Happy Meal

Happy Meal
Happy Meal box

A "Happy Meal" is a meal specifically marketed at children, sold at the fast-food chain McDonald's since June 1979. A toy is typically included with the food, both of which are usually contained in a small box or paper bag with the McDonald's logo.


Product description

Happy Meal logo, English
Happy Meal logo, Japanese. Text reads "Happy Set" in Katakana
Happy Meal logo, Spanish (only Latin America)

In the United States the Happy Meal includes:

  • a side order consisting 20% less fries than a small order and apple slices with caramel dipping sauce.
  • a soft drink (35.5 cl (12 ounces)), milk, chocolate milk, or apple juice.
  • a hamburger, cheeseburger, or a four or six piece order of Chicken McNuggets with dipping sauce.
  • In 2011 Happy Meals include hamburger, cheese burger, McDouble, or a four or six piece order of Chicken McNuggets with dipping sauce. Child Sized fries and apple slices are now included in the happy meal.
  • In 2009, they launched a Happy Meal Wrap, only to be discontinued later that year due to low sales.

In Romania the Happy Meal includes:

  • a side order consisting of a small order of french fries or a mini-salad with tomato, cucumber and mayonnaise.
  • a soft drink (450 or 350 or 250 ml), water, orange/apple juice or tea .
  • a hamburger, a cheeseburger, a McToast, a McPuisor or a four piece order of Chicken McNuggets with no sauce.

In Australia the Happy Meal includes:

  • a side order consisting of a small order of (french fries) or sliced apples with a sauce (tomato or barbecue)
  • A soft drink (35.5 cl (12 ounces)), strawberry, chocolate or vanilla thickshake, orange juice or water.
  • a cheeseburger, hamburger, Chicken snack wrap or three to six pieced order of Chicken McNuggets.

In 2007 a pasta zoo Happy Meal was introduced. It was discontinued in 2008.[citation needed]

In some countries, the choices have been expanded to include items such as a grilled cheese sandwich (known as a "Fry Kid"), or more "healthy" options such as apple slices, a mini snack wrap, salads or pasta, as one or more of the options.[1]

In most countries, McDonald's introduced a "healthy option" to the Happy Meal- children have always been able to choose milk with their Happy Meal and the chain added fruit juice drink instead of a soft drink, and bags of dried fruit (or a whole piece of fruit such as an apple, or carrot sticks) in place of fries.


  • The Mighty Kids Meal is a meal from McDonald's designed for preteens, who are older than those who might eat a Happy Meal, but still not hungry enough to eat from the full menu. The concept is similar to the Happy Meal, in that it provides a burger or Chicken McNuggets, french fries and apple dippers and a drink and toy. The difference is that the Mighty Kid's Meal provides more food than what is typically found in a Happy Meal, providing a double cheeseburger instead of a cheeseburger or a hamburger, and more Chicken McNuggets (6 vs 4), plus a larger drink (16oz vs 12oz). McDonald's began offering the Mighty Kids Meal on March 30, 2001, but the concept was originally developed by Burger King in 1998 in the form of its Big Kids Meal. Its advertising campaign involved kids being put in infantile situations, to represent that the regular Happy Meal was for younger kids. In the UK it was called the Happy Meal Extra.
  • The Go Active! Meal was a promotion introduced in 2004, and lasted from May 11 through to June 7.[2] The Go Active! Meal featured a Dasani water bottle, a salad, a pedometer instead of a toy, and an exercise booklet.

International naming

In some regions, different names are used. In Quebec, it is called "Joyeux Festin" (literally meaning Happy Feast in French), in Latin America and Puerto Rico, but not in Spain it is known as Cajita Feliz (Happy little box in Spanish), in Brazil it is known as McLanche Feliz (Happy McSnack in Portuguese).

In Japan, it was called Okosama Lunch from 1987 to 1988, then Okosama Set from 1988 to 1995 (Okosama is a polite word for "child"), before being renamed to Happy Set. In Germany, it was known as Juniortüte (Bag for Juniors in German) until 1999.


In the mid-1970's Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño started working with her husband running McDonalds stores in Guatemala. She created what she called the "Menu Ronald" (Ronald menu), which offered a hamburger, small fries and a small sundae to help mothers feed their children more effectively while at McDonald's stores.[3][4][5] The concept was eventually brought to the attention of McDonald's management in Chicago. The company gave the development of the product to Bob Bernstein, founder and CEO of Bernstein-Rein Advertising, an agency that has counted McDonald’s as a key client since 1967. Bernstein came up with the Happy Meal.[6]

Award for creation of Happy Meal packaging
Bronze Happy Meal presented to Robert Bernstein crediting him with creation of the Happy Meal.

In 1977, the McDonald’s store owner clients who regularly met with Bernstein were looking for ways to create a better experience for families with kids. Bernstein reasoned that if kids could get a packaged meal all their own instead of just picking at their parent’s food, everybody would be happier. He had often noticed his young son at the breakfast table poring over the various items on cereal boxes and thought, “Why not do that for McDonald’s? The package is the key!” He called in his creative team and had them mock up some paperboard boxes fashioned to look like lunch pails with the McDonald’s Golden Arches for handles. They called in nationally known children’s illustrators and offered them the blank slate of filling the box’s sides and tops with their own colorful ideas from art to jokes to games to comic strips to stories to fantasy: whatever they thought might appeal to kids, at least 8 items per box. Inside the box would be a burger, small fries, packet of cookies and a surprise gift. A small drink would accompany. Bernstein named it The Happy Meal and it was successfully introduced with television and radio spots and in-store posters in the Kansas City market in October 1977. Other markets followed and the national roll out happened in 1979.

Bernstein received Trademark #1136758 (Serial #73148046)[7] for his idea in 1977 which he assigned to his valued client, McDonald’s Corporation, on June 10, 1980. In 1987 at the annual McDonald’s marketing meeting, he was recognized for his accomplishment with a full-size bronze replica of the Happy Meal box with the following inscription:

McDonald’s Happy Meal 10th Anniversary 1977-1987 To Robert A. Bernstein, Bernstein-Rein Advertising

Thank you for bringing the Happy Meal, a bold idea, to the McDonald’s System.

Your insight and conviction truly has made McDonald’s a fun place for children for the past 10 years!

McDonald’s Corporation September, 1987

Often the Happy Meal is themed to promote a current family-oriented movie. The first such promotion was the Star Trek Meal, to promote Star Trek: The Motion Picture in December 1979. The packaging used for the Star Trek Meal consisted of various images and games related to the film, as well as a comic strip adaptation of the film. Consumers had to buy numerous meals in order to complete the set. In 1992, McDonald's withdrew their range of Happy Meal toys for the movie Batman Returns, after complaints from parents that the movie was unsuitable for children.[8]

In July 2011, McDonald's announced plans to make Happy Meals healthier, including the addition of apples. The redesigned meals will contain a smaller portion (1.1 ounces) of fries, along with the apples. [9]

Happy Meal toy

The Happy Meal did not introduce the practice of providing small toys to children. In Canada, the promotion prior to the Happy Meal was called the "Treat of the Week," where a different toy was available free on request each week.[citation needed] This promotion continued after the Happy Meal was introduced in 1994.

Happy Meal toys have become increasingly elaborate in recent years. While initially they were little more than a cheap plastic trinket such as a Frisbee or ball, they have gradually been replaced with increasingly sophisticated toys, many of which are a tie-in to some existing toy line or contemporary motion picture. Between 1995 and 2006, this was usually a Disney movie (Disney movie themes had also been used earlier, but sporadically). However, Disney didn't renew the contract, wishing to use their characters to promote healthier foods.[citation needed]

On November 2, 2010, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a law requiring that children's meals sold in restaurants must meet certain nutritional standards before they could be sold with toys, to reduce triggering of childhood obesity. The law, urged in part by increase of childhood obesity in the United States, would allow toys to be included with children's meals that have less than 600 calories and less than 640 milligrams of sodium, contain fruits and vegetables, and include beverages without excessive fat or sugar. The Board overturned the veto of Mayor Gavin Newsom on November 23 to pass the law.[10] The law has been ridiculed by many, including the satirical news program The Daily Show.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Tribal DDB Sydney. "Fix this reference #3". Mcdonalds.com.au. http://www.mcdonalds.com.au/HTML/whatsNew/pastazoo_mums.asp. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  2. ^ "McDonald's launches Happy Meals for Adults". Money.cnn.com. 2004-05-11. http://money.cnn.com/2004/05/11/news/fortune500/mcdonalds_happymeal/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  3. ^ "La señora del Mac menú". El Periodico. http://www.elperiodico.com.gt/es/20060801/14/30397/. Retrieved 27 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Pellicer, Lilliana. "Señora Presidenta". Prensa Libre. http://servicios.prensalibre.com/pl/domingo/archivo/revistad/2004/octubre04/031004/dfrente.shtml. Retrieved 27 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "McDonald’s o ¿cómo sacar el éxito de una cajita?". Tormo. http://www.tormo.com.mx/noticias/2094/McDonalds_o_como_sacar_el_exito_de_una_cajita.html.htm. Retrieved 27 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "Creator of the Happy Meal Says KC Makes Him Happy". NBC Action News. http://www.nbcactionnews.com/dpp/about_us/community_affairs/profiles/creator-of-the-happy-meal-says-kc-makes-him-happy. Retrieved 18 August 2011. 
  7. ^ United States Patent and Trademark Office. Trademark #113678. , 1977. Web. 7 Mar 2011
  8. ^ Olly Richards (September 1992). "Trouble in Gotham", Empire, pp. 21—23. Retrieved on 2008-08-14.
  9. ^ "McDonald's: Apple slices in every Happy Meal". Citizen-Times. Associated Press. 2011-07-27. http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20110726/BUSINESS/307260046/McDonald-s-Apple-slices-every-Happy-Meal. Retrieved 2011-07-28. 
  10. ^ "San Francisco overrides mayoral veto, bans Happy Meals with toys". CNN. November 23, 2010. http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/11/23/california.happy.meals.ban/index.html. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  11. ^ Mangu-Ward, Katherine (2011-01-05) "Are You Serious Right Now?": The Daily Show on San Fran Happy Meal Ban, Reason.com

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