BOSTON MARKET ROLLS OUT KIDS' MEAL PROGRAM NATIONWIDE

GOLDEN, Colo. -- Boston Market here, looking to keep expanding its market share, this week launched a nationwide kids' meals program, and is currently testing a new entree line in Boston Market stores in two regions.In order to capture a greater share of the children's meals business, the company is in the midst of rolling out the Boston Kids Market program with kids' meals, "edutainment" toys and

GOLDEN, Colo. -- Boston Market here, looking to keep expanding its market share, this week launched a nationwide kids' meals program, and is currently testing a new entree line in Boston Market stores in two regions.

In order to capture a greater share of the children's meals business, the company is in the midst of rolling out the Boston Kids Market program with kids' meals, "edutainment" toys and a character named Digs the Dog. Boston Kids Market is aimed at 3- to 8-year-olds, but the launch will be supported by national TV advertising directed at parents.

"We think the difference in our kids' program is our wholesome foods, which mothers feel good about serving to their kids, and the toys that kids will find entertaining and educational," said Boston market spokesman Jeff Beckman.

The company also recently unveiled tests of casserole meals in stores in Albany, N.Y., and Kansas City, Mo. Chicken with wild rice, beef Stroganoff and shepherd's pie are being offered as individual meals only, and are priced at $3.99 with corn bread and $4.99 with corn bread and a side dish.

Boston Market officials are happy with the test results so far, but no national introduction of the casserole entrees is expected until next year, Beckman said.

While Boston Market has previously sold smaller children's portions of their meals, the company undertook a full line of kids' meals to take advantage of what they consider plenty of room in the kids' meal-replacement market. It cites a study it commissioned that reports 87% of mothers interviewed found fast-food kid's meals not as good as what they serve at home. The survey also said that more than 77% don't think kid's meal toys have educational value.

There will be five Boston Market kid-sized meals: Digs Ham Carver Meal, Digs Turkey Carver Meal, Chicken Drumsticks Kids Meal, Digs Cheese Carver Meal and Kids Macaroni and Cheese Meal. Each entree will be accompanied by two side dishes, and each kid's meal also comes with fruit juice flavored gelatin squares. In addition, all Digs' Carver sandwiches will be served on a paw-shaped bun.

Recommended prices for the kid's meals begin at $1.99, and will vary by location.

The "edutainment" toys that will accompany each kid's meal during the launch include an adventure kit with sliding ruler, magnifying glass and a spoon/fork combination; a hip canteen; a weather explorer with compass, rain gauge and humidistat; and an adventure planner notebook. The four toys will be offered for approximately two weeks each, with new toys to come in the fall.

The image of Digs the Dog, a Boston Terrier, will be included on store point-of purchase materials, packaging and in advertising. Digs characters will make appearances at Boston Market stores, children's organizations, schools, museums, parades and community events.

The new meals and toys will be available at all 1,159 Boston Market stores.