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McDonalds calls local foods campaign a success

The experimental McItaly menu, made with 100 percent Italian products, will return in the fall.

The kiwis are part of McDonalds' “Frescallegre” (happyfruits) packages, which in the winter include fruits such as apples from the northern Piedmont and peaches from Emilia Romagna. So it seems the company's strategy checks two boxes its American outlets don't — local, and seasonal. This summer Sicilian oranges, the most flavorful in the country, will be used to make ice cream.

The interest of the political forces behind the McItaly collaboration are clear. Italian farmers and breeders are one of the most powerful political lobbies in the country. They are nationally represented by four major associations that have great influence over the government’s decisions. In the past, Italy’s farmers have led fierce battles against the cultivation of genetically modified organisms and the European Union’s milk quotas scheme.

Zaia, who said the campaign would “globally promote the Italian style, diet, flavors and controlled-origin products by turning them into symbols of Made-in-Italy,” is himself a farmer. He is also a member of the nationalist Northern League Party, an ally of premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose party supports boosting national identity, local traditions, products and businesses. Zaia's electoral base includes farmers, agricultural consortiums and cattle breeders.

At the McDonalds Italy headquarters in Milan, strategists and media gurus are preparing for the September launch of another 100 percent "made-in-Italy" menu. But their lips are sealed. A press officer said she “can’t release any kind of information right now because we don’t want to ruin the media effect this new campaign is expected to have.”

The company’s goals are indeed ambitious. When the McItaly menu was unveiled, Roberto Masi, CEO of McDonalds Italy, said the company planned to export several Italian products all over the world. Parmesan salads, for example, have already reached McDonald’s restaurants in France and Switzerland. Sicilian orange ice-cream and Italian “kiwi-sticks” will soon be launched globally as well.