Fast food giant McDonald's says it can reverse a decline in fresh produce consumption in the UK by giving away free fruit once a month, following the success of a similar scheme in France.
Announcing the launch of its new Free Fruit Fridays initiative, the company revealed that its Crunchy Wednesdays project in France – set up in response to a reported 5 per cent decline in overall retail purchases of fruit – had resulted in a 19 per cent increase in Happy Meal fruit orders across its French network.
As a result, it said, McDonald's is now the French restaurant trade's number one provider of fruit to young consumers, with more than half of the fruit consumed in such establishments by the country's 3–8 year-olds apparently eaten in one of the group's outlets.
From today, the company says it will provide a free bag of fruit in every Happy Meal it sells in the UK on the first Friday of every month, as it bids to reverse a decline in the number of customers selecting the item from its menu.
The move follows a successful trial in 255 of its UK restaurants and is see as a long-term initiative that will "encourage millions of children to eat and enjoy 5-a-day".
The first fruit bag on offer will contain apple slices and grapes, accounting for more than half (52 per cent) of all children's fruit bags sold in the UK on that day.
More than a decade since adding fruit bags to its menu, McDonald’s said it had seen a decline in the number of customers choosing them and so had decided to try and reverse the trend.
Alistair Macrow, McDonald's senior vice-president for food and marketing, said: "We know that kids and their parents love coming to McDonald's for a fun treat and we want to make the most of that opportunity to help reinvigorate 5-a-day habits.
"Free Fruit Fridays is the latest way we’re evolving our Happy Meal which we know so many UK families enjoy. Parents have told us they find it hard to find affordable fruit and veg, and to make eating 5-a-day fun for their kids.
Roy Ballam, education programme manager at the British Nutrition Foundation, commented: "Fruit and vegetable consumption needs to be encouraged in school children. We know that around one in ten older children achieve the recommended 5-a-day, with the average consumption being 2.9 portions per day.
"Initiatives that encourage greater consumption of fruit and vegetables are welcomed, as these foods are an important part of a healthy, varied diet and can help us stay healthy."