McDonald's changed its vanilla ice cream 6 months ago, and nobody noticed

Key Points
  • McDonald's has been phasing out artificial flavors from its vanilla ice cream since fall 2016.
  • The chain's soft serve is used in more than 60 percent of its dessert menu.
  • Over the last year, McDonald's has been ditching artificial ingredients from some of its menu items.
McDonald's changed the main ingredient in its ice cream

McDonald's made some major changes to the main ingredient in its McFlurries last year and no one noticed.

The Golden Arches began phasing out artificial flavors in its vanilla ice cream in fall 2016, in an effort to check off another item from its to-do list.

Over the past year, McDonald's has been ditching artificial ingredients from some of its menu items. The restaurant has already removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets, and it removed high fructose corn syrup from its buns.

In addition, the company plans to swap out frozen beef patties for fresh ones in its Quarter Pounder burgers across the U.S. by mid-2018.

The company said Thursday that its ice cream, which is used in more than 60 percent of McDonald's dessert items, was already free of artificial colors and preservatives before it made any changes.

"Last summer alone, our customers enjoyed 68 million cones at McDonald's," Darci Forrest, senior director of menu innovation at McDonald's, told CNBC in an email. "We worked closely with our culinary team to ensure taste was not impacted."

The full rollout of the new ice cream to the more than 14,000 U.S. locations is "nearly completed," Forrest said.

In addition, McDonald's said that its chocolate and strawberry shake syrup will no longer have high fructose corn syrup and its whipped topping is now made without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Revitalizing its menu is just part of McDonald's plan to win back the more than 500 million customer visits it has lost since 2012. The Golden Arches laid the framework for this push back in March, saying it would focus on innovation, store renovations, digital ordering and delivery.

So far in 2017, McDonald's has received a sales boost from its new variety of Big Macs and its series of discounted beverages.