As Burger King becomes the latest fast feeder to join the Better Business Bureau's Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, it's introducing a new product: raw apples cut to look like french fries and served in a box that it calls the Frypod. The catch is, they aren't fried and there's no sugar added.
'Kids will flock to it'
"We think kids will flock to it," said Burger King spokesman Keva Silversmith. To devise the product, Burger King developed a proprietary cutting process that makes apple slices look like fries. Then they're washed in water with lemon, to keep from turning brown.
In addition to the new product, the chain agreed to limit its advertising to children under 12. The company will push to young kids only meals that have fewer than 560 calories and only meals that derive less than 30% of their calories from fat. The marketer spent $285 million in advertising last year.
Also on the way are new kids' meals. This fall, Burger King will begin testing a kids' meal that swaps fried, crown-shaped chicken tenders for flame-broiled ones, and Mott's apple sauce with the organic, no-sugar-added variety. It will also include Hershey's 1% fat chocolate milk instead of a soda. The new products are expected to be in Burger King locations nationwide by late 2008.
Burger King becomes the 12th company in recent months to pledge restrictions on advertising to children, focusing on better-for-you foods. Cadbury Adams, Campbell, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Hershey, Kellogg's, Kraft, Mars, McDonald's, Pepsi and Unilever have already signed on.
Kids' meal face lift
The Burger King announcement may signal the end for the traditional kids' meal, which has long been comprised of a burger or nuggets, fries and a soda. While Wendy's hasn't joined the advertising initiative, its kids' meal is a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, yogurt with granola, and low-fat milk. McDonald's will be the only of the three to offer fried food in a kids' meal, by way of its chicken McNuggets.
Elaine Kolish, director of the Initiative, praised Burger King's pledge. "As one of the major restaurant chains in the country, they're a noted children's advertiser, so having them is a great addition," she said. "Previously, we only had one children's quick-serve restaurant, McDonald's, so we're delighted to have Burger King join us."
Ms. Kolish added that the real objective is to have more and more companies continue to join, so she declined to call out any stragglers. While some companies and restaurant chains are introducing more healthful options, she said the benefit of her program is the third-party oversight. The Better Business Bureau will be monitoring companies that sign on to the initiative, and reporting on their progress.
ConAgra, others called out
Margo Wootan, director-nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who recently cited Burger King as one of the companies that ought to join the initiative, called its move "another good step forward to reducing junk-food marketing to kids." She, however, called out ConAgra, Nestle, Chuck E. Cheese and media-entertainment companies as laggards.
Mr. Silversmith said that Burger King has made the changes in response to moms who want more healthful options for their children when they come into the store.
Persuading children to eat apple slices instead of french fries, however, is going to be the parents' problem.