McDonald’s to Air Television Ads About Healthy Food for Kids

McDonald’s 3Q
A customer watches television at a McDonald's Corp. restaurant in Norwalk, California. Photographer: Tim Rue/Bloomberg

McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest restaurant operator, will advertise its Happy Meals on U.S. television beginning March 7 in a push to highlight its healthier menu options.

The kids’ meal commercials will feature new characters who tout the benefits of eating Happy Meal items such as apple slices and fat free chocolate milk, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said today in a statement.

McDonald’s is working to draw back customers concerned about children’s health amid surging obesity rates. Last year, McDonald’s introduced apple slices and smaller packets of French fries in Happy Meals, reducing calories by about 20 percent. The average number of menu items that contain at least half a serving of fruit or vegetables rose to 15.8 in 2010, from 9.9 in 2006, according to the company’s most recent sustainability report.

Since 1980, prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents has almost tripled, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the new ads, a kid named Ferris lives on a farm with his goat, who learns how to eat healthier foods as the story unfolds. Some commercials will advertise Happy Meal toys, which were banned by the city of San Francisco last year.

McDonald’s, which has more than 33,500 locations worldwide, spent $74.4 million last year primarily for TV and radio ads in the U.S., according to a company filing.

The shares rose 0.4 percent to $99.94 at the close in New York and have gained 31 percent in the past 12 months.

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