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McDonald's new menu star: Limited-time offers

By Candice Choi

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:28 p.m. HST, May 04, 2012

NEW YORK >> The newest stars on the McDonald’s menu won’t be around for long.

The world’s biggest hamburger chain is rolling out two menu items that will be available only during the summer months. A seasonal blueberry banana nut oatmeal will be available nationwide by mid-month, and an iced drink called the Cherry Berry Chiller is already available everywhere.

In the years ahead, McDonald’s is expected to ramp up its pipeline of limited-time offers — which are available for only a few months at a time — to keep customers flocking to its restaurants.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast food company began its focus on limited-time offers on a national scale last year after research showed that variety was a top priority for consumers, said Wendy Cook, vice president of U.S. marketing at McDonald’s. Previously, the chain’s limited-time offers were mostly at the regional level. Seasonal items give loyal customers something new to try, but also bring in new customers who otherwise might go elsewhere, she said.

“Obviously customers are out there and they’re frequenting different places,” Cook said. “They’re starved for variety.”

The new focus on limited-time offers comes as McDonald’s looks to extend its dominance in a rapidly changing fast food industry.  In 2006, the top three fast food chains in the U.S. in terms of sales were all hamburger chains — McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.  Now Subway is No. 2 and Starbucks is in the No. 3 spot, with sales at both companies growing at a much faster clip, according to the food industry researcher Technomic Inc.

For McDonald’s, the limited-time offer also lets the company adapt more easily to evolving consumer tastes that are leaning more toward fresh, seasonal ingredients. Since McDonald’s operates on such a vast scale — it has 14,000 restaurants nationwide — sourcing the fruits for offerings such as the new the Cherry Berry Chiller can be difficult.

Last year, McDonald’s had a total of eight limited-time offers that spanned menu categories (including Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, Asian Chicken Salad, Angus Chipotle BBQ Burger); the company is planning to increase that figure this year. It offered Chicken McBites earlier this year.

The blueberry banana nut oatmeal (290 calories) and Cherry Berry Chiller (200 to 330 calories, depending on size) will be available until August.

McDonald’s declined to say what other limited-time offers are in the pipeline in the months ahead. But in a conference call with investors last month, executives noted that the Chicken McBites originated in Australia.

Executive said they plan to continue scouring its regional offerings from around the world for items that might have crossover appeal. That’s important because developing a new menu item — even if it’s only temporary — can take as long as two years.

The development time is shorter for items such as the blueberry banana nut oatmeal since the company already had a template with its fruit and maple oatmeal, said Anne Kohlenberger, manager of U.S. marketing for the company’s breakfast category.

Of course, there are instances when a limited-time offer is so popular that it earns a place in the starting lineup. That’s what happened with the Angus Third Pounders, which started as limited time offers in the late summer of 2009.

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Anonymous wrote:
"Starved for variety?" I would say Americans suffer w/ "variety obesity."
on May 4,2012 | 04:12AM
nigelUV001 wrote:
At least " all " happy meals now include apple slices and they are now serving oatmeal. They should start a "adult" happy meal, nurtritionaly sound and and healthy. They are promoting the 20 piece chicken mcnugget for less then $5. What about one hamburger, half a serving of small fries, double the serving of the side salad and some water, for $5. Substitute the toy for some nurtritional info that is not on the underside of the wrapper where no one looks at it. They could also get rid of some of the seats so the patrons need to stand instead of sitting down. Better yet why not develop a better tasting Big "Tofu" Mac burger. Why is that so hard, the Boca burger is already half way there.
on May 4,2012 | 08:54AM
Jalbios wrote:
good but w/ now a days its always about money (milkin everyone for there $$) while making/having something ready for a customer on the go. the point about your version of a pretty good meal idea looks interesting. me personally tho rather have the burger, big side salad, water, no fries or a reg small. That's the kinda meal McDonald's would charge like 6-7 for and i wouldn't wanna sell them that idea, haha. the toy = a "cheap" ways to get everyones kids into wanting McDonalds, And it would be something people that dont go often would be interested in but others would throw it away. However cashiers should have a "disposable" nutrition guide that they SHOULD offer the customer (if they're interested they'll take it). no real comment for gettin rid of some seats, i just say it might be bad for when some places have "rushs" of people. for the last part, i wouldn't want to buy a tofu burger from McDonalds/BK. Wouldn't want to imagine the Grease mixture of greases in a good burger/Patty, it'd be a slap in the face for healthy eating. could work over time if everything became a tofu burger but something like that would be .50-1.50 more in price. Time = Money, and if we would want a quality burger it would cost more money (at least how the chain industry would look at it)
on May 4,2012 | 09:59AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
No limited time offer from the Big Arches discussion is legit without mentioning the holy grail of them all: The McRib. Oooh yeah.
on May 4,2012 | 10:16AM
hilopango wrote:
Ditto that...& Japan's McD's has a pretty awesome teri burger, different from the one they occasionally offered here.
on May 4,2012 | 12:16PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
Really? Neat. It looks like lots of people like the McTeri burger here... what's the Japan one like?
on May 4,2012 | 01:46PM
Sunny wrote:
Just love the Angus Bacon & Cheese sandwich!
on May 4,2012 | 10:51AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I hope they bring back that Pink Slime stuff. I mean, McRib is just as much a mystery but lacks the tanginess of slime.
on May 4,2012 | 12:43PM
kaleo_1 wrote:
This just out- Burger King announces two new menu choices- a cherry/berry icy drink and a banana nut and blueberry oatmeal bowl!
on May 4,2012 | 03:26PM
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