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McDonald's Tests $1.99 Oatmeal

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- McDonald's is bolstering its breakfast lineup with tests of oatmeal, an item that has proved popular in the morning at rival chains, Nation's Restaurant News reported.

The fast-feeder's new Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, which includes brown sugar, apples, raisins, cranberries and a touch of cream, is being sold all day in McDonald's restaurants in Northern California, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. A company spokeswoman said the oatmeal has been "well-received by customers," but no decisions have been made about rolling out the item nationally.

McDonald's trial comes as oatmeal has proven its value as a popular item for the morning daypart, especially at beverage specialists looking to chip away at McDonald's morning dominance, such as Starbucks Coffee, Caribou Coffee and Jamba Juice.

Since its fall 2008 launch, Starbucks' oatmeal has been a hot seller for the world's largest coffee chain, so much so that Starbucks included the item in its $3.95 breakfast pairings launched a year ago. Caribou rolled out oatmeal in its coffeehouses this January, and Jamba Juice has made oatmeal part of its marketing efforts, and offered its steel-cut oatmeal for $1 every Wednesday during January for New Year's resolution season, the report noted.

McDonald's remains aggressive in developing new product lines and choices, and breakfast has been a focal point of late, according to the Nation's Restaurant News report. Late last year, the chain launched its Breakfast Dollar Menu, which includes the Sausage Burrito, Sausage McMuffin, Hash Browns, a small Premium Roast Coffee from its McCafe beverage line, and a Sausage Biscuit.

Separately, McDonald's has begun testing new drinks that could appeal to breakfast consumers and sell across other dayparts. The chain introduced Real Fruit Smoothies at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and said it hopes to have them in the United States by summer. Also, McDonald's is testing frappe drinks as an extension of its McCafe premium-coffee menu at about a third of its restaurants nationwide, the report stated.

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