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Fast Food blurs the line between a meal and a snack

McDonalds is Addressing the Consumer Needs for Snacking and Affordable Food

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Is McDonalds Deluxe Wrap a snack or a meal? Well, it’s both and the consumer is driving the blurring of meal occasions rapidly. Just check out the McDonalds site and you can see 13 snack options and they proudly tout the nutritional value of each with a detailed nutritional table that is available by click on the picture of each snack. Their positioning" Whether you need a little pick-me-up to get you through the afternoon or a companion for your favorite sandwich, we’ve got you covered."

Changing eating habits, the focus on obesity and the new “Affordability” issues driven by the economy are making snacks viable and tasty consumer options.

I have visited several McDonalds and observed people ordering multiple wraps during the lunch day part, creating a real meal while others order a drink and a wrap mid afternoon. And it is not just McDonalds’. Other Fast Food operators are following suit; Popeye's Facebook page touts their Louisiana Kitchen Loaded Chicken Wrap , McDonald's Angus Deluxe Snack Wrap, McDonald's McFlurry with Oreo cookies and The KFC Snacker with Crispy Strips just to name a few. All are priced $2.99 or less which is an attractive price point and compares favorably or better than other snack alternatives.

Snacking has been on the rise for the past decade or so and “affordability” is one of the driving forces creating hyper growth in the category. Affordability is not a new term, but it is a new factor that food retailers and foodservice operators are grappling with today.

At one time we thought of value, which is a combination of many variables, typically the relationship between Price and Quality. Affordability is utmost in consumers minds these days due to the economic conditions we find ourselves in. McDonalds is looking to gain a competitive advantage during this economic crisis by addressing the consumer behavior in downsizing in order to meet affordability issues in feeding themselves and their families.

A recent Information Resources Report State of the Snacking Industry points to several trends that McDonalds surely is aware of. Over 80% of consumers actively look for the best value when buying snacks. Supermarkets are leading snack purchases overall and the dichotomy here is 83% of consumers say they are eating for nutrition and 50% are aware they need to control the portion sizes they eat.

Younger consumers are more likely to define almost any food as a snack. According to Mintel, 62% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 consider side dishes such as fries or onion rings to be snacks vs. 35% of those 65 and older.

According to Supermarket News , consumers have turned to the supermarket industry to "satisfy a growing number of daily needs." Consumer food brands are recognizing these trends and attempting to change consumer buyer behavior, which can spell bad news to the foodservice industry even when the recession ends. McDonalds recognized they needed to create affordable meal options to avoid ceding a portion of their business to retailers.

According to McDonalds, snacks have been the fastest-growing part of their business for three years. The most popular are coffee drinks, smoothies, Snack Wraps and small desserts, the snack-size McFlurry as an example.

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