McDonald's Corp. expects to take its Go Active! Happy Meal for grown-ups national later this year, as it responds to demand for healthier options on its menu, its top marketing executive said on Wednesday.
Go Active! picks up on a longstanding McDonald's favorite — the kid-sized, all-in-one Happy Meal — and reinvents it as an option for adults looking for lighter fare.
Tested in some 200 U.S. McDonald's in Indiana, the meal includes an entree-sized salad, a bottled water or medium fountain drink, a fitness guide from celebrity trainer Bob Greene and a pedometer to encourage walking for physical fitness.
"All the research says I should be able to go to McDonald's and have choices," Larry Light, McDonald's global chief marketing officer, told Reuters in an interview. "We will have choices of the best-selling ideas."
The Go Active! Happy Meal, which sold for about $4.99 in the test market, will be introduced throughout the United States around the middle of this year, a company spokesman said.
It is among several health-related initiatives the world's largest restaurant company began last year as fast-food came under scrutiny amid growing obesity rates, both in the United States and abroad. McDonald's was the target last year of a much-publicized lawsuit blaming it for teenage obesity; the suit was later dismissed.
"It's an issue; we don't deny that," Light told an audience of local business leaders Wednesday morning in Chicago.
Rather than stand still, McDonald's seeks to position itself as a health advocate. The message is supported by "I'm Lovin' It," a new global ad campaign that promotes a youthful lifestyle, regardless of age. "The world expects a leading brand to act like a leader," Light said.
In the New York metropolitan area, for example, McDonald's is letting customers customize mainstay menu items such as hamburgers and chicken sandwiches to trends such as the low-carbohydrate dieting craze with a program called "Real Life Choices."
It has also developed city partnerships such as "Get Lean Houston" with the Texas city, and "Walk this Weigh" with Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to promote physical fitness.
Based on the success of its entree-sized salads, introduced in the United States last year, the company marketed them as part of a wider health-oriented menu in Australia. That menu includes flatbread sandwiches and veggie burgers, among other items, Light said.
McDonald's European marketing officer, Kay Napier, is planning how to roll out entree-sized salads throughout the region, Light said. Versions of the salads have already been introduced in Britain.
Shares of McDonald's ended 2.3 percent lower at $24.86 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.