I’m a big fan of fast food toys and still own all my old kids’ meal toys from Australian McDonald’s Happy Meal, Hungry Jack’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Red Rooster and some of the American chains I visited as a kid. There have been so many iconic and collectible toys from kids fast food promotions over the years, plus plenty of junk that no one cares about anymore as well.
When eating out with friends, I’ve often experienced the shock of them discovering that KFC no longer gives out toys with its kids’ meals. They are also shocked to discover that this ended in 2011, nearly 10 years ago. As most of my friends are in their late 20s or 30s, it has likely been years since they have had a kids meal at a fast-food restaurant and all the original hype over the decision has long since passed.
What caused KFC to stop selling toys in Australia?
It’s surely no surprise that childhood obesity is a big issue in Australia. The ethics of advertising to children is always a hot issue and when coupled with fried chicken and fries can lead to a real Zinger of an issue for advocacy groups.
In 2011 the term “pester power” was used a lot to describe how the advertising of kids meal toys to children on TV was making kids nag their parents to go to whichever fast-food chain had the best toys that week. Each toy promotion would usually contain 4 or more toys, often tied to a movie or TV show would encourage repeat visits in order to collect the whole set.
Various health studies and lobby groups have been putting pressure on fast-food chains to stop using toys as a vehicle to sell unhealthy food, with pressure to either stop the toys or improve the menus. This is why McDonald’s now includes options such as apple slices and water with their Happy Meals, but KFC decided to simply remove the toys.
Some parents would have preferred a healthier option be added to the KFC kids menu instead, as parents are still going to rely on the convenience of fast food and will need to buy food for their kids regardless. This is likely to have pushed parents to take their kids to McDonald’s or Hungry Jack’s instead, as many parents find kids meals with toys to be good value as they usually keep the kids distracted for a while. This may have changed the patronage slightly, winning over some new fans and perhaps deterring some regular parents as well.
Example of Australian KFC Toy Commercial from 1996
Back in the 1990s, KFC kids meals were called “Bucket Heads” with a red bucket character telling kids to “be cool have a Bucket Head instead”. These were originally served in collectible plastic buckets, later they returned to cardboard boxes for their kids’ meals as this must have caused immense plastic waste. This explains why the Bucket Head character is shown in this video but the box shown in the picture is cardboard. They must have retired this character as his name was now pointless and probably too confusing with the musician Buckethead, who is also associated with KFC.
This KFC Bucket Head kids meal included chips, 2 chicken tenders Sunrise fruit drink and Bertie Beetle chocolate and an Aaahh!!! Real Monsters straw with a figurine wrapped around it.