October 1/Louisville, Ky./Business Wire -- Yum! Brands Inc. announced that its U.S. divisions -- Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Food -- will become the first national restaurant chains to begin voluntarily placing product calorie information on their respective menu boards in company-owned restaurants nationwide. Franchisees will be encouraged to provide the same information on their menu boards. Calorie information will be based on individual serving sizes and will be phased onto menu boards beginning this year and completed by January 1, 2011. The company also will call for federal legislation using the recently enacted legislation in California as a model to establish uniform guidelines for menu board labeling with calorie information.

Each of the company's brands currently offers lower-calorie "Better For You" menu options. Its Taco Bell restaurants offer a Fresco Menu, including nine items with 9g of fat or less, many of which are lower-calorie options. KFC currently offers lower-calorie Sandwiches, Snackers, side items, salads and Tender Roast Chicken, and plans to introduce Kentucky Grilled Chicken early next year. Pizza Hut currently offers a number of lower-calorie menu options, including Fit 'N Delicious lower fat pizzas, and will begin offering The Natural in December, a pizza made with all-natural ingredients, including a multigrain crust, all-natural old world sauce, all-natural mozzarella cheese and natural toppings free from artificial colors, flavors or preservatives such as naturally preserved Italian sausage, pepperoni without added nitrates and nitrites and 100% real beef with no fillers. Long John Silver's will begin offering a new Freshside Grille menu next month, which features grilled shrimp, salmon and tilapia, along with mixed vegetables and rice.

As part of a broader Health and Wellness effort across the U.S., the company also announced a new policy not to advertise its products on television programs specifically aimed at children under 12 years old. It also will continue to provide full nutritional information on its websites and in brochures, available upon request, at its restaurant drive-thru windows and in-store ordering counters. Additionally, the company will launch national online exercise programs, featuring renowned University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino, to help educate consumers about maintaining a balanced lifestyle. In early 2007, both Taco Bell and KFC were pioneers in switching to cooking oils with 0g trans fat per serving. Each of the company's brands is looking at ways to reduce sodium and making continuous improvements to the nutritional profile of its products.

"We believe we have a continued responsibility to offer 'Better For You' options, educate consumers about the foods they eat, and promote exercise so they can maintain a balanced lifestyle," said Jonathan Blum, Yum! Brands chief public affairs officer. "Our customers have told us they would find calorie information useful, along with other nutritional information we make accessible in restaurant brochures and on our websites. We now call on the U.S. Congress to enact federal legislation that would create uniform menu board guidelines for all who sell prepared food, so there is a consistent way to educate the public about the nutritional value of the food they eat."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) praised Yum! Brands for adding calorie counts to its menu boards. "Yum! Brands groundbreaking announcement that it will add calorie counts to the menu boards at KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell is fabulous news for health-conscious consumers. Yum! is leaping ahead of all its competitors by providing the one piece of nutrition information that consumers most want. We applaud this move and encourage other major chains to follow this bold example. Yum! has gone an important step further by voicing its support for legislation that would require restaurants to list calories on menus and menu boards," added Michael Jacobson, CSPI executive director.

"This announcement that calories will be displayed on menu boards deserves loud applause," said Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University's School of Public Health. "Yum! Brand's call for national legislation to create uniform menu board guidelines on nutrition is greatly appreciated. It is exactly the kind of industry leadership that we need."  

From the October 13, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash