McDonald's Southern California restaurants testing kale

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp MCD.N, which is testing a variety of new food products as part of its turnaround effort, on Wednesday said nine southern California restaurants are trying out breakfast bowls made with what is becoming a state dietary staple: kale.

A McDonald's restaurant sign is seen in San Diego, California March 31, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

One of the breakfast bowls is made with turkey sausage, egg white, kale and spinach and the other includes chorizo and egg. Both are priced around $4, McDonald’s spokeswoman Lisa McComb said.

Kale, touted as a nutrient-rich “superfood,” over the last five years has been growing in popularity in the United States, both in grocery produce aisles and on restaurant menus.

McDonald's rivals Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc CMG.N and other quick-service chains such as Yum Brands Inc's YUM.N Taco Bell over the past few years have helped popularize bowls, which are typically made with meat or another protein, rice or another starch and vegetables.

Separately, Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski said in a client note on Wednesday that McDonald’s restaurants in Canada will soon begin offering three salads made with kale as an ingredient.

McDonald’s declined to comment directly on Kalinowski’s Canada kale news, saying that the company is constantly testing new products.

“We’ll share news on our menu when the time is right,” McComb said.

Adding kale to menus would be a significant departure from the norm at the world’s biggest fast-food chain.

Earlier this year McDonald’s aired a burger ad that advised: “All vegetarians, foodies and gastronauts kindly avert your eyes. You can’t get juiciness like this from soy or quinoa.” The ad then flashed to the lettuce on the burger and the announcer said: “Nor will that ever be kale.”

McDonald’s is reworking and trimming its large and complicated menu, which has slowed service and failed to keep pace with growing demand for fresher, less processed food.

The company irked critics of its advertising and food with Wednesday’s announcement that it is bringing back its Hamburglar character, which has not been seen on television since 2002. The return of the Hamburglar, now a young suburban father, coincides with McDonald’s limited-time sirloin one-third pound hamburger.

New McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook on Monday unveiled the first steps in the company’s strategy to revive sales, lure back diners and transform the iconic fast-food chain into a “modern, progressive burger company.”

That announcement got a cool reception from investors, who are hungry for detailed plans for fixing menus and service speeds.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman