Fast-food chains feel need to get real
Fast-food chains have a New Year's resolution: Drop the junk.
More and more people say they don't want to eat food they think is overly processed. McDonald's, Taco Bell and other chains are trying to shed their reputation for serving food that is loaded with chemicals.
"This demand for fresh and real is on the rise," said Greg Creed. He is the boss at Yum Brands. The company owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut.
Recasting fast-food as "fresh" and "real" will be tricky. Terms like "fresh," ''real" and "healthy" mean different things to different people.
And fast-food chains are indicating they want to jump on the "clean label" trend too:
McDonald's USA President Mike Andres said to expect some changes in early 2015. The company reported a 4.6 percent decline in U.S. sales for November. The results capped two years of struggling performance.
"Why do we need to have preservatives in our food? We probably don't." Andres said. McDonald's restaurants go through supplies quickly.
Subway has started airing new TV ads. They say the restaurant's new chicken strips are free of artificial preservatives and flavors.
Chick-fil-A said in 2013 it would remove high-fructose corn syrup from buns. And it would remove artificial dyes from its dressings. Now it plans to serve only chicken raised without antibiotics. But it will take five years to make that happen.
Carl's Jr. has introduced an "all-natural" burger. The hamburger has no added hormones, antibiotics or steroids.
It's not clear how far fast-food companies will go in changing recipes. But customer visits to traditional fast-food hamburger chains declined 3 percent from a year ago. That's according to market researcher NPD Group. Fast-casual chains, such as Panera and Chipotle, are seen as a step up from traditional fast-food. Tthey saw visits rise 8 percent.
Critical thinking challenge: If artificial ingredients cost more than natural ingredients, why would fast food companies remove the artificial ingredients?