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Published October 9th 2017

Szechuan Sauce Scandal: McDonald’s Promotion Goes Awry

As popular show Rick & Morty increased demand for McDonald's 1998 Sezchuan Sauce, the company bought it back for one day only. But things didn't go to plan.

We are living through tumultuous times – times when the world needs ridiculous stories like the McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce debacle to get us through.

Let me fill you in what happened, and I’ll throw in some data along the way.

Szechuan sauce: A history

Szechuan sauce was on the McDonald’s menu back in 1998, released in tandem with Disney’s Mulan movie.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and the insanely popular show Rick and Morty hit our screens. It became an almost instant cult hit.

Like any other popular TV show, cartoon hit Rick and Morty carries with it a lot of influence, and in a random turn of events the show started to generate demand for a re-release of the coveted sauce.

Back in April when a new episode came out, a scene featuring a reference to the 1998 sauce saw a big spike in szechuan sauce mentions online. A petition emerged to convince McDonald’s to bring back the sauce, leading to over 38k signatures.

McDonald’s, smartly, got on the bandwagon.

They announced that they’d do a limited edition run of Szechuan sauce for one day only – October 7th.

Then this happened.

Really, really limited edition

To be fair to McDonald’s, they did make clear that the sauce wasn’t going to be widely released.

But was the fast food giant right in releasing so few Szechuan sauce packs?

They were so limited edition that some stores didn’t stock the sauce, and packs of sauce are being auctioned on eBay for hundreds of dollars.

Of course, this was a fairly experimental release, but demand for the sauce was evident all over the internet. Granted, McDonald’s could be forgiven for not foreseeing “we want sauce” chanting mobs and police, but couldn’t they have been a little more generous?

Using Brandwatch’s Unlimited Historical Data we gathered mentions of Szechuan sauce (or #szechuansauce) back to April 1st 2017 when the new Rick and Morty season was released.

It’s fair to say that demand for the sauce was pretty high.

Let’s take a look at some of those October 7th mentions.

Youtubers documented their lengthy but ultimately empty-handed journeys to get sauce.

Journalists reported on angry crowds.

Onlookers saw chanting crowds

Fans talked about their disappointment:

McDonald’s heard loud and clear.

It turns out the demand (and outrage) for Szechuan sauce was recognized by McDonald’s and this could be great news for fans.

This winter, Szechuan sauce will be back in vaster quantities.

And Rick and Morty / Szechuan sauce fans can rest easy at last.

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