Grazing By The Handful
McDonald’s joins the portable-food category with its new chicken Snack Wrap.
Anecdote: It is time for lunch and a trip to the local McDonald’s to sample the restaurant’s new Snack Wrap menu item. Before ordering, there is a chance to speak with the restaurant manager for an insider’s view on customer acceptance of Snack Wrap. Enter Marino Martinez, first assistant manager, who has 17 years experience in the McDonald’s restaurant-chain system. He recently transferred to the operation in Lincolnshire, Ill.
Q: Have you sold many Snack Wrap products since the August 1st rollout?
Martinez: “The big news is that we sold 60 the very first day. That was unexpected since we did not promote the item. It just appeared on the menu board that day.”
Passengers in vehicles wait in line with their motors idling for their turn at making food choices from restaurant drive-up menus. This American dining ritual plays out morning, noon and night. Skill and precision define drive-thru service, requiring a mere matter of minutes to complete the transaction.
McDonald’s drive-thru window business began in 1975 in Sierra Vista, Ariz., contributing to a new food-delivery system that has grown into a typical food-purchase alternative. The delivery system is one thing, but products are the real allure concerning on-the-go food.
McDonald’s joined the portable-food category with its recent introduction of Snack Wrap — made with crispy, juicy premium chicken breast meat, cheddar jack cheese, crisp lettuce, creamy ranch sauce and wrapped with a soft flour tortilla.
“We know chicken consumption is on the rise because we track that on a regular basis,” notes Tracy Stockard, director, menu management, McDonald’s USA. “We also know our customers are eating differently than they did 10 years ago. They are snacking more throughout the day. The one meal they have is at the end of the day with their families.”
McDonald’s has grown into one of the most powerful and respected brands around the world in its 51 years as a foodservice business, earning recognition as an American foodservice icon. More than 80 percent of McDonald’s 13,700 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by local franchisees.
Positioned as the U.S. agriculture sector’s No. 1 customer, McDonald’s procures billions of pounds of raw materials annually for it restaurant recipe formulations.
The shopping list of ingredients for Snack Wrap is fulfilled by top U.S. suppliers including chicken from Tyson Foods and cheese from Sargento®. Tortillas come from Mission Foods®, the largest such manufacturer, producing 13 billion tortillas per day. Lettuce is supplied by Fresh Express® and Mullins Food Products.
“Snack Wrap follows the McDonald’s tradition of using quality ingredients,” Stockard emphasizes. “It was a simple product to execute operationally because it uses ingredients already in our restaurants.”
A quick-service restaurant (QSR) giant, McDonald’s sells more than 600-million pounds of premium chicken each year positioning it as the foodservice industry’s leading chicken purveyor. Riding the current wave of high chicken consumption, McDonald’s chicken options include Chicken Selects®, Premium Chicken Sandwiches®, Chicken McNuggets® and premium salads with chicken.
A matter of quality
The best food begins with the production of high-quality ingredients — for McDonald’s that involves a farm-to-plate strategy. Chicken comes from such industry leaders as Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods and West Conshohocken, Pa.-based Keystone Foods — both of whom operate with a vertical-integration strategy encompassing a breeder program, hatchery operations, feed mills and owner-operated broiler farms.
McDonald’s team members work closely with such suppliers to control quality at each level of a sophisticated supply-chain system. Third-party auditing firms visit and review all supplier facilities. Audits ensure that hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) programs are in place in its supplier facilities, but McDonald’s takes an extra step by validating programs to ensure that plans meet its intended quality and safety standards.
Technologies assist in further improving quality standards, including proprietary cutting software developed by McDonald’s with its supplier partners. Breast meat is scanned to determine the optimal cut by machine. Chicken is cooked and tested daily to conform to McDonald’s standards governing color, flavor and texture. To ensure these standards are met, McDonald’s trains and certifies supplier processing facility staff members concerning sensory testing.
Menu development matches demand
Stockard says Snack Wrap is a product whose time has come. Its development followed extensive in-house research and field marketing trials. “We do a lot of focus-group testing, and we get quantitative results with online surveys,” Stockard confirms. “Our customers specifically asked for a premium, white-meat chicken product that is portable with quality ingredients and, at the same time, is a great value. That is why we developed this product as a snack occasion product.” NP
Snack Wrap Statistics
Price: $1.29
Ingredients: Crispy chicken breast meat, cheddar jack cheese, crisp lettuce, creamy ranch, soft flour tortilla
Producer: McDonald’s USA
Headquarters: Oak Brook, Ill.
Latest marketing theme: “it’s what I eat and what I do … I’m lovin’ it,” designed to convey the message that people should strive to find their own level of energy balance in line with McDonald’s “ongoing commitment to inspire people to live balanced, active lifestyles.”
Snacking Statistics
• Study by Harvard economists in 2003 determines that the average number of daily snacks Americans consume has risen by 60 percent since the late ‘70s .
• Total number of snacks eaten on a global basis is expected to rise by 9.7 billion over the next five years from 66.1 billion to 75.8 billion.
• More than 55 percent of consumers agree that “consuming smaller meals each day is just as nutritious as consuming three square meals.”
• There are more than twice as many on-the-go snacks eaten compared to full meals.
Source: 2004 Datamonitor survey