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New on McDonald’s menu: Patties that don’t have food preservatives

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MUMBAI: Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt. Ltd, the company that runs McDonald’s outlets in south and west India, is now serving food preservative-free patties for Indians who associate preservatives with unhealthy and processed foods.

“We have taken out the preservatives from all our patties across vegetables, chicken and fish,” said Amit Jatia, vice-chairman, Westlife Development Ltd, the parent of Hardcastle. This is the latest step in an ongoing journey that started three years ago to provide healthier food in India.

For the fast food chain, which prides itself in getting a consistent taste every time, the reformulating of the patties while keeping the taste intact took over six months. The preservative-free patties were introduced across its restaurants in the last month at no additional costs to the consumers, said Jatia. He did not share the costs or investments made in development of the new recipes.

In the past 18 months, the company has reduced the sodium content across fries, nuggets, patties and sauces by 20%. It has also developed a low-fat mayonnaise, reducing the calorie count by 11%. “Health for us is an ongoing journey. We will be working on this for the next 10 years,” said Jatia, adding that the initiatives taken so far have impacted 75% of its products in some way or other.

These initiatives are important as India is seeing an increase in the number of obese people. According to data released in October by the World Obesity Federation, a community of organizations dedicated to solving the problem of obesity, the percentage of Indian adults living with obesity is set to jump to around 5% by 2025, from 3.7% in 2014.

Additionally, there is also a growing trend of health and wellness. “We understand the food business and hence are taking the leadership position to educate the consumer on what is possible,” said Jatia, who has been one of the two India franchisees since the brand launched 22 years ago. The second franchisee, Connaught Plaza Restaurants Pvt. Ltd, which runs McDonald’s outlets in north and east India, is in the middle of a legal battle between its promoter Vikram Bakshi and McDonald’s over the termination of the partnership.

HRPL has 271 restaurants across India. The company recorded a profit of Rs7.75 crore on revenue of Rs305.19 crore in the December quarter.

The total size of the organized quick service restaurant sector is about Rs25,000 crore and is growing at an annual average rate of 15-18% a year, according to consulting firm Wazir Advisors.

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