George H. Bush famously renounced it, but Hungry Jack’s (Australian franchisee of Burger King) is planning to introduce broccoli as a side dish to compliment its Whopper™. However, this move has angered some public health advocates and confused others, provoking the question: What motivates a burger and fries chain to add raw broccoli, celery, carrots and hummus to its menu?
According to Aaron McKie, Hungry Jack’s CEO, the introduction of raw vegetables to the menu provides customers with “a healthy snack of necessary nutrients without unwanted kilojoules and creates a whole new product category for fast food”. For McKie, the introduction of broccoli is a simple of harmony of customer choice, nutritional health and the prospect of new markets.
Like the US and other Western nations, Australian politicians and health officials are concerned about the effect of diet on body weight and health, and it is the fast-food chains that are often targeted as key contributors to increase in body weight and decline in population health. In this context is the introduction of raw vegetables to the Hungry Jack’s menu merely good business practice, combining entrepreneurial dare with social responsibility, or is there a more dubious motivator?
Professor Mike Daube of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Curtin University suggests the motivation may not be customer health or choice, but a strategy to divert scrutiny over the health impact of its traditional products that are high in salt and saturated fats. In an interview with associated press he said ”If Hungry Jack’s thinks selling a few sticks of celery is going to take the heat off them, then they are wrong”.
While the inclusion of broccoli on a restaurant menu may appear an innocuous event, the contemporary politics of health and food produce the conditions in which such a move raises questions of motivation, intent and honesty. However it is also this political context that prompts burger and fries chains like Hungry Jack’s and McDonald’s to act in the interest of the public good and offer broccoli and salads. Yet the question remains, is health and nutrition a real concern of fast-food outlets, politicians and even customers – or is it a game in which we all participate?