Sometimes when McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) tries a bizarre product in an overseas market, it's a trial run before bringing it to the United States. That's not the case with the Gurakoro burger, a fried shrimp and macaroni croquette served with lettuce on a bun. The slightly spicy, puffed-up patty comes topped with either a thick egg sauce or cheddar cheese and a demi-glace sauce. It's a treat aimed specifically at the Japanese market, where it has a cult-like following, much like the McRib does in the United States, according to The Daily Meal.
The limited-time offering, which has been dubbed the "Super Gurakoro," costs the equivalent of about $3, and McDonald's has been selling it with "tomato cream" seasoning for fries. While that sounds like a liquid, it's actually a shake-on powder that you put in the bag with the fries, shake, and eat. That's a concept the company has tested in its home market (though not with the tomato-cream flavor).
McDonald's is a truly global company
While McDonald's locations across the world sell many of the staples on the American menu that made the company famous, the chain does tweak its offerings for local markets. That has made the fast-food company both an American icon and a global company.
In fact, in 2015, the last full year McDonald's has reported on (link opens in PDF), the U.S. only accounted for 34% of total revenues while "lead markets" (established markets including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) accounted for 30%. "high growth markets" (markets believed to have relatively higher restaurant expansion and franchising potential, including China, Italy, Korea, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands) brought in 24% of the total and the rest (about 12%) came from corporate activities as well as "foundational" markets believed to have potential, but largely unexplored by the company.
The U.S. market has been a growth struggle for McDonald's, and the numbers were better in its most recent reporting period in the rest of the world. Domestic stores only posted a 1.3% comparable growth rate while the international lead segment increased 3.3%, the high-growth markets grew by 1.5%, and sales in foundational markets climbed by 10.1%.
It's global growth that has been a driver for the chain for the past few years, though all-day breakfast has spurred a U.S. turnaround since it was launched in October 2015. Offers like the Super Gurakoro, while it will almost certainly never be sold in the U.S., have an important place in the company's global lineup.
"Our third quarter results, including our fifth consecutive quarter of positive comparable sales across all segments as well as improved restaurant profitability, are a testament to the progress we are making to satisfy the needs of today's dynamic customers," said CEO Steve Easterbook in the earnings release.
McDonald's has been a leader
In some cases on the global stage, it's easy for American companies to rely on their domestic success to wow international audiences. That works, for a time, but at some point the novelty wears off and the chain must at least partly cater to local tastes.
McDonald's has shown a strong ability to do this. The company has regularly launched products in all its major markets that appeal to those customers, while also offering U.S. favorites where appropriate. The Gurakoro has been an annual hit and this tweak on it, the Super Gurakoro, should drive strong sales in Japan while the new fries will further test a product that has potential in all the chain's markets.