Kicking Back With Jersey Joe: Is There Really Fruit in McDonald’s Real Fruit Smoothies? Aug13

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Kicking Back With Jersey Joe: Is There Really Fruit in McDonald’s Real Fruit Smoothies?


a blogumn by Jersey Joe

McDonald’s – say the name and anyone on this planet will know their golden arches, burgers, and of course, Ronald McDonald.  Just about every person in the United States has indulged at one of their restaurants, either for a quick meal or for a tasty treat.  The chain has been the target of just about every health organization out there, asking thme to clean up their menu.  Over the past year, the Golden Arches have beefed up their beverage choices.  Now, the fast food giant has rolled out their newest menu offering: real fruit smoothies.

My first thought – what do real fruit smoothies have to do with a fast food hamburger joint?  I was skeptical, but decided to give the McSmoothie a try.

The big beverage change to their menu began with the McCafe line of high-end coffees and frappe drinks a few months ago.  These have been available in international restaurants for a few years, but now are sold in the US.  Clearly, they are trying to compete with Starbucks.  For decades, the only coffee choice was regular or decaf.  Now, it’s cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos.   The McCafe line has been a huge and profitable success.  Now, they’ve taking the next step: fruit.

The company has been quietly test marketing the fruit smoothies for over three years.  After perfecting the recipes, they settled on strawberry-banana and wild berry.

I stopped by the local Mickey D’s on a Thursday night and ordered up the strawberry banana smoothie to go with my meal.  After being the third person in line, I finally pulled up to the drive thru window and received my meal… but no smoothie.  The guy just walked away.  I’m thinking, did he forget – what’s happening now?  No clue.  I then heard the blender firing up and was hoping that was mine.  From the window, I could not see what was going on in there.  About two minutes later, he returned to the window and handed me my large strawberry banana smoothie.  First thing I learned, these are made to order.

I slammed my straw into the cup and took a taste.  My first thought: this thing is pretty good.  It didn’t seem to be made from any concentrate or prepackaged mix that I could tell.  You could taste the microscopic crunchies from the seeds on the side of the strawberries.  These two fruits, whipped together with a generous helping of yogurt, really work.  It wasn’t too overly sweet as I had feared.  I did taste more strawberry than banana, but I thought that was fine.

I wanted to try the wild berry flavor as well.  So last Tuesday, I stopped at another McDonald’s location on New York City’s Upper East Side and ordered a regular (there is no small) to go with my lunch.

Being inside the restaurant I could see exactly how these smoothies are being made.  I watched the employee dispense another person’s smoothie from a large black blending machine with ice cubes in the top.  I knew mine was next, so I watched and waited.  I was ready to see a box of fresh berries appear, since the ad says “real” fruit smoothies.  Instead, he simply glanced at a LED touch screen on the front of the unit and selected the wild berry flavor.  It looked to be a set of different buttons, once for the banana, one for wild berry, and others for the various coffee and frappe offerings.  The blender kicked in and out came mine.  This time, it took only about 30 seconds.

With their secret out, I set off to eat.  I took my first sip of this flavor and instantly noticed a strong blueberry taste.  You could also taste the strawberry, but the blueberry is definitely the prominent flavor here.  This one is a little harder to tell if it is indeed made with real fruit or not.  Again, it’s a silky texture (being mixed with yogurt) and the color is a very dark rose.  The wild berry flavor is definitely sweeter than the banana offering.

So are these things really healthy and is that real fruit in there as the ad says?  According to online reports, it’s a fruit puree.  The prepackaged puree is mixed with the low fat yogurt and blended together, which is what I saw with the touch of a button.  You won’t observe anybody adding real fruit and then blending like at a Jamba Juice.  However, most of what goes in the puree is natural.  There are a few artificial flavors, but that counts for less than one percent of the drink.

The calorie count is not too high, either:  210 for the small and 260 for the large.  You do get whammied with the sugar.  56 ounces in the large, which is more then 2 Snicker bars worth of sugar!  Keep that in mind if you’re watching the sugar!

THE 411


Cost: $2.29 for a small

Flavors: Strawberry-Banana and Wild Berry

Available: most US locations

JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS: For something different, give these a try.  I wouldn’t make a special trip just to get one, but if you are heading to the Golden Arches or are passing near one, then they’re worth it.  They really are a bargain.  If you’ve ever had a cup of the Yoplait strawberry banana or mixed berry yogurt, then you’ve had this.  They’re also not the most thirst quenching beverage out there.  You probably won’t be craving one after mowing the lawn for an hour in the hot sun.  If you are really looking for a fresh fruit smoothie, then head elsewhere.  While these do contain a fruit puree, they are meant to be quickly served and that does take away from the freshness aspect.  My gut tells me that these will not become part of the long term menu.  They just don’t fit in with the branding, or what you come to expect to see at a McDonald’s.