McDonald's heralds 'latest step in the evolution of the Happy Meal' with Free Fruit Fridays launch

By the end of 2014 McDonald’s aims to have given away more than 3.5 million apples and over 23 million grapes free of charge to Happy Meal customers as part of its new ‘Free Fruit Fridays’ initiative.

Launching today (Friday 7 March), McDonald’s restaurants nationwide will hand out a free fruit bag with every Happy Meal on the first Friday of every month in a bid to encourage millions of children to eat and enjoy five-a-day.

Speaking to The Drum, McDonald’s UK marketing director Nathalie Pomory, described the campaign as “the latest step in the evolution of the Happy Meal” and revealed that the activity was inspired by a similar project introduced in McDonald’s restaurants in France during 2010, Crunchy Wednesdays.

“We were quite surprised by the government figures which showed only one in ten kids in the UK are getting the recommended five-a-day, and the trend is similar amongst our own customer base. Despite many customers being aware that we introduced fruit bags ten years ago, in recent years the number of people choosing these options has fallen,” Pomory explained.

“Crunchy Wednesday was introduced when France was in a similar situation to what we’re experiencing now in the UK and as a result of Crunchy Wednesdays McDonald’s in France found a 19 per cent increase in sales of fruit in their restaurants outside of the promotional days, so it really changed behaviours and put fruit back onto customer’s radars. Since then McDonald’s has become the number one restaurant in France where kids eat the most fruit and we want to emulate those results in the UK.”

In order to promote the offer to parents Pomory reveals the fast food chain will be advertising on TV, radio and digital with press ads also running on Free Fruit Friday days. “We really want to hone in and raise awareness of the Free Fruit Fridays and to do that we need to go outside the restaurants and elevate the excitement behind those days with our customers. “On the digital side in the week running up to the Friday we’ll be advertising, because only advertising on the Friday would be quite limiting. We’re planning display media on relevant sites that parents visit and though we don’t have plans for real-time marketing (RTM) at the moment I would say, as Free Fruit Friday is a year-long commitment, we’ll be reviewing possible uses of RTM in the future,” she said. As a keen supporter of local, national and global sporting events Free Fruit Friday is another way in which McDonald’s is encouraging its customers to commit to a “balanced and healthy lifestyle”. “Eight out of 10 families come to McDonald’s once a month for a treat so we thought as they’re already with us how can we make healthier choices more accessible to our customers. Free Fruit Fridays help us to encourage McDonald’s as part of a balanced and healthy diet, the support we offer to community football and wider global sponsorships like the World Cup are really to encourage kids to get more active and have a more balanced lifestyle,” she added.

As always Leo Burnett has created the TV ad campaign for the initiative which broke on Monday night (3 March). Set to the sounds of Madness classic 'One Step Beyond' the upbeat commercial shows children picking and enjoying fruit, something which the promotion aims to emulate. If initial tests in 255 McDonald’s restaurants yield positive results the initiative will continue to be monitored throughout the year with McDonald’s working with “family and health experts for future ideas on how to continue to make healthy choices fun for kids”.

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