Do fast feeders need a sugar rush for success?

Discussion
Mar 11, 2015

Modern fast food restaurant menus, broadly speaking, tend to fall into two camps: those that offer nutritious fare to attract health conscious patrons (primarily women who are sometimes accompanied by their kids) and those that say the heck with worrying about weight gain, clogged arteries, etc. and make an appeal strictly on taste (typically targeting young males). Recent news from Burger King and Sonic are illustrative of the pull that fast feeders feel.

Burger King no longer offers fountain drinks as a beverage choice as part of its Kids Meals. Instead, the chain gives kids a choice of fat-free milk, low-fat chocolate milk or 100 percent apple juice.

"It will help children eat better now, as soda is the leading source of calories in children’s diets," Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a group which had lobbied Burger King to make the menu change, told USA Today. "It also helps to set kids on a path toward healthier eating in the future, with fewer kids becoming conditioned to think that soda should be a part of every eating out occasion."

In contrast to Burger King, Sonic is planning to add candy bits to fountain drinks after finding success with a line of Slush drinks that included Nerds last summer, according to an Associated Press report. Customers can add Nerds to their Slush drinks for an additional 30 cents. Pre-Nerds, a medium Sonic Grape Slush has 73 grams of sugar and 230 calories. Once the candy is added, the totals go up to 130 grams of sugar and 510 calories.

Sonic also has a kids menu. The chain’s Wacky Pack offers one percent milk in plain and chocolate, Minute Maid 100 percent Apple Juice, Minute Maid Orange Juice, Minute Maid Cranberry Juice, Minute Maid Lemonade and Hi-C Fruit Punch.

Will the future success of fast feeders hinge on chains making a strategic decision to pursue either a more healthful or indulgent positioning? Do you think the industry will lean one-way (healthful) or the other (indulgent) over the next five years?

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6 Comments on "Do fast feeders need a sugar rush for success?"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
7 years 2 months ago

One-hundred thirty grams of sugar is over a half cup! If a foreign government were treating our kids this way there would be a war?

Why is it acceptable to “give them what sells” when it is sugar and not tobacco or liquor?

I think sugar is the next battlefield and I support transparency in what parents in particular are feeding their kids. We are the ones who will have to pay for the diabetes, lack of initiative and other health costs long after the slushy sugar has melted.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
7 years 2 months ago

The issue for the fast feeders is that while customers say they want healthier options research has shown their customers don’t buy them. Part of this is because we are all creatures of habit and if someone wants a healthier choice they know what restaurants offer that fare and go there.

Getting most QSR customers to try a healthier option is not easy. While not directly applicable, it is like going to a steak restaurant and ordering chicken. You can do it but most customers don’t.

Companies like Burger King have a customer base that is geared towards a certain type of menu and an infrastructure designed to deliver it. Can they change customer perception? Certainly, but it will take a lot of time.

Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
7 years 2 months ago

I don’t think you can really compare the two examples given. Burger King is taking steps to make their kids’ menu healthier. I think every parent wants their child to eat healthier, while still needing meals that are fast, convenient and cheap. Adults on the other hand, can eat whatever hits their pleasure centers, so there can be a double standard. Candy in a slushy drink sounds disgusting to me, but I guess there’s no accounting for taste. Fast food chains will continue to serve what sells, including pleasing parents who want healthier options for their kids.

Tina Lahti
Guest
Tina Lahti
7 years 2 months ago

They will lean toward being more healthful or they will be out of business. Nutritional labeling on menus and improved health education is already having an impact.

Jeff Hall
Guest
7 years 2 months ago

Clearly, many indicators point to the QSR industry in general leaning toward a more healthy positioning (long overdue, but thankfully some companies are becoming more enlightened), with some brands truly making the commitment in offering viable, healthy menu options.

In reality, for some brands, their core customer will always be value and indulgent driven, with little concern as to the nutritional benefit of their diet choices. Such brands will be more successful in sticking by what works for them, knowing there will always be a market, however, diminishing, for quick and cheap.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
7 years 2 months ago

I can’t imagine a “fast feeder” (I’ve never heard that expression, though I guess it’s a logical extension of “fast food”) would come out and say “we’re opposed to offering healthier options.” I can, though, imagine such offerings being made, seeing little or no sales, and quietly disappearing. As for Sonic, perhaps they should be made 21+ (or even 25+): they’re in a class by themselves.

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