McDonald’s brings Happy Meals to Games, combats obesity criticism

McDonald’s on Thursday announced it will serve Happy Meals at Olympic restaurants for the first time in its 36-year history as an Olympic sponsor.

The decision was designed to not only provide one of its most popular menu items but also help it combat criticism in the British press that it is a “junk food” company contributing to rising childhood obesity.

Happy Meals are at the forefront of McDonald’s healthy eating options, and the ones in the Olympic restaurants will include options of a fruit or vegetable and low-fat dairy. Fruit options range from kiwi-on-a-stick to pineapple, while vegetable options include carrots or corn.

“This represents our commitment to provide fruits, vegetables and dairy products,” said McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson. “Kiwi-on-a-stick: Sounds a little strange, but you’ve got to try it. It’s wonderful.”

IOC Marketing Chairman Gerhard Heiberg said, “I know there is a lot of criticism on the part of media, which I do not understand having seen the [research and development], the development in the kitchen and everything you do. We see the results here: healthy lifestyle, healthy food. You are really following up.”

McDonald’s earlier this year renewed its worldwide Olympic sponsorship through 2020.
 
The company’s global marketing efforts are focused on encouraging kids to be active. It developed a Champions of Play program that promotes exercise through “Playbooks” and healthy eating tips that are being included with Happy Meals worldwide.

It complemented the in-restaurant materials with a website (championsofplay.com) where kids can watch Olympians do fictional Games like pole vault to the moon. They also can do physical activities recommended on the site and log those activities online. The company’s executives said more than 100,000 activities were logged worldwide since the site launched three weeks ago.

McDonald’s will bring 200 kids from 34 countries to London for the Olympics. Each child will get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Olympics venues and get to do things like walk on the soccer field at Wembley Stadium and shoot an arrow at the archery venue.

“Reaching kids and communities with this message of play really is a priority for us,” said Kevin Newell, McDonald’s chief brand officer.

McDonald’s expects to serve 1.75 million meals at its Olympic restaurants over the next 29 days. Its flagship location is a 9,842-square-foot restaurant in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium. Some 200 McDonald’s employees will staff it. The food served will come from British and Irish farmers.

The restaurant is McDonald’s most sustainable ever. Approximately 75 percent of it — from the chairs to the cooking equipment to the wiring — will be recycled and used in other restaurants the company owns.

McDonald’s is serving a variety of special, deli wraps at its London 2012 locations, highlighted by a grilled chicken salad wrap with cucumber.

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