Flickr/Richard Elzey

Culture Shelf

Baby’s got sauce. Or Maybe UConn students would be interested in the blended burgers if they just had a little more special sauce. You might’ve seen the headlines: last week McDonald’s gave away 10,000 bottles of its Big Mac Special Sauce to promote the launch of the Grand Mac and the Mac Jr., two new burgers that riff on the classic double stack (“one for each type of diabetes,” SNL quips). Resellers were quick on the draw: Those limited-edition bottles are now selling for $79.95 to $100,000 on Ebay. It’s unclear why, exactly, the sauce is such a hot ticket—the ingredient list is all over the internet, and McDonald’s executive chef Dan Coudreaut will even show you how to make it in this video. Maybe people are willing to pay extra for preservatives.

Special or not, McDonald’s execs may be monitoring the sauce’s Ebay traffic just as closely as we are. As the Chicago Tribune reported in October, the company has applied for a trademark for the sauce, a move that could signify interest in bringing the bottled version to grocery store shelves. Another clue that the sauce may soon leap from super-secret to shelf-stable: earlier in 2016, the restaurant chain tested the waters in Australia with a limited-release sale of the stuff. It sold for $4.95 and appeared online for much, much more.

The apparent diversification may be a response to bleak numbers for the king of fast food: McDonald’s is poised to lose its crown to Starbucks in the next few years, and cashing out in the condiment aisle may be a Hail Mary attempt at gaining back some ground. Or maybe the recent giveaway was just a savvy branding exercise. Happy bidding.

H. Claire Brown

Claire Brown is a staff writer for The New Food Economy focusing on food policy and the environment. Her reporting has won awards from the Newswomen’s Club of New York and the New York Press Club. She is based in Brooklyn. She can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @hclaire_brown.

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