids fries, shakes, and burgers. I once asked a McDonalds flack about this change, which must have occurred soon after the character was introduced, but she would not admit that Evil was ever part of his name. Alas, there isn’t much on the Web in the way of back up on this, and an Alt.McDonalds FAQ that supposedly supported this bit of nearly forgotten history has vanished.
    http://gwis2.circ.gwu.edu/~kmhebert/alt.mcdonalds.html
    Alas!

  11. > unhealthy eating habits were taught, by making candy a reward, or by making junk food more available than health food.

  12. > dj of raleigh, how does the introduction of an additional line of products from McDonald’s take away your choice? DJ, sing along with me:
    “Two all-beef patties
    Special sauce
    Lettuce, cheese
    Pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.”

  13. > The company’s decision to refocus on healthful foods is going to hurt it in the end.

  14. Um…a couple commenters seem to have taken the syrup of ipecac line seriously. It was not in the Reuters article, so most likely Nick was joking. Don’t believe everything you read…

  15. Um…a couple commenters seem to have taken the syrup of ipecac line seriously. It was not in the Reuters article, so most likely Nick was joking. Don’t believe everything you read…

  16. Um…a couple commenters seem to have taken the syrup of ipecac line seriously. It was not in the Reuters article, so most likely Nick was joking. Don’t believe everything you read…

  17. I’ve been trying the experiment kwais refers to on my two-year-old. Apparently Wiggles fruit candy and Dora the Explorer Teddy Grahams are major parts of a balanced diet. She likes french fries too.

  18. Hmmm, david,
    I don’t know what to say. I didn’t conduct the experiment, but it was a pretty legit one with a big group. They came to the conclusion that unhealthy eating habits were taught, by making candy a reward, or by making junk food more available than health food.

  19. Michael Jacobson of Center for Science in the Public Interest are predictably non-plussed. He told Reuters, “The company’s small steps seem more designed to forestall the big steps the government should be taking to prevent obesity and heart disease.”

    For the Nth time, what does any “compromise” do for these Guilded Age throwbacks? Encourage them. Nice balls. *bah!*

  20. Deep breaths Gillespie. You’ll get through this ok.

    I realize how traumatic it can be for a company to change its operations in response to a changing marketplace.

  21. Spud boys, all.

  22. Joe:

    If only it were that simple. However, it is impossible to ignore the influence potential regulation has on companies. It is a form of coersion. Companies will change policies slightly in order to avoid more damaging legislation.

  23. …and syrup of ipecac??

    Did anyone think that was funny?

    I’m probably just a bitter old man, but I found that line repugnant. Then again I find just about everything since the 90’s, that’s supposedly funny, repugnant. (Tom Green, Howard Stern, Adam Sandler etc.)

  24. The Jacobson quote shows that this isn’t just the market at work. At the same time, McDonald’s is still to blame, because if Big Evil Corporations can’t stand up to these busybodies, who can?

  25. Nobody ever wins in such highly publicized maneuvers. Mickey D changes his menu and the Calorie Cops claim victory, then ratchet up their demands. Mickey D says, “Uh, uh, we did it voluntarily, not because of your threats. Besides, it’s good for the children,” thus succeeding in looking like pushovers and encouraging their sworn enemies. Even a business that responds to changing market conditions rather than threats has the appearance of kow-towing to the Nacho Nazis. Big Business never learns. They appease, and a little more freedom is lost.

  26. Nice headline, but I think last year’s financial statement has a lot in it regarding menu restructuring in order to become more competitive. While it is more fun to call this the demise of the “land of the free” I think it has much more to do with making smart business decisions.

    Here’s thier 2003 Financial Report, you may want to read it.

    Link

  27. The point being: in an atmosphere of coercion, even smart moves look like appeasement.

  28. “The Jacobson quote shows that this isn’t just the market at work.”

    I think Jacobson is the rooster who thinks his crowing makes the sun come up. The lawsuits and proposed regulation don’t have a prayer – they’re just expressions of how the culture has changed.

  29. dj of raleigh, how does the introduction of an additional line of products from McDonald’s take away your choice?

  30. “…how does the introduction of an additional line of products from McDonald’s take away your choice?”

    Not to answer for dj, but new items are introduced often at the expense of the old ones, which are discontinued. Having four new salads from which to choose will hardly console the carnivore.

  31. Why is it more important for “the carnivore” to have additional choices, than for the non-lard ass?

  32. This post is so funny I forgot to get mad for a few minutes.

    But I think there may be a silver lining to all this. We should all make a pact to get together in 5 years when there is no decent food out there to eat and launch a new chain of bad for you food. Maybe call it “House of Fry” or something else nice and greasy. We’d get rich quick as desperate people stormed our gates looking for a quick fix. We could even offer “Classic fare” like “French Fries” and “Double-Bacon Cheeseburgers” that people will be so nostalgic for they’d pay $10 just for a morsel. Parents of young children will drag their tykes in to expose them to the “nostalgic” grub of a “better era”.

    It’d be like TV Land for the palette.

    Of course given that the law of the day will probably forbid it, we may have to organize in speak-easy-style establishments with passwords and entrance fees. Or maybe just dot the Canadian and Mexican borders with outlets.

  33. Joe,

    It’s not “more important” for one gang to have better choices than another. It’s important that the provider of the product is free from coercion when deciding what to offer. If the customer doesn’t like the menu, he can go elsewhere. Why fear freedom of choice?

  34. The company’s decision to refocus on healthful foods is going to hurt it in the end. Few companies survive such a paradigm shift.

    It is strategically valid for McDonalds to offer complementary items for people who do not eat their typical faire. This will allow their target group to dine when in larger groups. Offering a healthful line of food allows the health conscious to eat with McDonalds frequenters.

    The problem arises when McDonald’s begins to focus itself on these complementary items. They will alienate their current base and fail to attract healthy diners. McDonalds cannot compete in the healthy food market.

    Their goal should be to simply raise awareness of complementary menu items. However, they appear to actually be shifting the entire focus of the company (i.e. new advertising campaign, smaller portions).

  35. Why assume that McDonald’s is cowering before John Banzhaf every time they make a decision you don’t like?

    Perhaps you have a higher opinion of the merits, and likelihood for success, of these lawsuits than I do.

  36. I think Patriot overstates the significance of this change. Mickey D’s bread and butter is greasy, salty burgers and fries, and always will be.

    But good point about “This will allow their target group to dine when in larger groups.” That’s why Burger King introduced the BK Veggie (not bad when they do it right, but the 15 year olds in the kitchen usually try to cook them like regular burgers, and they end up as dry hockey pucks).

  37. McDonalds needs to go “small”
    and sell smaller portions.

    It is all about portions,
    not a ? # of beef, before cooking,
    not a bit of lettuce,
    not two buns,
    not a dab of mustard,
    not two thin pickle slices,
    not a bit of mayo,
    not a dab of ketchup,
    not degassed (cooked) onion,
    not a dozen sesame seeds,
    but it is about PORTIONS,
    and it is about deep pockets,
    and it is about people TAKING AWAY CHOICE
    and calliinng it GOOD FOR YOU!!!

    One day they are going to stop me from having two beers.
    They will not let me have a meat and three veggies.
    They will not allow dessert of any kind.
    They will protect me into boredom.

    Someone protect us from oppressive control freaks.

  38. “They appease, and a little more freedom is lost.”

    oh please. i don’t like these fuckwits any more than you do – fast food is about as non-coersive as you can get – but there’s no loss of freedom. motherfuckers can still go hit the supermarket, if nothing else. or your local deli?

    or are all those michael moore-esque landscapes of middle america as nothing but large corporate chains and fast food marts really true to life?

  39. This is very comparable to what the NFL just went through. They “voluntarily” put into place a system that falls just short of racial quotas in head coach hirings, in response to the threat of a lawsuit by a racist, misguided, angry, cowardly group of extortionists led by Kellen Winslow. Matt Millen was fined $250,000 for firing his current coach to hire one that he knew was proven and successful, and that he had a history with. Ridiculous, but a very comparable situation.

  40. dhex:

    Tobacco producers gave up their 1st Amendment rights to advertise on television and radio. They appeased their critics. Would you argue that that right is not now lost forever to them?

  41. Don’t believe everything you read…

    including this that you have just read.

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