The increase in obesity levels combined with more travelling and more fragmented meal occasions has created a need for convenient health foods, which McDonald’s adult Happy Meals seem to have successfully targeted. However, queries concerning the health benefits of these products must be resolved to win consumer trust in the long term.

Since McDonald’s launched its Go Active! Happy Meals for adults in the UK on 2 August, the company has been overwhelmed by their success. The new meal includes a grilled chicken salad, drink, a ‘go active’ information leaflet and a stepometer, encouraging consumers to eat and exercise healthily.

The launch of the new meal comes amidst growing consumer concern over rising obesity levels. The number of overweight and obese men and women in the UK has increased dramatically in recent years. A worrying 21% of men and 24% of women are obese, a figure which has tripled since 1982.

Producers and retailers of foods containing high levels of sugar, fat or salt are largely being blamed for what has now been dubbed an obesity epidemic. Pressure is on the UK government to take action unless manufacturers and retailers like McDonald’s start to provide healthier options. However, the success of the McDonald’s adult Happy Meal shows that combining health with convenience foods can be a winning mix for both the retailer and its consumers.

McDonald’s bought 700,000 stepometers for August, but it says the batch will sell out in two weeks, requiring another 400,000 to last till the end of the promotion on 31 August. Consumers still want the convenience of on-the-go consumption, which is being driven by more fragmented eating occasions, more time being spent travelling and changing working patterns. The new adult Happy Meal aims to plug the gap by providing ‘convenient health’.

Many health-orientated brands have been negatively affected by consumer backlash, or have weak reputations as truly healthy products, and critics have alleged that the McDonald’s new chicken salad actually has more calories than its cheeseburger. Despite the success of the new Happy Meal, it is important for McDonald’s to win consumers’ trust if it is to develop a long-term, profitable business in the health on-the-go arena.

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