Fast Food Industry and kids Essay
Fast Food Industry and kids Any parent knows that one of the frustrating thing about having children out and about while running errands or shopping is that it is not until they are buckled in the car and on the road that the child is either hungry or has to go to the bathroom. When that happens, it is very tempting to stop at one of the many major fast food chains where both needs can be met. The Happy Meal appeared in June of 1979 (www.
wikepedia.com), with not only brightly packaged food, but a “kiddie” bag baring a toy. This was every child’s dream. Not only would he get soda, a hamburger, cheeseburger, or chicken nuggets, but also the deliciously flavored and often hot French fries. Though McDonald’s original reason for creating the Happy Meal was to appear as more of a family restaurant, specifically for families with smaller children, business began to boom after the Happy Meal was introduced. Once it was apparent that the raise in sales was largely apart of the new Happy Meal, McDonald’s began a large marketing plan based on some of their best customers; children. Soon after the birth of the Happy Meal, McDonald’s developed one large, lovable, red-haired clown named Ronald McDonald, who became the largest fast food icon in history. According to Fast Food Nation, a book written by Eric Schlosser, about ninety-six percent of American children recognize Ronald McDonald (pg.
4). The only other icon that was recognized more than Ronald was the other big man, Santa Claus (www.wikepedia.com). After Ronald was created, McDonald’s created additional characters.Birdie the Early Bird, Mayor McCheese, Grimace, Hamburglar, the Fry Kids, Captain Crook, Mac Tonight and Uncle O’Grimacey were added to the McDonald’s team. All of which, were aimed at children to help them relate to one of the characters and, in tern, associate the characters with their favorite place to eat. As if McDonald’s was not enticing enough to young children, nearly every McDonald’s restaurant built a playground so that children would play after eating, hopefully long enough for the family to go back and order a sundae or two.
To appeal to parents, some of the playgrounds are now indoor. Schlosser noted in his book, “Although the fast food chains annually spend about $3 billion on television advertising, their marketing efforts directed at children extend far beyond such conventional ads. The McDonald’s Corporation now operates more than eight thousand playgrounds at its restaurants in the United States. Burger King has more than two thousand,” (pg. 48). Author Kelly Brownell wrote in her book, Food Fight, that “forty percent of McDonald’s advertising directly targets children,” (pg. 103). Other fast food chains saw the success of marketing towards children and mimicked McDonald’s brilliant idea.
Wendy’s developed Wendy, the freckle faced, red haired little “daddy’s girl” and Burger King partnered with Little Tykes toys to appeal to parents with younger, toddler-aged children. None of the characters have ever brought the chains as much success as Ronald McDonald has. It is not uncommon to be watching a children’s network, such as Nickelodeon or Disney Channel, and view multiple fast food commercials featuring kid’s meals that have a certain toy from the hottest new movies.
Not only do they offer the toy, however, but in most cases, the toy is part of a series of toys that can be collected at the specific restaurant. They create an urgency for children to go to the restaurant frequently by adding “while supplies last” at the end of the commercial. Recently, parents and physicians alike have been concerned that with the french-fries, hamburgers, sodas and cool toys, there is one thing that children are not getting from their favorite fast food restaurants – nutrition.
With books such as Food Fight and Fast Food Nation that expose the nutritional information of many of the most popular fast food restaurants, the concern has grown. With fast food growing more popular, parent’s are seeing their children grow even more – and not in a healthy way. “As this century progresses, thatnumber is set to climb higher, for as the statistics that follow here show, kids arenot only getting fatter; they are getting fatter faster. The number of over-weight children and adolescents was relatively stable from the 1960s to 1980but then nearly doubled by 1994. It has since continued to spike upwardrather than plateau,” Sharon Dalton said in her book, Our Overweight Children, (pg.
28). Although many of the nutritional experts do not solely blame fast food chains for the growing obesity rate in the United States, they say that there is a very large link.According to an article entitled “Fast Food, Fat Children,” by cbs.com, while type two diabetes was once a concern for only those in their forties and beyond, children who are ages ten to twelve, are now at great risk due to their intake of highly fatty foods at places like McDonalds. Not only is the fat and calorie intake in a regular sized kid’s meal far above what the children needs for an entire day, but now many of the chains have made a sort of “super size” meal for kids, where the regular meal is just not enough. McDonald’s calls its larger portioned meal a “Mighty” kid’s meal.
When these came out, many parents grew angry at the fast food industries lack of concern for health of the children who they are making money off of. On the McDonald’s website, there is a section called “Food, Nutrition and Fitness” that gives the food value of every item on their menu. The Happy Meal cheeseburger contains three-hundred and ten calories and twelve grams of fat. The Happy Meal French fries contain two-hundred-fifty calories and thirteen grams of fat. The soda in the kid’s meal contains one-hundred-ten calories and zero grams of fat. The regular sized Kid’s Meal comes to a grand total of six-hundred-seventy calories and twenty-five grams of fat. The total is not outrageous enough that a child should not eat it once in awhile; however, in excess, the calories and fat can quickly ad up into pounds. The fast food industries counteracted the accusations of the parents by offering new, healthier choices in addition to their regular kid’s meal menu.
Wendy’s offers white or chocolate milk as a choice instead of soda, mandarin oranges to replace fries, and their usual chicken strips or cheeseburger. McDonald’s has a similar menu with the exception of Apple Dippler’s replacing french-fries instead of mandarin oranges. It seems that no matter what parents may complain about, McDonald’s and its peers are ready to take the challenge.
Although there are mixed feelings about the fast food chains marketing towards children, it can be said that it was and has been a very successful ad campaign for McDonalds.Works CitedAssuras, Thalia. “Fast Food, Fat Children.” CBS News. 21 Apr. 2001. 7 Dec. 2006 <http://www.
cbsnews.com/stories/2001/04/21/eveningnews/main287029.shtml>.Brownell, Kelly D., and Katherine B.
Horgen. Food Fight the Inside Story of the Food Industry, America’s Obesity Crisis, and What We Can Do About It. 1st ed. McGraw –Hill, 2003. 352.
Dalton, Sharon. Our Overweight Children: What Parents, Schools, and Communities Can Do to Control the Fatness. University of California P. 292.Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation the Dark Side of the All-American Meal.