The Real Reason Why McDonald’s SuperSized Menu Disappeared

The Real Reason Why McDonald’s SuperSized Menu Disappeared

August 18, 2019 100 By Bertrand Dibbert


McDonald’s announced it was phasing out its
Supersized fries and drinks back in 2004. But the concept of “Supersizing” is so firmly
associated with McDonald’s and American fast food culture that people still use the term
more than a decade later. So why did the Supersize menu disappear, anyway? The reason McDonald’s officially gave for
making the decision to get rid of Supersizing isn’t what you might expect. Walt Riker, a spokesman for McDonald’s, explained
the move in a brief statement back in 2004, saying: “The driving force here was menu simplification.” That’s a surprising rationale, considering
analysts have long considered the McDonald’s menu to be too big to keep costs down and
the speed of service up, and removing Supersizing arguably did little to address those concerns. According to Bloomberg, in fact, McDonald’s
had 145 menu items in 2013, which is 85 more than they had in 2007, just three years after
Supersizing disappeared. If anything, the menu’s gotten more complicated
post-Supersizing. So there’s more to the story than just a desire
to keep the menu simple. CBS News noted that the decision to get rid
of Supersizing back in ’04 went hand-in-hand with increasing pressure at the time being
put on fast food restaurants to offer healthier alternatives. Awareness of the dangers of fast food was
perhaps at an all-time high, with several high-profile lawsuits at the time against
McDonald’s and other chains for allegedly not being clear enough that what they were
serving was unhealthy. Nothing really came of these lawsuits, but
they raised the profile of fast food’s damaging effects, as well as the pressure on the major
franchises to do something to help reverse those effects So it’s likely that pressure had at least
something to do with McDonalds nixing Supersized options, whether the burger giant wanted to
admit it or not. But McDonalds was in a bit of a bind at the
time, since it had claimed in the past that the option to Supersize fries and drinks had
nothing to do with increasing obesity rates. So crediting those rates or just wanting to
provide healthier options for getting rid of all-things-Supersized would have contradicted
the iconic eatery’s past statements. Behind the scenes, in fact, the move to remove
Supersizing was done under the umbrella of McDonald’s “Eat Smart, Be Active” initiative,
which launched in 2003. The campaign was geared toward not just making
McDonald’s healthier, but giving stagnant sales a much-needed boost. At the same time Supersizing disappeared,
McDonald’s also traded in 2 percent milk for 1 percent, added entree salads, and tweaked
portion sizes across the board. But how popular was this upsizing option,
anyway? If you always said yes to Supersizing, it
turns out, you were actually in the minority. Spokesperson Walt Riker listed this as another
reason for removing the option from menus back in 2004, saying, “The fact of the matter is not very many Supersize
fries are sold.” That may come as a surprise to those of us
who remember the Supersized menu with fondness, but it’s true. The actual numbers are even more shocking,
according to the BBC, Supersize options accounted for just .1 percent of McDonald’s total sales
at the time it was phased out. When America’s favorite mustachioed documentarian
Morgan Spurlock named his 2004 expose on the physical consequences of the fast food industry
Super Size Me, it forever linked McDonald’s trademark option with weight gain and a whole
slew of health issues. “Large or Supersize?” “I think I’m gonna have to go Supersize!” But spokesperson Walt Riker, as you’d expect,
said that the film had nothing to do with the disappearance of Supersizing. McDonald’s official line on the film was that
it wasn’t actually a film about their food; it was about Spurlock making the incredibly
bad choice to eat 5,000 calories a day, which is a fair enough point. But the success of Super Size Me certainly
added negative connotations to the Supersizing concept, likely influencing McDonald’s decision
to not resurrect it in the years since. Here’s the super weird thing: Supersizing
is no more, but when you actually compare current sizes to what you got when you Supersized
something, there’s actually not too much of a difference! The difference between a large and a Supersized
Coke was only a relatively small 97 calories in 2004. When it comes to the fries, you were only
getting 74 more calories and about 3 more grams of fat in the Supersized version. CBS News adds that a Supersized carton of
fries held 7 ounces, and the large that stayed on the menu was a 6-ounce container. Bottom line: It’s easy as ever to indulge
on Mickey D’s if you really want to, whether it’s called “Supersizing” or not. So don’t waste your time mourning the loss
of the chain’s more indulgent days, Supersizing is still alive and well, if only in spirit. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite
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