Dairy Queen is removing soda pop from its kids' menu, bowing to pressure from interest groups and following similar steps at other fast-food chains.
The change will be made at all of its approximately 4,300 franchise locations by Sept. 1, the Edina-based company said Thursday.
By taking the fizz out of its kids' menu, Dairy Queen is removing a prime source of consumer controversy.
The news was announced in a letter sent earlier this week to the Center of Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) from Dairy Queen's executive vice president of product development and quality, William Barrier.
"Dairy Queen deserves credit for being responsive to the concerns of parents, who increasingly want to be able to order off the kids' menu without having to say 'no' to soda," CSPI nutrition policy director Margo Wootan said in a statement.
The corporation's Franchise Advisory Council approved the decision at its quarterly meeting at the end of April.
"Children's nutrition is important to everyone here at DQ and we have been working for a while with our Franchise Advisory Council to [provide] more, and healthier, options," said Dean Peters, associate vice president of communications for Edina-based American Dairy Queen Corp.
DQ is the latest in a list of fast-food companies, including McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's, to remove pop from its kids' menu board. Soft drinks are already absent from kids' menus at Subway, Panera Bread and Chipotle.
"As people are looking to eat healthier, it is all about giving options to our fans," Peters said.
After the change, a kids' meal at Dairy Queen will consist of an entree, a side and either milk or water. There is also the choice of one of DQ's signature treats, a kids' cone or Dilly Bar.
Peters says the company has been working for a while to introduce healthier choices, including a Kids Live Well menu option that is focused on more nutritious offerings and that lacks the ice cream treat.
While milk and water are the only beverages that will be listed on the kids' menu board, the company won't stop customers who want a soft drink for their kids.
"If someone were to come in and request a soft drink with their meal, our franchisees will be able to provide them one," Peters said.
Dairy Queen is a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, a holding company that is also the largest stakeholder in Coca-Cola Co.