The Happy Meal is one of the most contested menu items that food franchises provide. In the eyes of many consumer advocates, kid's meals promotions like Happy Meals provide children with an incentive – ie, a toy – for eating 'unhealthy' meals. There have been calls for franchises to discontinue their kids meal's programs. They're beginning to be heard.
Jack In The Box recently announced that it will discontinue including toys with kids meals. Interestingly, Jack In The Box told Ad Age that they're doing this not to look after children's diets, but to enhance their focus on their target market – 18 – 34 year old's. That doesn't mean that consumer advocates aren't considering this is a victory for children's nutrition. In a statement, they said:
“We hope that McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and Taco Bell are paying attention to Jack in the Box, which has decided to stop using toys to market fast-food meals to children. It's too bad that McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and Taco Bell think they can't compete on the basis of quality, value, taste, or nutrition, but instead must resort to such a discredited marketing tactic to lure families to their businesses."
The question - as Ad Age rightly ask, is this – can a franchise like Jack In The Box, which can't really compete with the likes of McDonald's and Burger King, make a difference by cutting toys from its kids meals? A Jack In The Box spokesperson says that they generate a 'very small percentage' of profits from children's meals. On the other hand, kids meals make up a pretty healthy chunk of profit for bigger franchises who often team up with large corporations in these marketing projects, so it's unlikely that Jack In The Box's move will create a domino effect. That said, it's interesting that Jack In The Box are substituting toys for Chiquita Apple Bites. It's a healthy switch.
We'll see if other QSR franchises follow their lead.