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Episode Seven: Man And Machine
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Just on the heels of kids' nutrition and obesity making headlines, Burger King is including Satisfries in kids meals.
Satisfries, introduced in September, have about 20% fewer calories and 25% less fat than Burger King's regular French fries. The company has been marketing them in TV spots as having 30% fewer calories and 40% less fat than McDonald's fries per 70-gram serving.
The meals will now include Satisfries automatically, along with apple slices, choice of cheeseburger, hamburger, four-piece chicken nuggets or six-piece chicken nuggets and a choice of drink. Burger King initially added apples to its kids meals in 2008. The serving size for Satisfries will be 87 grams, or roughly 3 oz. A four-piece nugget meal with Satisfries, apples and non-fat milk is roughly 500 calories. A similar McDonald's meal would be about 410 calories, though the fries serving size is 1.1 ounces for the Happy Meal.
Burger King has historically been one of the largest fast-food kids marketers, said Chief Marketing Officer Eric Hirschhorn, noting that about 10% of Burger King's sales comes from kids meals. He also noted that adding Satisfries was "the obvious choice" and that Burger King won't be directly marketing to kids for the new fries, but that the chain will have some merchandising and menu-board marketing in-store.
The chain is, however, launching the next phase of TV spots for Satisfries this week. The spot was created by Culver City, Calif.-based Pitch. When Satisfries came out in the fall, the company didn't confirm whether they were just a limited-time product or a permanent menu fixture. Mr. Hirschhorn declined to confirm whether Satisfries were given permanent status, saying only that their addition to the kids menu was "a step in the right direction."
During Burger King's fourth-quarter earnings call in February, the company did not provide exact details on the success of Satisfries. In what seemed to be a resetting of expectations for what it originally indicated would be a blockbuster, North American President Alex Macedo said only that Satisfries "continue to drive traffic and are incremental to our classic French fry purchases. They also differentiate the Burger King brand as a true innovator in the [fast food] industry."
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The chain in February posted its second consecutive year of same-store global sales growth, up 0.5% for the year compared with a 3.2% rise in 2012. The chain's U.S. and Canada same-store sales for the full year were down 0.9%; they were up 3.0% in 2012.
Though sales in the U.S. were up slightly in the fourth quarter, they hit a snag toward the end of the year thanks to increased competition and the polar vortex. For fourth quarter 2013, global same-store sales were up 1.7%. Same-store sales for the fourth quarter in the U.S. and Canada were up 0.2%.
McDonald's reduced the size of its fries offering in the Happy Meal in 2011, offering a 1.1 ounce package of fries, along with apple slices. McDonald's in September jettisoned soda from its Happy Meals, replacing it with water or juice (though customers still could request soda). Subway in January launched its biggest kids marketing effort yet using the message that playtime is powered by veggies.