Dear McDonalds UK,
I, like millions of other people in the UK and globally cannot eat gluten. This isn’t a choice. It isn’t that I want to eat a healthy diet – I want to not be ill; which is what gluten makes me be. As I am sure you are aware the most severe form of gluten intolerance is Coeliac disease, which is characterised by chronic inflammation of the gut, diarrhoea, fatigue, neurological problems, infertility and an increased risk of certain cancers. Milder gluten intolerance and allergy does not necessarily carry the most severe symptoms but it can still be debilitating all the same. Regardless of the flavour of gluten intolerance the cause is an immune reaction to gluten from wheat, barley and rye and the good news is that simply not eating these grains entirely removes the symptoms. From my own experience I effectively had stomach ache and head full of fog for three decades until I realised what was going on.
In recent years the awareness of gluten intolerance has exploded dramatically and gluten free foods have come from something that you need a prescription for to regular menu items in high street outlets. Pizza has become especially easy to come by with Pizza Hut, Dominos and Pizza Express all selling a gluten free option. Many people would say that McDonalds is unhealthy and so on but actually, I would like the occasional burger and the choice is mine to make. I know McDonalds have a gluten free bun in Sweden but you have previously said that there is not sufficient demand in the UK to stock a gluten free bun. I am writing to try to convince you otherwise.
I think you can look at the demand in the UK in a few ways. First of all you can look colloquially at these pizza outlets and see that they continue to sell gluten free pizzas and profit accordingly. You can also look at the size of the Free From market generally, which is growing steadily and equates to 1% of the UK population and climbing. This is corroborated by sales figures from Warburtons of £6m in 2012; representing approx 1% of turnover. Finally as a little acid test we did a petition and so far have almost 1000 signatures. Compare to the pizza equivalent for scaling, although this has been out far longer.
So, 1% isn’t much right? This 1% is 650,000 people. The average person in the UK eats 21 McDonalds meals per year. Assuming each meal is a Big-Mac meal at £4.29 this equates to £2,788,500 in revenue lost because gluten free buns are not available. If you consider families that don’t visit because one member cannot eat anything this figure should be higher. The interesting thing about this figure is that unlike any other product you will introduce, you will not be cannibalising existing sales – these are new sales. Ok, you have to stock the buns in 1200 outlets and you will have the cost of the bun and spoilage to consider but to lose over £200 / m / outlet is extremely unlikely. Now, if I were a shareholder in McDonalds or part of the global McDonalds board, I would want to know why you are choosing to lose this amount of money each year.
I look forward to resuming Big Mac consumption!