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McDonald’s removes fitness tracker toy from Happy Meals

McDonald’s Corp.
McDonald’s Corp.’s activity band promotion appeared to be in line with the company’s attempt to change perceptions that its food is unhealthy, an analyst said.
(Eugene Hoshiko / Associated Press)

McDonald’s Corp. is removing the Step It Activity Band that was briefly included as a toy in Happy Meals after the company said it received “limited reports” of potential skin irritations that “may be associated from wearing the band.”

The company said it was “fully investigating this issue” and that the plastic watch-like fitness trackers would no longer be offered in the U.S. and Canadian markets.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers,” McDonald’s spokeswoman Terri Hickey said in a statement.  

An analyst said before news of the removal that the promotion appeared to be in line with the company’s attempt to change perceptions that its food is unhealthy.

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“They’ve added apples in the Happy Meals, they’ve added milk instead of soda,” said Nicole Ferry, a partner and executive director of strategy for branding firm Sullivan. “They’re trying to appeal as a healthier choice for kids, and adults too, but primarily for kids.”

But from a branding perspective, the fitness trackers didn’t necessarily make a lot of sense as children were likely to view the gadgets as toys, rather than a serious message about exercise. 

“Because it’s such a temporal promotional toy, it feels a little less of a serious commitment,” Ferry said, describing the promotion as a “misplaced brand message.”

The fast-food company has struggled in its turnaround efforts.

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Its second quarter revenue, reported in July, totaled $6.26 billion, a 4% drop from the same period a year earlier. Net income was $1.09 billion, down from $1.2 billion last year.

And though the company marked its fourth consecutive quarter of positive comparable store sales, the 1.8% increase in the U.S. came in below analysts’ expectations.

samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

For more business news, follow me @smasunaga

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