Wendy’s Natural Cut Fries With Sea Salt Not So Natural?

By now most of us have had a chance to try Wendy’s new Natural Cut Fries with Sea Salt and personally I have to say that I think they did a pretty good job. Wendy’s new fries are actually a huge step up on the old ones and some might say even better than McDonald’s. I don’t know if I would go that far but they are very good none the less. Wendy’s has gone a long way to make people think that the new fries are somehow better because they are more natural and user better ingredients but that isn’t actually the case. I wouldn’t call this misleading, I just think of it as great marketing.

The new fries which leave the skin on are “natural cut” but that has nothing to do with the naturalness of the product. For those of you not in the know, “natural cut” means is that inside the processing plant, the potatoes skip the step of getting steamed at such a high temperature that the skins burst off.  Instead, Wendy’s potatoes go straight to the high tech cutters where they’re sliced. From there the fries sprayed with sodium acid pyrophosphate, a chemical that prevents them from turning brown during two deep fry sessions, one at the plant and the other at the store. They also get hit with a little dextrose, a sugar derived from corn that also helps to prevent browning.   After that they get processed, frozen (the hamburgers still aren’t), and shipped to any one of Wendy’s 6600 stores across the country. This isn’t to point Wendy’s out though, this is what ever fast food chain does probably with the exception of Five Guys. I commend Five Guys for how they do their food, especially the fries but nobody is going to tell me that Five Guys fries taste better than either Wendy’s or McDonald’s.

Another thing to note is that while Wendy’s new fries taste much better there are added costs for that extra flavor. While leaving the skins on do add about 1 gram of fiber per serving, the added “sea salt” increased the sodium content by a whopping 43% to 500 milligrams in a medium size. As we all know more salt makes everything taste better.

For Wendy’s part they have to do what they need to do to stay competitive and they have never blatantly misrepresented anything about the new product. It’s up to us as the consumer to ask the right questions and not confuse what we see and hear on TV. Wendy’s CMO Ken Calwell summed it rather accurately when he said “People are saying they want high integrity ingredients, things their grandmother would have used, that don’t look like they came out of a chemistry lab.”But they’re also saying I’ve got a family to feed and can only afford to spend about $4 on my lunch, and I’ve only got about a minute or two to eat it.” Right you are Mr. Calwell, right you are. Calwell did go on to say that making Wendy’s menu items more natural and more real is the company’s “North Star.” “We’re taking it product line by product line to make our food closer to this real ingredients story. Over time, you’ll see our ingredient labels getting shorter and more of those high integrity ingredients. It just takes time.

The man has a point, on the one hand we say we want food that is healthier for us but when companies say that it will cost us more to have those options the overwhelming majority of us aren’t willing to pay the increased cost. So I suppose companies like Wendy’s are left to take tiny steps, maybe we will get to the point where there is a balance of healthier options on menus across the country some day. If you are wondering when they day will come though, well I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. Just out of curiosity if Wendy’s went with a true all natural process for their fries similar to what Five Guys does and it raised the price of a $4 combo to $5.50 would you mind paying the extra cost?
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  1. Joe Porfert says:

    In response to your question “if Wendy’s went with a true all natural process for their fries similar to what Five Guys does and it raised the price of a $4 combo to $5.50 would you mind paying the extra cost?”: if Wendy’s did that, then the combo would be irrevocably altered. We like Wendy’s for their current products and how they taste; if we want more natural/higher quality ingredients, we’ll go to Five Guys. With more and more people being born in/immigrating to America, it’s unreasonable to think that fast food establishments are going to be able to improve their menu with rarer ingredients. If anything, it’s more likely that they will simply struggle to not cut even more corners.

  2. It’s a tough position for the fast food companies to be in no doubt. You talked about the taste, I suppose I should have said as much in the post but that question assumes that the flavor of the product doesn’t noticeably change. So they would be using better ingredients with no real taste change. I don’t really understand your point about the number of people being born unless you meant that there will be so many people that they will have to look for even more ways to do more with less?

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