Even green beans can be strategic in the continuing struggle by QSR brands to come up with better-for-you options that are appealing to kids and yet acceptable to nutrition scolds.
KFC made green beans the default option in its new Li'l Bucket kids meal, which is joined in the $3.99 package by a Kentucky Grilled Chicken drumstick, an applesauce pouch from GoGo squeeZ and a Capri Sun Roarin' Water. The new repast aimed at kids also appeals to parents with robust infotainment options such as puzzle games that are attached to the bottom of the bucket lid.
"Green beans are one of the more popular green vegetables with kids," Cynthia Koplos, KFC's senior director of marketing, told brandchannel. "They're already available at almost all of our restaurants." Parents also can choose mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese as side items in the Li'l Bucket, in place of green beans.
The launch of the new Li'l Bucket is the next important move for the Yum! Brands-owned property that "has had some challenges," as Koplos admitted, but which lately has been undergoing a relaunch with new products and marketing. Competition is growing from Chick-fil-A and other chicken chains, as well as other QSR stalwarts such as McDonald's that want to get in on the growing chicken action.
"In reintroducing the KFC brand to a whole new group of people, we thought [the Li'l Bucket meal] was a chance to reach out to moms and to introduce them and their children as well to KFC," Koplos said.
Key to the proposition is the Li'l Bucket itself, which is about one-third the size of the iconic, standard KFC bucket. "It's a chance to play up something that's important to the brand ... and get a whole new generation involved with it," she said.
Besides liking the green-beans-default option, Koplos said the choice of the GoGo squeeZ applesauce was important as well. "We wanted to get some sort of fruit into the meal and loved" the fruit-puree packet, which is resealable. "If [kids] don't eat it right away, they can eat it later."
Koplos also credited the brand for the "infotainment" which, she said, "isn't going to end up on the floorboard of the car like some piece of plastic—something you have to throw away eventually and is a pain to deal with. Our games allow parent and child to interact and play over a great meal together."
Importantly, KFC also likes where Li'l Bucket sits nutritionally: only 210 calories for the whole meal, just 4 grams of fat and 565 mg of sodium with the default side of green beans; the other two options add another 40 calories.
"If you do a competitive analysis, the [calories] are much lower than what you get at many of our competitors," Koplos said.
And that's a problem which has been identified this week by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a leading bane of mainstream QSR and CPG brands. Its new study purported that 97 percent of kids meals at top U.S. restaurant chains (presumably including the kids' meal at KFC that Li'l Bucket now is replacing) don't meet proper nutritional criteria as defined by the Center.
The group calls for kids' meals not to exceed 430 calories, for example. At least by that criterion, KFC's Li'l Bucket is off to a good start.