Fast food brands tap into cultural trends for kids’ meal toys

In a concerted effort to seed loyalty with today’s young consumers, fast food brands are tapping into Millennial and Gen Z passion points and incorporating established trends—all of which Cassandra has explored, both in Cassandra Daily and our syndicated reports—into their value propositions, serving up initiatives around kids’ meal toys that reflect the current youth-driven trends landscape.


As the #StopSucking anti-straw movement continues to gain global awareness and change industry-wide perspectives on single-use plastics, Burger King UK has announced that it is melting down kids' meal toys in an effort to offset its own single-use plastic waste. As parents can attest, the tiny toys often end up in the trash (sometimes shortly after kids receive these toys), so the fast food giant has decided to eliminate them from kids’ meals entirely (effective this past September), and instead open “plastic toy amnesty bins.” With these bins, Burger King will melt returned kids’ toys down and, with help from circular economy firm Pentatonic, repurpose them into play areas and tray tables.


To celebrate the Happy Meal’s 40th anniversary, McDonald’s re-released classic Happy Meal toys from the past four decades. The fast food pioneer included collector toy items, like Ty Beanie Babies’ Patti the Platypus and Tamagotchis, in “Surprise Happy Meals” in 90 countries for a limited time back in November. This blast from the past is meant to tap into youths’ nostalgia for their childhood, helping McDonald’s seed trust with younger consumers—an important initiative for McDonald’s as the fast food brand evolves to stay abreast of new consumer preferences and taste.


Hardee’s collaborated with top-paid YouTube star Ryan, the eight-year old influencer behind the popular channel Ryan ToysReview, to kickoff the relaunch of their kids’ meals. Hardee’s new kids’ meals will include one of four exclusive toys, which will also be featured on Ryan’s channel. This is the first time Hardee’s has tapped an influencer to raise awareness around a campaign, and the brand hopes that by partnering with family-friendly YouTubers, it will reach parents and children in a new way. Plus, the relationship is a natural fit given Ryan’s preference for fast food, making this collaboration all the more authentic and tapping into youth’s affinity for organic, meaningful relationships with the brands they patronize.