McDonald's might not be the king of fast food for much longer.

McDonald's recently had decreased profits. New ideas and millennials just ruin everything, don't they?

It's hard to think of a name more synonymous with the word "empire" than McDonald's.

Even Emperor Palpatine from "Star Wars" would be jealous of their reach and global brand recognition. McDonald's happily sits on the throne as the undisputed king of fast food and one of the world's biggest and most successful businesses.



America's favorite road-trip bathroom. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

As of last year, McDonald's had 35,000 locations worldwide and operated in 119 countries. To put that in perspective, Burger King, McDonald's biggest competitor, has 13,000 locations in 79 countries. The sun truly never sets on the McDonald's empire.

However, like all empires, McDonald's reign will one day come to an end. In fact, although they still serve around 68 million customers a day, McDonald's is beginning to slip from their place at the top.

The Wall Street Journal shows how McDonald's sales are becoming more limp than a reheated french fry.

Since last July, McDonald's has seen some declines in sales.

That's right: As of last July, McDonald's showed 12 straight months of same-store decline. That represents the company's first full-year fall in 13 years, and although they've shown a small improvement this year (a 0.9% increase in domestic sales in the third quarter), you can be pretty sure they're not lovin' it.

So what exactly is going on here?

Well, on the business side, McDonald's has had a few mishaps. In Asia, where McDonald's earns nearly 25% of its revenues, health scares have had a harsh effect on the company's sales. Reports of contaminated beef and chicken in China caused sales to fall sharply over the summer. In Japan, sales were affected by a woman who reported finding a tooth in her french fries.

Yeah, you read that right. A tooth.

But McDonald's is also having trouble here in the homeland, and that's where the story gets interesting.

It's well known in the economics world that competition is what keeps American businesses strong. Having one or more rivals keeps a company creative, efficient, and forward-thinking. Every Coke needs its Pepsi, every Apple needs its Microsoft, and every Bernat Yarns needs its Lion Brand Yarn Company. (Just don't bring that frizzy Lion Brand twine around me.)

Anyway, I digress. For decades, McDonald's hasn't had much in the way of competition. Even other fast food restaurants have struggled to present a true threat to Mickey D's despite carving out massive markets of their own.

One reason for the cracks in the McDonald's empire may be their new competition.

The growth of middle-ground, casual fast-food dining options such as Chipotle, Five Guys, Smashburger, and Sweetgreen have offered customers their first real opportunity to walk away from McDonald's and never look back.

No one even knows what barbacoa is. Photo by Ben Popken/Flickr.

Plus, a new generation of eaters has started to demand different things from their fast-food experiences.

They're trading in their Big Macs for Smashburgers, and their Chicken Wraps for Chipotle burritos. They want customization, they want healthy and sustainable ingredients, and they want guacamole, dammit!

Research shows this: Millennials and younger eaters in America are asking for a lot more than special sauce. They want to eat fresh ingredients, and they want to customize. Just like McDonald's, a restaurant like Five Guys satisfies that primal American need for a burger and fries. But in contrast, Five Guys does it with ingredients that are apparently fresh and never frozen.

In fact, millennials think about food so differently that it's started to affect major processed food brands at the grocery store. Young shoppers are buying more fresh meat, produce, and dairy products. This has caused brands like General Mills, who produce mainly packaged food, to slip in sales as well.

McDonald's has tried to combat these changes in their own ways.

They've offered digital touch-screen kiosks in some stores that allow you to completely customize your burger.

I bet this thing will still forget your extra pickles. Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images.

They're offering all-day breakfast. They just announced $1 mozzarella sticks.

And they've made a few company-wide changes to become healthier, like abandoning margarine for butter and no longer selling chicken and beef raised with growth hormones.

For the record, McDonald's has tried in the past to appear more healthy, and they've had...

Photo by Reg Natarajan/Flickr.

...let's just say...

Photo by theimpulsivebuy/Flickr.

..."varying levels of success."

Unfortunately, McDonald's image is still hopelessly tied to unhealthy food. Despite their efforts to change their reputation, people who care about fresh food probably don't think they'll find it between a pair of sesame seed buns.

So, the next time someone makes fun of you for ordering your vegan, gluten-free, chia-seed kale shake, just smile to yourself.

Your healthy choices really could crumble an empire.

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Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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The problem: The list included 99 men and one woman. For those not so good with the math, that means according to Forbes, only 1% of the country's most innovative leaders are female.

Have you ever watched a movie that's so abysmally bad that you wonder how it ever even got made? Where you think, "Hundreds and hundreds of people had to have been directly involved in the production of this film. Did any of them ever think to say, 'Hey, maybe we should just scrap this idea altogether?"

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