The kids’ meal or children’s meal is a meal tailored to and marketed to youngsters. Most kids’ meals come in colorful bags or cardboard boxes with depictions of activities on the bag or box and a plastic toy inside.
The first kids’ meal, emerged at Burger Chef in 1973 and succeeded. Discerning the popularity of the kids’ meal, McDonald’s introduced its Happy Meal in 1978 and other fast food corporations, including Burger King, followed suit with their own kids’ meals.
Some fast food corporations considered youngsters their “most important” customers, owing to the success of the kids’ meal. Their effectiveness has been ascribed to the fact that the patronage of youngsters often means the patronage of a family and to the allure of the toys, which often are in collectable series. In 2006, $360 million of the expenditures of fast food corporations was for toys in kids’ meals, which numbered over 1.2 billion.
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. Explanations include the fact that kids’ outgrowing the meals earlier than before. Youngsters have “become more sophisticated in their palettes” and seek items from the regular menu but in smaller servings. Kids’ meal toys are also no longer appealing to the increasingly technology-oriented youth, who prefer video games.
Kids’ meals have evolved in response to critics, offering healthier selections and greater variety. In 2011, nineteen food chains participating in the Kids Live Well initiative 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”.
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