McDonald's Corp. is retiring its fruit and walnut salad later this year, but it won't abandon fruit on the menu all together. Today, the company saw the nationwide launch of its new McCafé Real Fruit Smoothie line, marking the final component in the brand's specialty beverage strategy.
The frozen drinks (which include real fruit blends, fruit juice, ice and low-fat yogurt) are available in strawberry-banana and wild berry flavors. The latter is a combination of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.
The smoothies can also be customized with or without low-fat yogurt.
They are available in small (12 ounces), medium (16 ounces) and large (22 ounces), and the suggested retail price of a small smoothie is $2.29.
"The addition of the smoothies to the McCafé beverage line reinforces McDonald's as a convenient destination for a variety of quality, great-tasting beverages at a value only McDonald's can offer,” said Ashlee Yingling, spokeswoman for McDonald's USA.
Thus far, the specialty beverage line – which includes espresso-based drinks and frappes and was initially introduced in the United States in 2009 – has helped the company exceed its initial goal of adding $125,000 in annual sales to the average U.S. store.
In addition to the nationwide launch, participating McDonald's stores will hold three national sampling days beginning July 22.
According to Darren Tristano, executive vice president of foodservice consultants Technomic, Inc., it makes sense for McDonald's to delve into the smoothie market.
“For McDonald's to compete with Jamba Juice or Smoothie King seems like a great idea because they’ll have the product available at the drive-thru and at a 'etter price," he said. "It will also allow their guests to upgrade into something different — a smoothie can be a snack or a meal, so McDonald’s adds convenience and becomes more of a one-stop shop.”
Consumers will also be excited about the "healthy perspective" of the smoothie, according to Tristano.
"Because there is fruit and there is yogurt, this product has a perception of fresh and that translates into a perception of healthy — regardless of its sugar content or calorie count," he said. "This is an indulgent and a crave-able product."
He also expects the McDonald's launch to be a boon for the smoothie market overall. Although it will increase competition for the Jamba Juice-type of specialty locations, anything McDonald's puts out will increase exposure.
"It will be competitive and may draw some traffic away from places like Smoothie King or Jamba Juice, but it will also create more awareness and a greater demand for this product," Tristano said. "I think ultimately it will translate into more sales for the other places."