Thanks to Investor Demands, Wendy's Will No Longer Be Slinging Soda to Kids

It joins McDonald’s, Subway, Chipotle, Arby’s, and Panera as the newest quick-serve restaurant to remove soda from its kids' menu.

(Photo: Flickr)

Jan 15, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Josh Scherer has written for Epicurious, Thrillist, and Los Angeles magazine. He is constantly covered in corn chip crumbs.

You're in fourth grade. You're riding your 12-gear Magna mountain bike home from school, just like you do every day. The cafeteria ran out of teriyaki steak nuggets, and somehow, somewhere, you need to unload the lunch money that's been burning a hole in your pocket since noon.

You pass by the set of ubiquitous Golden Arches that you've grown all too familiar with on this ride. Pulling the back break, you skid to a stop and head inside. At the counter, you clear your throat and intentionally deepen your voice before ordering: "One Chicken McNugget Happy Meal please, with a..."

Before you can request that bottle of 1 percent milk, like the responsible young consumer that you are, the cashier hands you a soft drink cup and points at the multiheaded, soda-streaming hydra in the corner. You wanted milk, and he fed you to the wolves.

Wendy's would never do that. The chain has long been one of the few quick-serve restaurants that didn't have soda—which has an insanely high profit margin—as the default kids' meal beverage. Now the Center for Science in the Public Interest says the chain will officially be removing the choice of soda from its kids' menu.

In the past, "when ordering a kids’ meal, the customer is asked what beverage they prefer," Bob Bertini, a spokesperson for Wendy's said in an email to USA Today. "The change is the kids' meal beverage options which are shown on our menu boards." Instead of seeing soda listed as a choice, pint-size Wendy's patrons will have the option of bottled water, apple juice, "white" milk, or chocolate milk.

The decision to take away soft drinks came after the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility filed a resolution with the company a few weeks ago.

"We applaud Wendy’s for prioritizing children’s health and providing more nutritious beverage options,” said ICCR member Michael Crosby in a CSPI press release. “Beyond the obvious health risks for kids, is the reputational risk these unhealthy drinks carry for the company. As their investors, we are pleased to see them address this important concern.”

The change comes one year after McDonald’s partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to remove soft drinks from all Happy Meals. However, in the fine print of the agreement, it specified that the restaurant would only remove soda from its advertisements, and the option would still be promoted on the menu boards.

McDonald’s only officially removed soda from its Happy Meal Menu after the CSPI threatened litigation for deliberately deceiving the public.

So even though this won’t be a drastic change for Wendy’s, it is an incredibly important domino to fall: Burger King is the last of the big three hamburger chains to offer soda as its default kids’ meal beverage option. If the King has any sense at all, he’ll fall in line with the other burger monarchs and ditch the sweet stuff.