McDonald's needs kids more than today's kids need McDonald's.
Perhaps no one knows that better than CEO Don Thompson, who was seriously put on the hot seat by a 9-year-old girl at Thursday's annual shareholder's meeting in Oak Brook, Ill.
For a few moments, Hannah Robertson—whose mother, Kia, is a kid's nutritional activist and creator of an interactive children's game on nutrition called Today I Ate a Rainbow—stood and lectured the CEO of one of the world's biggest brands.
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"There are things in life that aren't fair—like when your pet dies," said Hannah, whose voice never wavered. "I don't think it's fair when big companies try to trick kids into eating food. It isn't fair that so many kids my age are getting sick," she said—blaming McDonald's for unfairly targeting kids with advertisements for food that isn't good for them.
Hannah ended her time-limited comments, made during the meeting's question-and-answer session, by pointedly but politely asking: "Mr. Thompson, don't you want kids to be healthy so they can live a long and healthy life?"
This is an issue that simply won't go away: childhood nutrition. It is a key element in Michelle Obama's ongoing campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even as McDonald's has made some moves to better its menu offerings in recent years, it's increasingly getting bombarded by activists—and now, their children—to do more. Several other activists also spoke out at the meeting, prodding McDonald's to do more about offering healthy items.
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For McDonald's, it's virtually a no-win situation that will only grow larger as a generation of fact-focused and nutritionally savvy Millennials continue to have kids. For Thompson, who has been CEO for less than a year—and who has been trying to guide McDonald's through a rough patch—there was no hesitation in his response.
"We don't sell junk food," he said. "My kids also eat McDonald's."
Thompson noted that he—like other parents—watches what his kids eat. "We cook lots of fruits and veggies at home," he said. He also noted that McDonald's sells fruits (apple slices in kids meals) and veggies (including side salads on the Dollar Menu). He also said that McDonald's recently began to sell fat-free chocolate milk.
The CEO thanked Hannah for her comments, ending with this compliment, "I think it's great that you want to eat more fruits and veggies."
_ By Bruce Horovitz, USA Today