Though nowhere near as ubiquitous as sliced bread, sliced apples are making their way into most U.S. supermarkets.

Tony Freytag, marketing director for Crunch Pak, Cashmere, Wash., said sliced apples are in 70% to 80% of stores nationwide. And that leaves plenty of room for growth in the business.

“We still get e-mails every day saying, ‘Gee, I didn’t know there were sliced apples,’” Freytag said. “We still have ground to cover.”

New products

Crunch Pak began shipping its new retail packages of BK Apple Fries in January. The 2.5-ounce bags of fry-cut peeled apples with dip are like those served in Burger King restaurants.

Twelve retail packages can be displayed in an accompanying sleeve that carries the Burger King logo.

Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., is the first retailer to carry BK Apple Fries, Freytag said.

Crunch Pak’s promotional brochure says that 29 million servings of Apple Fries were served in Burger King restaurants last year.

The BK label is good for retailers, Freytag said, because Burger King is an aggressive television advertiser.

“If we know there’s a major Burger King promotion coming up, we let retailers know,” he said. “Consumers will be seeing a great deal of advertising, so we want to take advantage of that.”

Packs of BK Apple Fries contain 2 ounces of sliced apples and one-half ounce of low-fat caramel dip. They retail for about 99 cents to $1.29, Freytag said.

Apple Snackers are another new Crunch Pak product. The 5-ounce overwrapped trays, which retail for about $1.59-1.99, are good for convenience stores and quick-snack displays.

Apple Snackers are available in three varieties: apple slices with cheese cubes and caramel dip; apple slices with cheese cubes and fresh grapes; and apple slices with cheese cubes and pretzels. They became available in December.

In 2001, Crunch Pak began distributing sliced apples.

The volume that it typically packed in one week in 2001 is the volume it can now pack in an hour, Freytag said. Now the company ships more than a million packages each week, 50% of which are small packages weighing 5 ounces or less.

In the second week of January, Crunch Pak produced the equivalent of 3 million servings of sliced apples.

“That’s over a billion slices a year,” Freytag said. “That’s a lot of apples.”

San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Earthbound Farm’s sliced apple sales increased by 60% compared to one year ago, said Steve Koran, senior director of retail sales and customer service.

Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc.’s sales of sliced apples increase each year in dollars and pounds, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.

“We approach our retail partners with the philosophy that sliced (apples) is an immature category that needs promotion,” Pepperl said. “We recommend a once-a-month ad or promo.”

Stemilt supports retailers with product demonstrations, samples at food shows, coupons, and advertisements in magazines that focus on healthy living, he said.

Pepperl said Stemilt expects long-term growth, especially for organic apple slices and its flavored AppleSweets slices.

Stemilt offers AppleSweets in three flavors: County Fair Caramel, Mom’s Apple Pie and Wild Berry.

Pepperl said he expects foodservice buyers to continue buying more organic and flavored slices.

“We are doing more foodservice than ever before,” Pepperl said. “The school lunch programs are becoming a bigger factor and part of our business.”