Sweden's First Vegan Happy Meal Features Falafel
By: Caitlyn Gardiner/Arab America Contributing Writer
At almost any Arab American or Mediterranean or Middle Eastern restaurant in the U.S., you will find falafel on the menu. Falafel has been an essential part of Arab cuisine for generations. Now McDonald’s has added a vegan option to its menu in Sweden, the McFalafel. Just launched last week, the veggie-friendly item is an alternative to the chicken McNugget.
A Brief History of the McFalafel
The McFalafel made its first debut in Egypt back in 2001. It was introduced in Israel a few years later. Unfortunately, these sales fell short of expectations. The company soon learned that Israeli citizens preferred purchasing their falafel from local sources. They decided to pull this item from the country’s menu shortly after.
Meeting Growing Demands for Plant-Based Meals
While cultural preferences drove the addition of the McFalafel to the menu in Egypt, increasing demand for plant-based food brought it to Sweden. A recent survey by Animal Rights, Sweden indicated that as many as 10% of people in the country are vegan or vegetarian. Even more, residents consider themselves flexitarians- people who have a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat or fish. This plant-based trend has certainly taken hold in younger generations, with as many as 30% of millennials maintaining vegetarian diets. Many people cite health and/or environmental concerns as their reason for switching to a plant-based diet.
Vegan menu items are nothing new for McDonald’s in Sweden. The chain introduced the McVegan sandwich in 2017. They began searching for a way to make children the target demographic when sales exceeded expectations. The answered lied in the McFalafel, which is making history as the first vegan Happy Meal in Sweden.
Weighing the Benefits and Costs of the McFalafel
This meal may have a lower ecological footprint than McNuggets, but this comes at a cost. The McFalafel has a surprisingly higher fat, sugar, and protein content than the McNuggets, with a slight decrease in protein. The dish is made with traditional ingredients including chickpeas, cumin, garlic, and parsley. A serving with four pieces of McFalafel has 1.2 grams more sugar, 55 more calories, and four more grams of fat than four pieces of McNuggets. While vegan options are typically regarded as healthier, a quick look at the nutrition label proves otherwise for the McFalafel.
The McFalafel still serves an important purpose, despite being less healthy than expected. Only a small percentage of fast food is currently vegan, and this addition will provide another option to those opting for a plant-based meal.
“We are pleased to launch our new McFalafel and thus be able to offer our large and small guests even more choices. Offering a vegan alternative in our iconic Happy Meal is something we are proud of and hope that our guests will appreciate as much as we do,” said Nina Remöy, Food Development Manager for McDonald’s in Sweden.