Saturday, March 05, 2011
One of the highlights of my visit to the McDonald's headquarters in Illinois last year was getting to taste some of their menu items that had just been introduced or were in the works. McCafe frappuccinos? We tasted them first. Fruit Smoothies? They hadn't even been rolled out in stores yet when we tried them.
And then there was this product that was so new, they weren't even sure if it would even become a McDonald's product: Fruit & Maple Oatmeal. The participants at the McDonald's Family Getaway were given a bowl of the oatmeal to try and rate, just like a consumer focus panel would. I fell in love with the oatmeal and gave it a "10" on every measure. I started praying to the fast-food gods that the oatmeal would make it onto the McDonald's menu.
That was in June 2010. In August, I got the chance to try it again at BlogHer. When I found out they were serving it at the McDonald's booth at BlogHer 2010, I passed on the official BlogHer breakfast and headed to the McDonald's booth to enjoy that creamy, hot yumminess. It was so good, it made my "Best Of BlogHer 2010" list.
Later in the year (September? October?) I saw a sign for McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal up at a McDonald's in Santa Cruz -- but it hadn't been rolled out nationwide yet, that was just a regional test market to see if the oatmeal would make the cut in actual stores. Still, that was a positive sign.
Then in January of this year, the heavens opened up: I received word that McDonald's Fruit & Maple oatmeal was available in all McDonald's stores! All day! For just $1.99!
Here's a snippet from McDonald's Jan. 3, 2011 press release:
OAK BROOK, IL--(Marketwire - January 3, 2011) - McDonald's kicks off the new year with the national introduction of its new Fruit & Maple Oatmeal available for customers at breakfast and throughout the entire day. Delivering two of the three recommended daily servings for whole grains and about a half cup of fruit, Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is McDonald's first new breakfast offering since 2008. Combining the perfect harmony of flavor, McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is prepared with 100 percent natural whole grain oats, light cream and brown sugar, and topped with diced, fresh red and green apples, tangy dried cranberries and two types of raisins. As part of McDonald's ongoing commitment to customer choice, every bowl of Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is freshly prepared upon request: customers may order it with brown sugar or without brown sugar for those who prefer a less sweetened option. Beyond breakfast, Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is served any time of the day in all of McDonald's participating 14,000 restaurant locations in the United States.
When I first tasted McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, I told the people at McDonald's that if it were available, it would make me visit McDonald's more -- and so far, I've kept my word. I've been buying a McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal about once a week since I found out it was available. I love it that much!
When it's made right, this oatmeal is warm and creamy. The toppings (a mixture of apples and raisins and cranberries) give some nice contrasting textures (crunchy and chewy), and there's enough brown sugar mixed in to last all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Since each bowl is prepared individually, you can order yours with or without brown sugar, and you can ask the server to go easy on the cream, or to serve the toppings on the side. It has good stuff like fiber and fruit. Yes, it's instant oatmeal (i.e. the server tears open a pack and adds hot water and milk) but it's really quite good -- the perfect fast-food breakfast or quick healthy snack.
How does it compare to other fast-food oatmeals? I've tried the Jamba Juice and Starbucks oatmeal, and I honestly have to say that I like the McDonald's version the best. The Jamba Juice version uses Irish-style steel-cut oats, which are somewhat grittier (I'm not a fan), and I find the toppings too sweet. The Starbucks version comes close, but it's not sweet enough (and it costs more). McDonald's has the Goldilocks of oatmeals for me: it's just right.
It breaks my heart to admit this, but I have to be honest -- the quality of oatmeal I've been served has varied widely. At this point, I don't think the stores know how to make it properly. Sometimes the oatmeal is just the right consistency; other times they put too much milk and it is a watery mess. Sometimes the oatmeal is perfectly piping hot; other times it has been lukewarm at best. Unfortunately, I've had to be kind of a diva (a nice, polite diva, but a very particular diva just the same) in order to get the oatmeal looking and tasting just right -- and I hate having to do it, but I have to do it because I know how good it can taste.
I know the real product rarely looks like the product you see on the photos, but trust me, if it's done right, it comes pretty darn close. So my advice to you, dear reader, is Don't Settle. If it's lukewarm, take it back. If it's too watery, wait a minute or so for the oatmeal to absorb some of the liquid. Then, if it still looks too watery, take it back to your server and ask, very nicely, if you could have it made with a bit less liquid. Trust me. The taste will make it all worth your while.
The Bottom Line
Consistency is a key quality component of the McDonald's experience, so I have every confidence that McDonald's will get this right. I really love that McDonald's has put a tasty, healthy, nourishing option on their menu!
Win a free McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal
I am giving away five coupons for a free McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal to five lucky Bonggamom Finds readers!
If you would like to try McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, leave a comment here and share your favorite oatmeal topping. I will pick 5 winners at random on March 30, 2011. Continental US residents only. Good luck!
Disclosure: The views and opinions expressed here are my own. I received 10 coupons for free McDonald's oatmeal (5 of which I am giving away on this post) , but I purchased all the McDonald's Fruit & Maple oatmeals I ate in order write this review. Once said coupons are gone, all purchases of McDonald's Fruit & Maple oatmeals (and there will be many) will be my own.