McDonald’s to offer free fruit in Happy Meals

McDonald’s is to provide free fruit in its Happy Meals to try and encourage kids to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Video: McDonald’s Free Fruit Friday TV ad

The promotion launches nationwide today (7 March) offering a free fruit bag with every Happy Meal sold on the first Friday of every month. Apples and grapes will be provided initially ahead of additional variants later in the year.

McDonald’s claims it will account for more than half (52 per cent) of all children’s fruit bags sold across the UK on that day. It is the first major initiative from the company’s UK division since it pledged to do more to target kids globally with healthier alternatives last September.

McDonald’s says the initiative is an attempt to help parents get their children eating healthier following recent government research that found only 1 in 10 children are eating five portions of fruit or vegtables a day. According to the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey, household consumption of fruit has dropped 16 per cent over the last six years.

The decline has affected the company’s own fruit sales over the past two years as kids opt for other side orders on offer such as French Fries. It is hoped the promotion will lead to more fruit being purchased across the week, while also giving the Happy Meal brand a broader “social and educational” benefit.

The strategy is inspired by the company’s “Crunchy Wednesday” promotion in France where it claims sales jumped 19 per cent in the months following its launch in 2010. McDonald’s tested the campaign in the UK last month when it ran trials across 255 restaurants.

Alistair Macrow, senior vice president of food and marketing at McDonald’s, told Marketing Week the campaign marks the next “evolution” of its kids range matching the needs of parents.

He adds: “If we’re going to remain Britain’s family restaurant then its important that we get behind the broader and social and educational benefits we can offer families when it comes to healthy eating.

“We’re now at a point where three quarters of the Happy Meal isn’t classified as being high in fat or sugar by the government. We’ve shifted the food proposition on over time and at the same time we’ve changed the experience. Now it’s about looking at what else we can layer around the Happy Meal product to really entertain children.”

A Leo Burnett-created advertising drive spanning TV, outdoor and in-store will encourage children to get into good eating habits while celebrity mum Tamsin Outhwaite will front PR activity targeting parents. Additionally, the business will run over 2,000 activity days at restaurants nationwide over the next 12 months.

The health push comes as the fast food maker faces ongoing criticisms for not doing more to curb obesity rates.