In the US and Canada, it’s no secret that McDonald’s Golden Arches are primarily known for representing fast, cheap, incredibly unhealthy food that only teenagers and irresponsible adults would ever indulge in. Delicious as it may be, more and more North Americans are making healthier choices, and Business Insider recently reported that an overly complicated menu, intense allegations on food processing, and steadily increasing prices are among the top reasons that McDonald’s is being seen as the enemy.

With the Olympics having just ended in Rio, popular media has found no shortage of negativity and corruption to report about. One of the chief topics of interest is the food being provided by the Olympic Village, and how it is resonating with the various nationalities of athletes and coaches who are competing. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to Ronald and his selection of calorie cramming goodies in just a minute.

60,000 meals per day, made with over 460,000 pounds of raw ingredients are what is being served up by the food staff at the Olympic Village’s dining compound. The size of which is around the same as 2 football fields, with half of it being taken up by the kitchen alone. That fun fact is not all that People Magazine recently reported about the yummy situation in Rio. They also shined some very positive light on the fact that completely clean ingredients are all that are being used, that athletes dietary restrictions due to religion and other cultural needs are taken into account, and a variety of meal types are available to athletes and coaches from different countries where breakfast isn’t the same. This all sounds incredible. A near limitless supply of clean, healthy, fighting-fit ingredients specific to athletes individual needs, with a little variety to boot. If this was all we’d heard, then it would be pretty safe to say that my stomach would be jealous. However, that’s not all we’ve heard, and the truth is, that dear old Ronald and his Golden Arches are making a dramatic entrance back into the story.

Shot via @sawansera on Instagram
Turns out, that in spite of all the specific cuisine available, the vast majority of athletes from nearly every country in attendance are far more interested in having their appetites satisfied by Mickey-D’s than by the hard working men and women of the Olympic village kitchen. McDonald’s is the ONLY major fast food chain in attendance at the summer games and it would seem as though their monopolization of the event is paying off. The lines at peak meal times weave themselves around buildings and other obstacles in total exceeding the length of the typical olympic dining hall. Fox News reports that given the fact that the food is completely free for athletes and coaches, there has been an imposed soft limit of 20 items per order/per person in order to maintain some level of order filling efficiency.
All this begs the important question and the question that we at LPSI cannot help but find ourselves asking. WHY? How could all these athletes train for so long, be competing in the global summer Olympics, and be so careless with their diets when it comes to choosing McDonald’s over the carefully planned and prepared healthy selection of the Olympic Dining Hall? Multiple sources have reported that upon asking the athletes, the answers are actually quite simple. Here is what we discovered. When asked, many athletes said that because their diets are comprised in some cases of eating over 10,000 calories per day, having 2,000-4,000 from tons of McDonald’s isn’t really a big deal. Others revealed that because they had come from a place in the world where McDonald’s isn’t readily available on every other street corner, they were simply taking advantage of being in a place where they could enjoy the famous American Novelty free of charge. Finally, when athletes were asked why they were NOT choosing to eat in the dining hall, many of them commented that despite the variety and clean ingredients, that the food simply didn’t taste very good. Now it’s time to tell you why we’re writing about this when it has nothing to do with Groceries.
Nutrition label reform is on the way come October. Many companies, especially those who produce or sell products not viewed as particularly healthy are afraid of certain aspects of this change. Things like increased calorie count font size, exact serving amounts to the decimal, and clearer guidelines for how ingredients have to be displayed have caused concerns. Truth is, there are plenty of other aspects about your product or store that your customer cares about more than what the label says. If the olympics are to be any sort of example, they should show that if the top athletes in the world who have stricter diets than anyone else, are choosing the least healthy meals available to them because they “like the taste” then label reform shouldn’t be all that scary. We are going to be launching a free eBook that talks about the top 10 reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid of label reform. We list compelling priorities about the worst nutrition offenders amidst our 130+ category suite. So be sure to subscribe to our blog and stay up to date with us so you can be ready for October.
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by Tyler Erickson
Digital Marketing Manager, Shopper Intelligence North America