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McDonald's to hand out free smoothie samples

McDonald's to hand out free smoothie samples

McDonald’s Corp. said it would promote its new Real Fruit Smoothies, which launched nationwide Tuesday, with free samples next week.

The chain of more than 14,000 quick-service restaurants in the United States will give customers a free sample of Wild Berry or Strawberry Banana Real Fruit Smoothies on July 22-24, said Ashlee Yingling, supervisor of U.S. media relations for McDonald’s.

“The addition of McCafe Real Fruit Smoothies to the McCafe beverage line reinforces McDonald’s as a convenient destination for a variety of quality, great-tasting beverages at a value only McDonald’s can offer,” Yingling said.

Prices for the smoothies vary by market and start at a suggested $2.29 for a 12-ounce serving.

Last July when it debuted the McCafe line of espresso-based premium coffee, McDonald’s offered free samples of 7-ounce iced mochas and 8-ounce hot mochas on “Mocha Mondays” for four weeks.

Darren Tristano, executive vice president of market research firm Technomic in Chicago, said the new smoothies should pay off quickly for McDonald’s operators. McDonald’s could make a sensible destination for smoothies, he said, because it has the added convenience of a drive-thru, with lower price points than smoothie chains and a more diverse menu.

“It likely will cannibalize sales of some other beverages, but it should increase the check average and margins,” Tristano said. “If a customer upgrades to a smoothie with their meals, they’ll be willing to pay $1 or so more than a regular soft drink. Smoothies also have a perception of healthfulness, so these will add a ‘healthy’ item to McDonald’s menu.”

A chain with the scale of McDonald’s threatens to steal some market share from established smoothie chains like Jamba Juice and Smoothie King, Tristano added, even though it currently has just two varieties and does not compete with smoothie players’ flourishes like nutritional supplements and exotic flavors.

“McDonald’s will take a little market share because of its convenience and price point,” he said, “but Jamba and others have very loyal fans, so there’ll be no significant decline in traffic for them. Over time, this will make smoothies even more mainstream, and that will benefit all players.”

Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s operates or franchises more than 32,000 restaurants worldwide.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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