November 20, 2011

My #cbias Search For Equal Low Calorie Sweetener At McDonald's

Although I don't use artificial sweeteners in place of real sugar for myself or my children, I know of many people who use sweeteners day to day, due to health reasons or diet.  My father was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes 3 years ago, and his life is forever changed.  Along with following a strict diet of high fibre and low sugar foods, he has had to find a way to replace sugar in certain foods and in his favourite morning beverage - coffee.

When approached by Collective Bias to join the search for Equal Low Calorie Sweetener at a Canadian McDonald's location, I jumped at the chance.  We rarely eat at McDonald's (Lil-J's gluten-free diet prevents us from eating at most take-out restaurants), but we do like treat the boys on the rare occasion.  I also thought about the limited diet that diabetics are forced to follow.  To me, sugar is sugar.  But artificial sweeteners are different - different chemical ingredients resulting in different tastes.  Consumers should be presented with a variety of artificial sweeteners when visiting a restaurant or cafe.  I was curious to see if my local McDonald's offered such a variety, including Equal.

Before I share my experience at McDonald's in the search of Equal, here's the lowdown on Equal Low Calorie Sweetener:
  • Equal has been a trusted brand of sweetener for 30 years
  • Equal offers two different varieties of their popular sweetener in Canada:
  • Equal Classic (blue package) contains aspartame and is the original Equal Sweetner
  • Equal Sucralose (yellow package) contains sucralose, commonly used when replacing real sugar in baked goods
  • Equal can be used in many food and drink recipes to replace real sugar

Visit the Equal website for more information on Equal Low Calorie Sweeteners.  Along with product/ingredient details, you'll also find delicious recipes, health and nutrition information and valuable information on Diabetes.  I know how difficult it was for my parents to change their diet and lifestyle after my father's diagnosis, and after reading the Health and Nutrition information on the Equal website, I think that it's an ideal resource for anyone newly diagnosed with Diabetes.

Now, back to our McDonald's experience!  After a busy Saturday morning at the Oakville Santa Claus Parade and a bit of Christmas shopping, we decided to treat the boys to a quick lunch at McDonald's.  As soon as we entered the Dorval Crossing location, we turned back around and left.  Being in the middle of a massive collection of stores (with every human in Oakville Christmas shopping), the restaurant had absolutely no available seating, with a line-up at the door.  We then headed to the location at Neyagawa Blvd and Dundas St W.  Much better, very quiet, perfect for us!

Hallelujah!  A quiet McDonald's for a hungry family!
Location: Neyagawa Blvd & Dundas St W, Oakville ON

While Daddy & the boys settled into a booth, I ordered lunch.  The last item that I ordered was a small coffee with 1 cream, 1 Equal Sweetener.  The young man (young enough to be my son...God I feel old!) politely asked "does that mean {naming another popular brand}?".  I smiled and told him that I was specifically looking for Equal.  Without my having to ask, he immediately asked his manager if they had any Equal in stock.  She said that they only carried one brand of sweetener, not including Equal.  I asked why they didn't offer any other brands and she didn't know why, stating that the brand they carried was the only one made available to them.  She suggested that I submit an online customer survey as they had no comment cards available (for the record, they also had no nutritional or allergy-related information in print available either).

I tried the online survey when I arrived home only to learn that you can only submit a survey if you keep your receipt and enter a specific number from it.  I did not keep my receipt and could not submit a survey...not a happy customer!  I understand the purpose of tracing online customer complaints and compliments to a specific location, but what about general questions??  You do have the option of calling their toll-free phone number, only during business hours Mon-Fri.  Or you can send them a letter via smail comment!

A small McDonald's coffee, Equal-free :(

Big-A enjoyed a McNugget Happy Meal, along with a Bakugan toy.  Daddy had his usual, a Big Mac combo.  Lil-J & I only had fries and a drink, Lil-J due to his gluten intolerance and myself due to extreme pickiness!  Lil-J was absolutely mesmerized by the Hello Kitty toys, so I bought him one.  I have to add any bit of girliness in my life whenever I can!  In all, the boys had fun and enjoyed their lunch.  Visits to McDonald's don't happen often so this was a HUGE treat!

Lil-J enjoying his fries :)
Big-A's Happy Meal!

To end the trip on an even happier note, Big-A had a couple of boys almost climbing over the table to look at his extensive Pokemon card collection.  Big-A was more than happy to show them off, and was extremely proud!  It was really cute to see him socializing with other boys in this way.

A very proud boy and his Pokemon card collection!

My first experience working with Collective Bias #CBias was a delicious one, my boys certainly weren't complaining.  Not finding Equal sweetnener at this McDonald's location and not being able to comment about it online was frustrating, though.  Everyone deserves variety and selection.  Each and every day, I struggle with lack of variety while my little guy follows a gluten-free diet.  And I know that my father struggles with the limitations in his diet due to his Diabetes.  I hope that the many blog posts via Collective Bias will open the eyes of vendors and offer a variety of products to consumers.

There are a few ways of connecting online with both McDonald's Canada and #EqualCanada.  You will find them both on Twitter at @McD_Canada @EqualCanada.  You can also LIKE McDonald's Canada & Equal Canada on Facebook.

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias #CBias.
As always, all opinions on this blog are my own.


Lena! said...

Amazing post! I love how I feel like I actually went on the trip with you and your family - you have such a knack for keeping the details relevant and interesting!

And, BOO to McD's for not giving customers choice.

Shauna MacKenzie said...

Thx Lena, your comment means so much! Trips to McD's are very rare, so they're always fun! This trip put a totally new spin on being the consumer!

Annette said...

What a great post! I'm sure so many parents who could relate with your struggle with lack of variety in a gluten-free diet.

I was wondering would you be interested in sharing your articles with other like-minded parent bloggers? If yes, please email me at with Parents in the subject line.


Tammi @ My Organized Chaos said...

Such great information in this post!!

My Organized Chaos

Shauna MacKenzie said...

Thank you Anne, I think that anytime you're dealing with food allergies or intolerances and children, limitations make life so much more difficult! I'll be in touch!

Hi Tammi, thank you for your comment! It was a fun outing with my boys :)

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