McDonald’s is attempting to reverse its sagging fortunes in Japan with the launch this week of a new menu item: french fries smothered in chocolate sauce.
While the combination of deep-fried potato and sugary condiment is unlikely to impress dieticians, the fast-food chain’s Japan unit is hoping the arrival of McChoco Potatoes will counteract a slew of bad news about its performance in the world’s third-biggest economy.
While McDonald’s reported a 5.7% rise in US in the last three months of 2015, as well as plans to open another 60 stores in Russia this year, its Japanese sales have been hit by a series of food scandals and supply issues.
In late 2014, the firm was forced to restrict sales of fries after industrial action at US ports affected shipments of thousands of tonnes of the chain’s staple accompaniment to a burger to Japan.
Earlier the same year, officials in China closed down the firm’s poultry supplier amid allegations that it had deliberately mixed fresh chicken with expired produce.
Last year, its Japan operation was hit by reports of foreign objects –a piece of plastic and what appeared to be a human tooth – in McDonald’s chicken nuggets and french fries.
McDonald’s Japan, which operates almost 3,000 stores, reported a group net loss of ¥29 billion for the first nine months of 2015. It was expected to suffer a ¥38 billion ($318 million) net loss for the full year, with sales forecast to drop 10%. Last year, the firm said it would close about 130 stores in Japan and refurbish 2,000 others in the next four years.
The Nikkei business newspaper recently reported that the burger chain had reached out to investors about selling a part of its stake in its Japan business for 100 billion yen.
The sweet-and-salty fries, which come with two types of chocolate sauce – milk and white – cost 330 yen (2.77 US dollars), compared with 270 yen for a medium-sized portion of the regular version.
“Customers will find McChoco Potatoes enjoyable for different occasions, as it also makes for a great dessert. The combination creates a wonderful salty and sweet harmonious taste,” the company said in a press release.
Early reviews suggest the combination, while perhaps not to everyone’s taste, works surprisingly well. “Salt and chocolate complement each other quite well,” Brian Ashcraft wrote on the Kotaku website.
“Since the fries are served hot, when you squirt on the sauce, the warm fries heat up the sauce. This causes the chocolate smell to become even stronger and more noticeable.”
Japanese consumers won’t be able to indulge their sweet tooth for long, however: the chocolate fries will only be available until around mid-February, according to Rocket News.
This article was written by Justin McCurryin Tokyo, for theguardian.com on Thursday 28th January 2016 03.20 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010