Chick-fil-A Inc., overseer of 1,600 fast-food chicken restaurants in the U.S., will sell lower- calorie kids’ meals, joining other eateries in promoting menu options billed as healthier.
The Atlanta-based chain will start offering grilled-chicken nuggets on Jan. 9, helping to reduce the calories and fat in kids’ meals by more than half, said Woody Faulk, vice president of brand strategy and design. Chick-fil-A will shun drinks with high-fructose corn syrup, and embrace milk, apple juice, lemonade and water for kids.
“It’s very crucial for fast food to be some of the people to take the first step,” Faulk said in a telephone interview. “It’s irresponsible not to do it.”
The chain, whose annual sales grew 11 percent to about $3.5 billion in 2010, added a fruit cup to its menu in 2004 and started selling multigrain oatmeal last year.
Chick-fil-A is also cutting sodium in other menu items, such as char-grilled chicken, dressings, sauces and bread, Faulk said. The new kids’ meals and foods won’t affect sales, he said.
“It’s going to have a neutral financial impact,” Faulk said.
The chain features breaded and fried chicken and waffle fries. Founder Truett Cathy established the brand in the 1960s. Now, 41 units are owned by closely held Chick-fil-A, and the rest by independent companies under contracts.
In July, McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), the world’s largest restaurant company, said it would begin putting apple slices and smaller portions of french fries in all Happy Meals at U.S. units, reducing calories about 20 percent. Nationally, of children ages 2 to 19, about 12.5 million, or 17 percent, are obese, according to the website of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A McDonald’s four-piece Chicken McNugget Happy Meal with apples and milk has 330 calories, according to the company’s website. A Chick-fil-A kids’ meal with grilled nuggets, a fruit cup and milk has 210 calories, according to that chain.
Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI), who brands include Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse, has also committed to cut calories and salt in its food during the next 10 years. The company in September agreed to work with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity. Darden has made fruits or vegetables the default side dish in its children’s meals.
At Chick-fil-A, a four-piece chicken-nugget meal costs about $3.15.
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