Northern Calif. is ground zero for latest salvo in French fry wars

SACRAMENTO - McDonald's started testing its latest menu item seasoned fries Thursday.

McDonald's, the world's largest fast-food chain, is already selling "Shakin' Flavor Fries" at McDonald's stores in Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto and St. Louis.

The fries are already a hit in Asia and Australia.

"Some operators kind of heard it through the grapevine, had been over to Asia, really tried it and heard the buzz that was going on around it and they wanted to get it here," Sacramento franchisee John Ritchey said. "So we worked really hard to get it as a test in Sacramento."

The new fries come in three flavors -- Garlilc Parmesan, Zesty Ranch and Spicy Buffalo. The other new twist: customers are given a bag to put the fries in, then sprinkle their preferred spice from a packet and shake the bag to distribute the spice around.

"That's what it's all about. It's about customerization," Ritchey said. "We know that our customers want to be able to spice up the flavors and do what they want."

So why is the Central Valley part of a marketing test for McDonald's?

"It's a diverse market. We're diverse in race and age and ethnicity and it's just a good place to test things," Ritchey said.

At Ritchey's franchise at Howe Avenue and Arden Way in Sacramento, customers seemed to be on board.

"Just a little spice to it. Something different. And I can't wait to try the Ranch or anything else they might come up with," customer Arthur Perez said.

"If I were to like, rate it, it would be an 8-and-a-half," teenager Mychla Myles said.

Alana Vasquez tried the Spicy Buffalo. "They look like, hella bomb. They're like the Wing Stop fries, now, I guess. At McDonald's."

The fast-food fight over fries has intensified in recent years.

Last fall, Burger King rolled out a lower calorie fry called Satrisfries, Wendy's added natural cut fries a few years ago. McDonald's became the first to remove all trans-fats from fries back in 2008.

Even as fast-food outlets have moved to add healthier options to their menus, fries have remained a crucial staple.

"When you add this flavor to the fries, you're gonna see why it's completely worth it to cheat a little bit and have some fries every once in awhile," Ritchey said.


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