Chick-fil-A launches healthy kids menu to battle obesity

Company president Dan Cathy on new offerings


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 11, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: Well, move over, KFC. There is another chicken chain that is going healthy right now -- or healthier -- Chick-fil-A introduced grilled chicken nuggets in a new kids’ meal. It’s all part of an effort to combat childhood obesity.

But is this kind of thing going to fly with kids?

Chick-fil-A president, COO Dan Cathy certainly thinks so.

Dan, very good to have you. Why are you doing this?

DAN CATHY, PRESIDENT, CHICK-FIL-A: Thank you, Neil. It is an honor to be here.

We are coming to the rescue of all these obese children in America.

CAVUTO: So, with the difference in the new chicken, the non-fried vs. the regular stuff, is what in calories?

CATHY: Oh, it’s significant.

With our four-pack char-grilled for kids, it is only 80 calories and only one gram of fat. And we are introducing what is recognized today as the most nutritious kids’ meal program in America. And if parents want to suggest the meal package, which is the char-grilled, plus the 1 percent meal, and our fruit cup, we are only talking about 210 calories and three grams of fat. So, it will certainly be the choice for moms across America.

CAVUTO: Do kids like it, Dan? Nothing against your fine establishment. I love your stuff. But they do like it or not? CATHY: Oh, listen, we have huge following. Kids know the difference. They are incredibly discriminating on taste, as all children’s moms know.

CAVUTO: Yes, but they know the difference with the good -- the fried stuff. I’m just saying, will they be just as inclined to get the stuff that is healthier?

CATHY: Well, I think that is where coach -- parents are going to have to coach their kids. And we have got a huge crisis in America today. It is estimated that among elementary school students, the children, that a third of them are obese, and if we think we have got a health care crisis in America today, it is huge what is looming in the future.

And so parents will have to be aggressive in taking a position that, hey, we’re going to be healthy as a family, we’re going to take care of ourselves, we’re going to exercise, we’re going to eat right, and we’re going to be concerned about the total wellness of families if we’re going to have the kind of society that you and I want to live in for tomorrow.

CAVUTO: Exercise, eat right. One out of four -- if you’re doing one out of four, is that OK, Dan? I guess not.


CAVUTO: Dan, the criticism might be Chick-fil-A -- no offense to your fine institution -- that you are kind of late to the party here. McDonald’s was doing this years ago, Burger King and Wendy’s offering lighter, healthier fare, salads and all the rest you, and now you guys are sort of just waking up and say, hey, well, there’s a market for this.

CATHY: Well, actually, actually been early to the party, because we were the first ones to have -- our Chick-fil-A sandwich of course is one of the first or the very first, developed by my dad, Truett Cathy, we are the first national restaurant chain to have fresh fruit in all of our restaurants across the chain and also salads.

We came out of a day in which moms typically would traffic in shopping malls earlier -- it started back in the ‘60s and ‘70s and the ‘80s, and so actually we have been a leader. And the cows really appreciate that; because they say eat more chicken.

CAVUTO: They would like it.

You still sticking to this Sunday thing, no stores open on Sunday?

CATHY: It is certainly working for us. In fact, it was recently quoted that we have -- among our peers; we have almost a 20 percent bump in average unit sales compared to all the other major competitors that are out there.

So I tell people, hey, you go check out the competition on Sunday. It makes our food taste even better on Monday morning.

(LAUGHTER) CAVUTO: But you are also very good moneyman. You’re very modest.

I also ask people who have these very high religious and moral principles, as do you and your entire executive team -- I admire that deeply -- but I am just a callous money guy here, which means that I am going straight to hell and you are not -- but I am looking in a mall on Sunday and Chick-fil-A is closed. And everyone loves your stuff, and you can’t go, you can’t go, and you are missing out on all that money.

What do you think?

CATHY: Well, we more than make up for it.

It is really interesting. When we observe Bible principles, they really do work. They work as much today as they did 2,000 years ago. And the way it works is this, Neil.

What happens is that we have parents that love the fact that we are closed on Sunday and they bring their kids, some really great and incredible young people that love to work at Chick-fil-A. And our drive- throughs actually operate faster because our people are rested, they’re cheerful, they have a positive attitude.

We have been able to teach civility among thousands of heathen, barbaric teenagers.

(LAUGHTER) CATHY: And customers recognize the difference.

And so the incremental business on Monday, plus Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday and Saturday more than offsets, way more than offsets the fact that we’re closed on Sunday. So it sure does work for us.

CAVUTO: If you can teach teenagers, thin or not, civility, you are well off to the races.

In this campaign, if you don’t mind my digressing to politics and just ruining this uplifting conversation, there has been a battle in the Republican Party among some of the social conservatives and the more pragmatic, economic side of the party.

Rick Santorum is probably the most religious of the candidates running, and certainly -- what do they call him, he put the C. in Catholic. His right-to-life position has gotten him some criticism in the media. And Mitt Romney not quite so blatant to interfere in these religious matters; his Mormonism notwithstanding.

Do you have any horse in this race? Do you think there is an area that politicians have to steer clear from? Is there a third rail that they best not touch what?

CATHY: Well, Neil, I think there are fundamental Bible principles about the way we’re to relate with one another that have never changed.

My issue of being faithful to my wife, the way I take care of my kids, and obey the laws of the land, operating on principles that are just simply timeless, we call these Bible principles that really do work. They work big time.

And, in fact, it is reflected even in our sales at Chick-fil-A. We posted this past year, 2011, a 13.4 percent overall sales increase in what we have recognized as the great recession. And so we find that whether it is in business, or it is in politics, it is in our home life, there are principles that if we violate these, we will pay the consequences. And so we need to encourage everybody to make good, positive choices and decisions.


CAVUTO: Sorry to run over you there, Dan.

But when you say loyalty to your wife and all that -- there are a couple candidates in the race -- Newt Gingrich has encountered this -- who in the past have not been, even though they have said they have worked this out with God -- are you OK with that?

CATHY: Who, by the way, is from Georgia.

CAVUTO: Are you OK with that?

CATHY: I’m certainly OK with politicians that espouse values that are going to take us back to what imprinted on the back of all our Federal Reserve notes that says in God we trust.

The more trust and faith we have in a God that loves us so very much and wants to have a personal relationship, the better our nation is going to be.

CAVUTO: So if you are Newt Gingrich and you apologize for that and that you have reconciled that with God that is good for you? Regardless of the controversy that stood out in these relations, that is good for you?

CATHY: Well, Newt Gingrich is a faithful Chick-fil-A customer.

And I think we have got a lot of other politicians that are great Chick-fil-A customers as well.

(LAUGHTER) CATHY: So I am all for customers that support this idea of eating more chicken.

CAVUTO: Oh, man, that is a great answer. Dan, you handled that just like give unto Caesar that which is Caesar, and give unto Chick-fil-A that which is Chick-fil-A.

Dan, thank you very much. Very good having you.

CATHY: My pleasure, Neil. And remember to eat more chicken.

CAVUTO: OK. There you go, Dan Cathy. Everything went back to the chicken, did you notice that?

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