McDonald’s one million free meal giveaway will resonate with 1 in 3 UK consumers

McDonald’s has joined a number of UK foodservice operators in offering to support families with free meals over this school half term, in response to English football star Marcus Rashford’s plea for the most vulnerable youngsters to be fed during this period. The move may seem surprising given the industry’s current challenges – *UK foodservice profit operators have seen sales fall to under US$71bn in 2020, against an initial pre-COVID forecast of US$104bn. However, it is reflective of the changing times, wherein consumers are increasingly holding companies accountable to their ethical standards, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Carmen Bryan, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “McDonald’s has made a number of ethically driven moves during the COVID-19 pandemic, and not all have been positively received. However, led by Marcus Rashford, the company’s latest announcement is sure to do well with public sentiment as it is both sincere and practical. By offering one million free meals to households in need, consumers will be able to see and understand the real-world impact of this act of charity; in contrast to many other campaigns, it is not a cheap or abstract marketing gimmick, it has a tangible effect.”

Demographically, the initiative will resonate especially well with Gen Xers, given this generations likely position as parents. According to GlobalData’s week 9 recovery survey, published October 14, nearly one in four respondents of this age group in the UK strongly agreed with the statement that they are ‘on a tight budget when shopping for products for their household’, with a further 31% somewhat agreeing with this.

Bryan continues: “This year may be known as the year corporate social responsibility took a real and practical meaning in consumers’ minds. Given the continued frustrations and anxiety around the pandemic, it’s no wonder that many consumers are holding big brands and companies more accountable than ever before. According to the same survey, nearly one in three UK consumers want to see news about initiatives adopted by brands during the pandemic period. This pressure for companies to be more socially responsible is not expected to dissipate, with a quarter of respondents wanting the same news on such initiatives even after the pandemic has ended. Through this act of kindness, McDonald’s has positioned itself well for UK consumers, both during and after the pandemic.”

*GlobalData‘s COVID-19 Impact Market Model – Foodservice

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