Kids' meal

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The kids' meal or children's meal is a fast food combination meal tailored to and marketed to children. Most kids' meals come in colorful bags or cardboard boxes with activities on the bag or box and a toy inside.[1][2] The standard kids' meal comprises a burger, fries, and a soft drink.[2]

History[edit]

A Happy Meal

The first kids' meal, Funmeal,[3] emerged at Burger Chef in 1973 and succeeded. Discerning the popularity of the kids' meal, McDonald's introduced its Happy Meal in 1978,[note 1] and other fast food corporations, including Burger King, followed suit with their own kids' meals.[5]

Some fast food corporations considered children their "most important" customers, owing to the success of the kids' meal.[5] Their effectiveness has been ascribed to the fact that the patronage of children often means the patronage of a family and to the allure of the toys, which often are in collectable series.[1] In 2006, $360 million of the expenditures of fast food corporations was for toys in kids' meals, which numbered over 1.2 billion.[5]

In recent years, the popularity of the kids' meal has receded, with a study by NPD Group indicating that there was a 6% decrease in kids' meals sales in 2011.[6] Explanations include parents' realization that kids' meals are unhealthy, parents' desire to save money (opting instead to order from the value menu), as well as kids' outgrowing the meals earlier than before. Children have "become more sophisticated in their palettes" and seek items from the regular menu but in smaller servings.[6] Kids' meal toys are also no longer appealing to the increasingly technology-oriented youth,[7] who prefer video games.[8] Also, the kids meal toys of Wendy's and Chick-Fil-A are no longer appealing to ages 8-12. Ironically, this appears to have been a reverse when the Subway Kids' Pak became the Subway Fresh Fit for Kids for Subway's kids meals, switching from ages 3-7 to all ages.

Kids' meals have evolved in response to critics, offering healthier selections and greater variety.[8] In 2011, nineteen food chains participating in the Kids Live Well initiative—including Burger King, Denny's, IHOP, Chili's, Friendly's, Chevy's, and El Pollo Loco—pledged to "offer at least one children's meal that has fewer than 600 calories, no soft drinks and at least two items from the following food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins or low-fat dairy".[9]

Criticism[edit]

There have been concerns from food critics about the nutritional value of the kids' meal. A 2010 study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity inspecting the kids' meals of twelve US food chains[10] concluded that of 3,039 entrée combinations, twelve satisfied the advised levels of fat, sodium, and calories for preschool kids and fifteen those for older kids.[5]

Legislation[edit]

In the United States, kids' meals have been blamed for ingraining unhealthy dietary habits in children and augmenting child obesity.[11] In 2010, Santa Clara County, California implemented a ban on toys accompanying kids' meals that fail nutritional standards.[12] San Francisco County enacted the same ban,[13] and similar ones have been proposed or considered in other cities or states across the country.[note 2] Conversely, legislators in Arizona prohibited such restrictions, and Florida state senators proposed the same.[17]

Outside the United States, Spain[18] and Brazil[19] have also considered such measures. Chile has banned toys in kids' meals altogether.[20]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Burger Chef filed suit against McDonald's over the Happy Meal but lost the case.[4]
  2. ^ New York City;[14] Superior, Wisconsin;[15] Nebraska[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bishop, Pete (20 March 1990). "Fast food meals for kids come under fire". The Daily Telegraph (Scripps Howard News Service). Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Reynolds, Annette (18 February 1989). "Restaurants serve up toys for kids". State Times. 
  3. ^ Spartos, Carla (9 September 2009). "MC in a box". New York Post. p. 2. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Whitfield (26 September 2011). "New Factor Can Lift Stock, But It Can't Be Only Factor". Investor's Business Daily. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Smith, Andrew F. (2011). "Kids' meals". Fast Food and Junk Food: An Encyclopedia of What We Love to Eat. ABC-CLIO. pp. 393–394. ISBN 9780313393945. 
  6. ^ a b Pedicini, Sandra (22 April 2012). "There's less appetite for children's meals at restaurants". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Horovitz, Bruce (28 May 2009). "Toys may be story in kids meals' steady decline". USA Today. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Smith, Joyce (27 June 2012). "Kids' meal orders decline as restaurants offer more healthful choices". The Kansas City Star. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  9. ^ Bernstein, Sharon (13 July 2011). "Restaurants to offer more-healthful fare for kids". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Christian, Ken (8 November 2010). "Study finds healthy kids' meal choices are few and far between". NBC. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  11. ^ York, Emily Bryson (10 April 2012). "McDonald's, rivals see diminishing appeal for kids meals". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  12. ^ Bonisteel, Sara (28 April 2010). "Toys banned in some California fast food restaurants". CNN. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  13. ^ Park, Madison (1 December 2011). "Happy Meal toys no longer free in San Francisco". CNN. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  14. ^ Melnick, Meredith (6 April 2011). "New York City Council Considers Banning Happy Meal Toys". Time. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  15. ^ "Superior rejects ban on fast food toy". Associated Press. 8 December 2010. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  16. ^ "Senators reject ban on toys in Neb. kids' meals". Associated Press. 4 February 2011. Archived from the original on 22 October 20122. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  17. ^ Levine, Dan; Lisa Baertlein (9 May 2011). "Fast-food lobbies U.S. states on Happy Meal laws". Reuters. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  18. ^ Abend, Lisa (1 December 2010). "In Spain, Taking Some Joy out of the Happy Meal". Time. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  19. ^ Ellsworth, Brian (15 June 2009). "Brazilian prosecutor wants to ban fast-food toys". Reuters. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  20. ^ "Chile Bans Toys in Fast Food to Attack Child Obesity". Associated Press. 2 August 2012. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012.