McDonald's Pulls McBites From Menu
Friday, March 29 2013
McDonald’s bet on their new Fish McBites to help lift the company out of financial doldrums this winter. The gamble didn’t pay off: The new product didn’t sell very well, and it’s going to be pulled from the menu at the end of March.
But as KUCB’s Lauren Rosenthal reports, the McBites experiment wasn’t a total flop -- at least, not for Alaskan fishermen.
McDonald’s introduced their Fish McBites this winter with a splashy marketing campaign and a new jingle.
[McBites' theme song]
The company tried to spotlight the sustainable, wild-caught Alaskan pollock that goes into the fried nuggets in their ads. They even paid to put a special certification on their food packaging.
And adding more fish to the menu was supposed to add up to more business -- for McDonald’s, and for Alaskan fishing fleets.
But the McBites haven’t been all they were cracked up to be. McDonald’s couldn’t sell enough of them in February to get out of a financial slump, and the marketing campaign became a punchline:
[NPR's "Morning Edition"]
Renee Montagne: "They haven’t made much of a sales splash for McDonald’s."
Steve Inskeep: "I can’t imagine why not. If a fish sings at you from a plaque on the wall, don't you think, 'Oh! I want to eat that now!'"
Montagne: "I’m there. Yes, slice it up."
But how do they taste? I asked Frank Kelty, a 30-year veteran of Alaska’s fishing industry and a longtime fan of McDonald’s Filet ‘O’ Fish sandwich.
How about McBites?
Kelty: "You know, they had some spices on them that I don’t really care for. I don’t know if it was lemon salt or something. But they weren’t bad!"
Marvin Nitta is a food blogger, and editor in chief of the website Impulsive Buy. He was equally non-committal.
Nitta: "A mild fishy flavor to it. It’s not very strong. Even though the breading is kind of weak, it kind of mutes a little bit of the flavor of the fish."
In other words: Fish McBites are bland.
Nitta: "Thankfully, McDonald’s includes a tartar sauce. So the tartar sauce makes it taste a whole lot better than if you just eat it plain."
Nitta says he understands why McDonald’s is taking Fish McBites off the menu in the United States at the end of the month.
But the company says that was always the plan -- that the McBites were a limited time promotion for Lent. Still, despite the lukewarm reviews and sales, McBites may not be gone for good.
As part of its new sales strategy, the company wants to start adding and subtracting new foods to the menu. McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson described the plan at a conference in Boston this month.
Thompson: "You’re gonna see more products rotate in that we think may have broader appeal."
They won’t say whether McBites make the cut. But Alaskan pollock did. As part of the McBites marketing, McDonald’s promised to use only certified-sustainable, wild Alaskan pollock in their restaurants from here on out.
That’s the main ingredient in the Filet ‘o’ Fish sandwich, a menu staple. And that sandwich isn’t going anywhere. They’re a best-seller at McDonald’s stores in the US, where customers bought 200 million of them in 2012.
[McBites' theme song]