Birth of the Happy Meal

By | November 25, 2010

It’s called “Joyeux Festin” in Quebec, “Cajita Feliz” in Puerto Rico, and “Xenni Min” in Ukraine. Whatever you call it, one thing is certain: kids all over the world enjoy the Happy Meal – one of the main attractions of the fast-food chain McDonald’s. This special kid’s meal first appeared in Kansas City in 1977.

The Happy Meal is so-named because it comes with a toy in addition to the usual McDonald’s treats. In the United States, this is served together with a side order of fries or sliced apples with a  caramel dip, a 12-ounce soft drink, milk, chocolate milk, orange juice or apple juice, and a hamburger, cheeseburger, or chicken nuggets with dipping sauce. The items are packed in a small box or paper bag with the McDonald’s logo.

The Happy Meal was conceived by Bob Bernstein, founder and CEO of Bernstein-Rein Advertising based in Kansas City. Since 1967, McDonald’s has been one of the agency’s many valued clients. In 1977, McDonald’s consulted Bernstein for a better way to make kids happy while visiting the place with their parents, Bernstein suggested giving children their own special meal instead of sharing their parents’ food.

Inspired by his own son who was fascinated with the goodies inside cereal boxes, Bernstein asked his creative team to make lunch pails out of paper boxes with McDonald’s Golden Arches for handles. The tops and sides of the boxes were decorated with games, jokes, comic strips or anything that would appeal to kids. Inside the box was a burger, some fries, cookies and a toy. Thus, the Happy Meal was born in Kansas City in October 1977 and was heavily promoted through TV and radio spots. For making kids all over the world happy, Bernstein was rewarded with a full-size bronze replica of the Happy Meal box in 1987.


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