The biggest challenge for McDonald’s UAE is “making people buy more salads,” according to its managing director and partner Rafic Fakih.
Fakih said there is little demand from UAE customers for healthy options at the fast food chain, which is most popular for its burgers.
“They’re not buying more salads. We put fruit. They’re not buying fruit. I think it’s because people don’t eat out every day. And when they do, they like to opt for food that might have a little more calories or sugar. At the end, we have to offer what people want to eat,” he said.
“Perhaps at home you want to eat fruit, but if we offer you fruit here, [you’ll say] we’re coming here for the burger. Even for children, we’re selling water or juice instead of soft drinks. And instead of fries, we offer fruits, but it doesn’t work,” he added.
However, the low demand has not stopped the US brand, operated by Emirates Fast Food in the UAE, from making healthier changes to its products.
Last year, McDonald’s reduced the fat content in its classic mayonnaise and decreased its calorie count by 50 percent. It also started cooking its fried food using a blend of sunflower and canola oil that has 80 percent less saturated fat.
“We are using better technology to make our product healthier, but retain the same taste. The technology worldwide has improved. When technology improved in processing, we used it to give the same taste but with better nutritional value. Now, there is a possibility from the technological point of view to use good oil with an affordable price. This opportunity was not there before. The factory where we process the food, the technology is so advanced now that you can do such drastic solutions,” said Fakih.
McDonald’s worldwide also introduced sustainability measures that include sourcing fish solely from fisheries where sustainable practice is applied. If they know a species of fish is diminishing in numbers, they will not buy it, according to the MD.
The firm also launched a worldwide initiative in 2011 where it turns its cooking oil to biodiesel that is then used by trucks.
In the UAE, McDonald’s cooking oil goes to a factory in Jebel Ali where it is reproduced to become diesel, but from a vegetable source, not from petrol, which makes it sustainable. So far, it has covered up to 7m km since 2011 with its oil.
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