Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

McDonald’s enters local coffee market scene

Gasoline prices are high.  That is no question.  And, there are endless reports of how high they really are and the cost to fill up your car tank.  It is funny, though.  Coffee prices are high, too.  Surprisingly, though, despite the popularity of coffee, you do not see nearly as much media coverage or local complaints as you might expect on the topic.


In fact, despite the fact it costs more to drive your car around town, consumers are still willing to pay high prices for gourmet coffee drinks at local coffee shops and restaurants.  So, even if it costs the same to buy a coffee drink that it does to drive 15 to 25 miles, it does not seem to be a big deal to consumers.


And, guess who wants in on the deal?  McDonald’s.  The debut of their new McCafe coffee drinks has created a spark of new interest to the traditional burger, nuggets and fries spot.  The first McCafe – an actual coffee shop – opened in Chicago in May 2001.  Said to offer espresso drinks, hot chocolates, smoothies, premium teas and pastries, the McCafe was created to be a stand alone store.  Currently, there are 1300 McCafes in the world.  In our area, however, you are more likely to find a selection of gourmet drinks like lattes and cappuccinos offered in the regular McDonald’s restaurants.  And, the price sits less than many other coffee shops in the area.


So how about the popularity?  From worldwide numbers, McCafe stores seems to bring in more revenue than McDonald’s restaurants.  We know how popular other leaders in the business like Starbucks continue to be – just look around.  You can find Starbucks just about anywhere.  And, despite recent reports that the company was not doing as well as usual and needing to close some stores nationwide, I think there surely has to be a line drawn somewhere – you do not need a Starbuck’s on every corner in order to draw a crowd.  I am fine to drive a couple miles to the one closest to me. 


So with the debut of the McCafe coffee drinks as we enter in into the fall season, we will have to see whether local McDonald’s restaurants draw more of a crowd simply due to the new menu additions. 


When I asked a few friends if they would rather stay with Starbucks or switch to McCafe selections, most said they’d be willing to try the McCafe but doubted whether they would veer away from their favorite coffee shops (Starbucks and Dilworth Coffee seem to be the most popular) in search for a cheaper coffee.  I certainly have yet to find a decaffeinated organic soy latte that I like better than Starbucks!  On the other hand, if you like the flavor of competitor’s espresso and do not mind having non-organic milk choices, you could pay a little less and just go through the fast food drive-through. 


So, I plan to use the coupon I received in the mail for a free McCafe drink – for research sake!  So long as it is available in decaf (which is listed on the menu), I am willing to try it.  If McDonald’s begins to offer organic milk, that would be an incentive to return.


For nutritionals on McCafe drinks, visit http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/bagamcmeal/nutrition_facts.html.  For Starbucks drinks, visit http://www.starbucks.com/retail/nutrition_beverages.asp.


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This entry was posted on September 21, 2008 by in Hydration, Specific foods and tagged , , , , , , .
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