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 joins The New Food Economy after working on the editorial team at Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. She won the New York Press Club's Nellie Bly Cub Reporter award in 2017. Follow her at @hclaire_brown.