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Taco Bell Kids' Meals Get Discontinued Due To Brand Focus On Millennials, Low Sales

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The royal baby will never eat a Taco Bell kids' meal.

Exactly one minute after the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her 8 pound, 6 ounce prince, Taco Bell, the world's largest chain of Mexican fast food restaurants, announced that it would be discontinuing its line of kids' meals for good. The chain will serve its last kid's meal by January 2014, long before the infant third in line to the British throne is likely to begin eating solid food.

In a phone call with The Huffington Post, CEO Greg Creed said that the decision to drop kids' meals was motivated by marketing concerns rather than unit economics.

"We want to strengthen and be really clear and focused on our brand positioning as the brand for millennials," he said. "And a kid's meal is just inconsistent with the edgy, left-of-center millennial brand."

Creed explained that he had wanted to take kids' meals off Taco Bell's menu since he first joined the company in May of 2001. That year, the company stopped targeting any ads specifically to children. By 2012, Creed said that sales of kids' meals, though never particularly high, had dwindled to about half of 1 percent of Taco Bell's total gross -- about $35 million a year. That translates to about four or five kids' meals per store per day.

Though Creed insisted that the kids' meals themselves were "never unprofitable," producing them did tie up significant resources.

"We've got people dedicated to sourcing the toys, buying the toys, licensing the toys, shipping the toys," he said. "There are resources in the organization dedicated to this which we can reallocate to things that I think will grow the business and also be more consistent in our positioning."

In its press release touting the announcement, Taco Bell noted that it was the first major fast food chain to discontinue meals targeted toward children. Such meals -- especially McDonald's iconic Happy Meal -- have attracted criticism from health advocates over the past few years as potentially encouraging of childhood obesity. The city of San Francisco even passed a law that tried to ban the inclusion of toys in fast food meals for children. The LA Times notes that consumers have been souring on kids' meals at many restaurant chains over the past few years, with total sales in the segment down 6 percent in 2011 alone.

Though Creed said that addressing health concerns was not a central motive behind the chain's latest moves, he sees it a small side-benefit.

"To some extent, hopefully it's empowering parents," he said. "Because now parents get to discuss with their children what they'd like to eat when they visit a Taco Bell, without the influence of a toy."

Taco Bell's sales have risen appreciably over the past several years, thanks to the successful introduction of millennial-targeted menu items such as the Doritos Locos Taco, even as profits at the chain's parent company, Yum! Brands, have been soft.

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