Fast-food chains feel need to get real (AP photo / Thinkstock)
Fast-food chains feel need to get real
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Fast-food chains have a New Year's resolution: Drop the junk.

Customers don't want food they think is overly processed. McDonald's, Taco Bell and other chains are trying to shed their reputation for serving meals that are loaded with chemicals.

"This demand for fresh and real is on the rise," said Greg Creed. He is CEO of Yum Brands. The company owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut.

Creed said the company needs to be more transparent about ingredients. It also should use fewer preservatives, he said.

Recasting fast-food as "fresh" and "real" will be tricky. Terms like "fresh," ''real" and "healthy" have different meanings to different people.

Some companies are purging recipes of chemicals people might find unappetizing. PepsiCo, for instance, said it would remove brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade. The move came after a petition by a teenager. It complained the substance isn't approved for use in some markets overseas.

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.

"Why do we need to have preservatives in our food?" Andres asked, noting McDonald's restaurants go through supplies quickly. "We probably don't."

Subway has new TV ads. They say its 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 artificial dyes from its dressings.

Carl's Jr. has introduced an "all-natural" burger with no added hormones, antibiotics or steroids.

It's not clear how far fast-food companies will go in reformulating recipes. But the nation's biggest chains are facing growing competition. In the latest quarter, 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, which are seen as a step up from traditional fast-food, saw visits rise 8 percent.

Part of the appeal of fast-casual chains is that they position themselves as being higher in quality. Chipotle touts its use of organic ingredients and meat from animals that were raised without antibiotics. The company sales at established locations surged 19.8 percent in the most recent quarter. And Panera announced it would remove artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from its food by 2016.

Critical thinking challenge: If artificial ingredients cost more than natural ingredients, why would fast food companies remove the artificial ingredients?

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COMMENTS (310)
  • SD2000green
    1/07/2015 - 08:37 a.m.

    Fast food companies are removing artificial ingredients because it doesn't how much the ingredients cost if you can't make the money back. The customers are their only source of income, so if the customers are unhappy, they may stop shopping at the restaurant. If they stop eating at the fast food places, then the companies will lose more money than they can make, which is bad.

  • R.A.Micheal
    1/07/2015 - 08:37 a.m.

    They would remove the preservatives and artificial flavors because they cost more, and because people dislike "fake" food. The new trend is organic food and even the Fast Food has to change to keep up in time.

  • RS2000RED
    1/07/2015 - 08:39 a.m.

    I think the companies would remove the artificial stuff for 2 reason. One, to lower the cost they have to pay for the ingredients, and two, so they can get more customers by being 'healthy'

  • sl2000soccer
    1/07/2015 - 08:39 a.m.

    Fast food companies would remove the Artificial ingredients even though they could more because not all people want this in their food. If they can go all natural and it costs less, more people will come and buy stuff from McDonalds and they will make more money. They are trying to move to all natural because people have stopped going to these fast food places because of the chemicals in the food.

  • SA2001orange
    1/07/2015 - 08:41 a.m.

    Fast food companies would remove artificial ingredients from their food because first of all, the artificial ingredients are too expensive and second of all, natural ingredients are better to consume.

  • CourtneyS2015
    1/07/2015 - 09:04 a.m.

    i really like this article . Because it gives a lot of basic information on how the fast food restaurants are making a new resolution on how they should be making there foods.

  • CheyenneU2015
    1/07/2015 - 09:10 a.m.

    Many fast food places have a lot of junk in there junk food so many people want them to get fresh and not have a lot of chemicals in there food so we the people are heathy and not unhealthy.

  • SyroyiaL2015
    1/07/2015 - 09:18 a.m.

    That's Because Everybody Is Dying From Fast Food Restaurant And There's People Who's Trying To Sue But Its Not McDonalds Fault Everyone Wants To Eat There And Even If They Do Change The Chemicals They Need To Put LESS ACID MORE VEGGIES AND ETC.......

  • LAensly-Cas
    1/07/2015 - 09:58 a.m.

    The reason food companies want to remove the artificial ingredients is because the consumers complain about their food not being healthy and "real". But the point is that you're not supposed consume fast food everyday.

  • Ariannar103
    1/07/2015 - 10:10 a.m.

    I think it is a good but hard resolution. Its good because the food will be healthier but it is hard because fast food restaurants are used to serving the chemical food and they might not know how to make it healthier which would mean that the workers would have to learn how to make healthier foods. If artificial ingredients cost more than natural ingredients they could raise the price a little because it is more healthier and most people want healthy food,

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