Hey, kids: wanna chow down on hot fries — or chilled apple slices cut to look like fries?
Burger King bkc on Wednesday announced that the apple slices — served in a french-fry-like cup — are on tap to add a fresh fruit option to kid-targeted meals.
BK's Fresh Apple Fries could roll out nationally by spring following tests this fall and winter, says Cindy Syracuse, youth and family marketing brand manager.
Burger King also joins 11 other big food and beverage marketers — including McDonald's mcd— that have pledged to focus on healthier options in ads aimed at kids under 12.
Burger King's move comes one day after California became the first state to require fast-food chains to post nutritional information at points of purchase. The industry is pulling out the stops to try to prove to legislators, consumer groups and parents that it's serious about improving nutrition in its kids meals.
In the past couple of years, chains including McDonald's, Wendy's wenand Subway have added better-for-you options to kids meals.
"They're all terrified of lawsuits and legislation," says Marion Nestle, nutrition professor at New York University.
For BK, the Fresh Apple Fries took years to develop. "We didn't want to do apple slices just to do slices," says Syracuse. "We wanted to do something that parents felt good about buying."
This winter, BK also plans to roll out Mott's Organic Unsweetened Apple Sauce as a kids meal option.
Someone's buying the better-for-you kids meals. BK says 18% are sold with its existing "healthier" options such as milk and applesauce. McDonald's says about 26% of Happy Meals are sold with better-for-you substitutions, such as fresh apple slices and milk.
NYU's Nestle says those numbers could rise, and kids would be better served if the healthy kids meals were the default order — with fries and soda by request only at a higher price.
Others kids meal moves:
•Subway. The chain rolled out a Fresh Fit for Kids menu in March with options of raisins or sliced apples instead of chips. This month, it added Dannon yogurt as an option, says spokesman Les Winograd.
•McDonald's. The largest U.S. apple buyer since adding Apple Dippers in 2004, it's looking at other fruits and veggies for Happy Meals, says spokeswoman Danya Proud. She declined to be specific.
•Wendy's. It began offering yogurt with granola for its kids meals in April 2006. It also added sliced turkey and ham sandwiches for kids, says spokesman Bob Bertini.
•Starbucks sbux.It recently began to look at lower-calorie drink and food options for kids, says spokesman Brandon Borrman.