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McDonald’s to roll out new trans-fat-free oil

/ Source: The Associated Press

McDonald’s Corp. executives said Thursday that the world’s largest restaurant chain will roll out a new trans-fat-free oil nationwide within the next year, while hinting they also plan to add more fruits and vegetables to future menus.

McDonald’s already is using its trans-fat-free oil in about 3,500 U.S. restaurants.

Executives said they are spending more money on product development to make sure they have a “robust pipeline” of new food products for their 31,000 stores around the globe.

“We have some very strong products you won’t see in the next six months, you’ll see 18 to 24 months out,” President and Chief Operating Officer Ralph Alvarez told a shareholders meeting at the fast-food chain’s suburban Chicago headquarters.

McDonald’s officials said they were studying a dollar breakfast menu in certain markets while continuing to test premium Angus burgers, iced coffees and sweet tea at other sites around the U.S.

“We’re working hard on menu choice,” CEO Jim Skinner said.

McDonald’s shares have climbed more than 50 percent in the past year on strong financial results. Skinner said he expects more of the same in the future for McDonald’s.

“People’s lives are only going to get busier and McDonald’s will only get more important as a destination for a quick, fun meal,” he said.

After four years of focusing on a strategy of improving finances, executives said the company would accelerate annual restaurant openings from its current rate of about 1 percent worldwide.

“We do believe there’s more opportunity in targeted markets ... and we do expect to pick the growth rate up some,” Skinner said. “You’ll never see it swing much beyond 2 percent.”

Officials also said the company would meet a July 1 deadline to begin complying with an ordinance passed by New York City banning the artificial trans fats used by many restaurants.

Nationwide implementation of the trans-fat-free oil will follow within the next year as seeds are harvested and processed to produce the oil, which is canola-based and includes corn and soy oils.

The company previously had said it hoped to debut the new oils simultaneously around the U.S.

McDonald’s gave few other details about healthier options on its menu, but said fruit and vegetable dishes likely won’t come in the form of entrees. Instead, they may include smoothies and side dishes.

“We’re looking at some other creative ways to potentially sell fruits and vegetables and include them in Happy Meals, but they’re very early in the development stages,” Alvarez said.

McDonald’s shares fell 61 cents to $50.96 Thursday.