McDonald’s will introduce a wider variety of healthful items to its kids’ meals and sell its premium coffee through new channels in an effort to combat sluggish sales.

The quick-service operator will introduce mandarin oranges as a new side option in its Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals starting “later this fall,” McDonald’s Corp. said. It will also begin selling its McCafé brand coffee in retail outlets in early 2015.

The Cuties brand mandarin oranges, about 40 calories each, will be a kids’ meal option and also available for separate purchase.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the price for the individual mandarin oranges had not yet been determined.

Customers who buy Happy Meals or Mighty Kids Meals, which target pre-teens, can currently choose from apple slices or a Go-Gurt low-fat strawberry yogurt tube, which was introduced in July.

The company is also testing miniature “junior” bananas in Happy Meals in Austin, Texas, “but it’s premature to speculate on the decisions we may make after the test,” the spokeswoman said.

McDonald’s began including bagged, individual portions of apple slices in every kids’ meal in March 2012. The company said it has served more than 1.1 billion bags of apple slices since then.

McDonald’s will also partner with Kraft Foods Group to offer its McCafé brand coffee in ground or whole-bean form for purchase in grocery stores and other retail outlets.

Ground coffee will be available in 12-ounce bags in premium roast, breakfast blend, French roast, Colombian, premium roast decaf, French vanilla and hazelnut flavors. French roast whole-bean coffee also will be available.

Additionally, Premium roast, French roast and premium roast decaf blends will be available in single-cup portions.

“We understand there is huge demand for at-home options, and we’ve built great success with our McCafé coffee in restaurants. So it was a natural next step to provide customers with McCafé coffee to enjoy in their own home,” Greg Watson, senior vice president for McDonald’s U.S. menu innovation, said in a press release.

“We have always been committed to serving delicious, high-quality beverages at a value, and we’re happy to provide consumers another great way to enjoy McDonald’s McCafé coffees,” he added.

Nina Barton, vice president of coffee for Kraft Foods, said in the release: “This partnership will allow us to leverage each company’s best-in-class capabilities, putting us in a prime position to drive further category growth and deliver one of America’s largest, fastest-growing coffee brands to coffee lovers nationwide.

“By tapping into the loyal McCafé fan base already built by McDonald’s and leveraging our deep coffee category expertise here at Kraft, we have the ability to reach a larger audience than every before, really giving this brand room to thrive,” she added.

McDonald’s recently reported its worst monthly same-store sales in more than 10 years.

Although much of that was due to supplier woes in China that forced the chain to temporarily halt chicken and beef sales in parts of Asia, domestic same-store sales also suffered due to operational and service issues.

McDonald’s management said earlier this year that the company needed to shore up those fundamentals and redouble efforts to allow for more customization of menu items, as well as to put more marketing emphasis on McDonald’s as a transparent and trusted brand.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com
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