Americans do not consider McDonald's food healthy, but in China, McDonald's is the epitome of health food and the Chinese have a big appetite for it.
NPR.org reports that a group that studies Chinese consumer behavior, China Market Research, found that Chinese consumers trust American brands more than theirs and believe that McDonald's provides safe and wholesome food.
According to Shaun Rein, founder of China Market Research, Chinese McDonald's ad campaign seeks to reinforce the public perception of McDonald's food as healthful by using brightly colored vegetables and rain-sprinkled, fresh looking tomatoes .
According to Rein, in an interview with NPR's Linda Wertheimer, "They wanted to use nice, healthy, looking food for the Chinese consumer because the Chinese are petrified of the food supply chain."
Rein explains that McDonald's healthful image in China is not the result of ignorance that much of McDonald's food is high in fat. Rein assures that Chinese consumers know that much of McDonald's menu is high in fat. Consumers are also aware of the negative health effects of a high fat diet. But for Chinese consumers, the issues in what rates as healthy food are different. Rein explains: "In a country that deals with food scandals seemingly on a daily basis, like melamine in milk, people are gravitating towards McDonald's and other Western fast food brands because they trust them as being healthy." Where "it’s a choice between a little extra fat in your shake or a little extra melamine, healthy eating can take on a whole new meaning," MSN Now explains.
According to Rein, McDonald's ad campaign is working hard to deliver the message that the chain uses "wholesome, clean, hygienic food," and the campaign is scoring success in competition with "street vendors... (who) sometimes rely on used cooking oil from the sewers." McDonald's appeal to Chinese consumers is helped by widespread disregard of safe food handling practices by local vendors.
NPR.org reports that while McDonald's is making giant strides in China, it still has some way to go to reach the "the prowess of Pizza Hut in China, where the atmosphere is considered nice enough to host a business meeting or go out on date night."
Rein says McDonald's should also be worried about competition from other Western brands like Dunkin' Donuts, Burger King and Krispy Kreme, who are all making new major investments in China.
MSNBC reports McDonald's first opened in China in 1990 at a time the brand was practically unknown to Chinese consumers except as a symbol of "Western decadence." But now mainland China has hundreds of McDonald's restaurants. With growing prosperity, more and more Chinese can afford to patronize McDonald's. The company opened its first drive-thru outlet in November, 2005, and according to Jeff Schwartz, CEO of McDonald's in China, it's been "very, very successful."