Sliced apples still lead the way for apple growth in the foodservice sector and can provide one more venue for fresh marketers’ products.

“More (sliced apples) are going to foodservice,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash. “What’s going on with the farm bill, (Women, Infants and Children) and salad bars in schools should mean more sliced apples working their way into systems.”

Stemilt sells a 3-pound bag of sliced apples for foodservice. At restaurants, the slices often end up on salad bars, Pepperl said.

“I think you’re going to see more apples at these quick-service restaurants,” Pepperl said. “People want to offer healthy items both for the demand and to project them as a healthy offering.”

At retail, demand is up for larger bags of apple slices. Stemilt is shipping more 2-pound bags, Pepperl said.

“Consumers are telling us they’d rather make lunches themselves, at a better price per ounce,” Pepperl said. “People don’t want to buy teeny packages for more money.”

The 2-pound bags generally sell for $3.99 at retail, Pepperl said.

New York supplies a tremendous amount of fruit into the sliced market, said Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association. The category is growing but could grow faster if it weren’t for the recession, Allen said.

“There’s a lot more volume and interest in the fresh-sliced end of the business, and I think a lot of that is going into foodservice now,” said John Rice, president of Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa.

Sliced apples for foodservice are continuing to grow for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos., which markets for Washington shippers, said John Long, sales manager in L&M’s Selah, Wash., office.

“It’s becoming a big part of our business,” he said.

Even though no one has figured out the perfect apples to use or how to do it exactly right, it’s been very good for apple growers, Long said.

One downside in a year like this, with larger apples out of Washington, is that it puts pressure on the larger apple market to bring them over to the sliced side of the business, Long said.

The economy also can be a limiting factor.

“If there aren’t as many dollars out there, are you going to buy that organic apple or that sliced apple?” Long said.

But so far, L&M hasn’t seen any effect of the economy on the fresh-sliced market.