McDonald’s, Coca-Cola Scrambling to Connect With Health-Conscious Millennials

There may be no more American a meal than a Big Mac washed down by a Coke, but the companies behind the menu are facing some big question marks as they try to stay relevant in an increasingly Chipotle-and-bottled-water world.

Once the twin symbols of U.S. corporate ingenuity, innovation and global branding might, McDonald’s Corp. and Coca-Cola Co. are facing what McDonald’s executives Wednesday called “macroeconomic headwinds” that are calling into question their traditional business models. After decades of market growth and expansion, both companies are seeking to shed unproductive assets and find new business lines to revive profits and adjust to sharply shifting consumer tastes.

With fizzy soda sales on a long-term decline and 63 percent of Americans telling a Gallup survey last year that they are actively avoiding traditional soda drinks, “we’re operating in a very challenging environment,” Coke CEO Muhtar Kent told analysts in a conference call Wednesday.