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McDonald's announced yesterday that it is making menu and packaging changes to its Happy Meal concept - and customizing those changes to individual countries and cultures around the world.

In the US, for example, McDonald's will expand the Happy Meal menu to include a choice of one percent milk and apple slices that can be dipped in a sauce. In the, the menu will be expanded to include organic milk; in Australia, toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches; and yogurt will be on the menu in places that include Spain and Brazil; and something called "Fish McDippers" in Japan.

In addition to changing the packaging so that it features new graphics, games, and puzzles, McDonald's also is instituting some new mom-friendly features in select stores in some countries. These include having s-trained staff to help supervise children in Italy and the Netherlands, and offering special "Mom's Parking" in Canada and New Zealand.

The changes are timed to coincide with its celebration of the Happy Meal's 25th anniversary.
KC's View:
We're sort of intrigued by the "mother's helper" idea, and wonder if there is a concept there that could be adapted by other retailers looking to differentiate themselves.

For a while, installing monitored playrooms was a hot concept…but that seems to have cooled off in recent years. (One chain that continues to do a good job with it is Ireland's Superquinn, but we suspect that could be because the Irish are less litigious than Americans. There are risks inherent in babysitting kids, and we think that could be one of the reasons the playroom concept lost momentum.)

But we continue to think that stores ought to be doing more to attract and cater to children. There are two good reasons for this. One is that a store that it attractive to children also will be attractive to parents (Stew Leonard's is the poster child for this strategy). The other is that food retailers need to do something to establish themselves as a focal point, a necessary cog in the machinery of children's existence. Right now, many children have no emotional connection to the food shopping experience, which puts mainstream stores in jeopardy when this generation starts doing the food shopping.

An investment in child-friendly marketing now is an investment in the customers of the future.