Burger King agreed to advertise only products that meet stringent nutrition guidelines to kids under 12, as part of its European Union Commitment to "Providing and Promoting Healthy Choices to Children and Adults." The company has less than one year to implement the strategy.
The voluntary commitment signed by approximately 11 companies in November 2007 and taking effect Jan. 1, 2009, means barring TV ads for beverages and foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar content.
While no plan exists to flood kids and parents with obesity pamphlets and posters, Burger King has begun working the "healthy eating" theme into advertising and marketing messages.
U.S. Burger King Spokesman Keva Silversmith says today's advertised meal is the four-piece chicken tender, applesauce and low-fat milk or calcium-enriched apple juice. The ads that will run to promote the new meals that meet the criteria are still under development.
"The ads running today show only the most nutritionally balanced kid's meal on the menu, and when physical activity and outdoor play can be incorporated into the advertisement, we do that as well," he says. "All spots are approved by CARU, which oversees children's advertising, so there's no evidence of inappropriate influence or behavior."
The voluntary industry commitment to set guidelines started with about 14 companies in the United States. Antje Burbach, a Burger King spokeswoman in Switzerland, says Burger King has begun reviewing its meals, along with advertising and marketing messages, in Africa and the Middle East, and also vows to implement the same strategy there, if needed.
Burger King, in the midst of new product development, wants to make sure all kids meals abide by guidelines agreed on, which proves extremely difficult because consumer preferences and health requirements vary. "We have to take responsibility," Burbach says. "There's evidence that every fifth child is already obese."
In Europe, these guidelines for an entrée, side dish or beverage are no more than 560 calories per meal, less than 30% of calories from fat, less than 10% of calories from saturated fat, no added trans fats, no more than 10% of calories from added sugars, no more than 1.67 grams of salt or 660 milligrams of sodium, and no added artificial colors and flavors.