(Aug. 20) If you are an apple grower, you are lovin’ it.

McDonald’s figures to use about 64 million pounds of fresh apples annually with its new Apple Dippers product, said Heather Oldani, senior manager of U.S. communications for McDonald’s Corp., Oakbrook, Ill.

What’s more, a new fruit and walnut salad, boasting apples as an ingredient, is undergoing test marketing now and could be launched by next summer, Oldani said.

Based on the 64 million-pound estimate from McDonald’s, apple use under the Golden Arches equals 1.5 million 42-pound cartons — about 1.5% of the projected fresh market supply of nearly 100 million cartons.

Apple Dippers were rolled out nationally in June to 13,500 U.S. McDonald’s as an element of the Happy Meal and a core menu option for adults, Oldani said.

The product features a colorful poly bag with 2.4 ounces of fresh apples — primarily empires and galas — and a low-fat caramel dip.

She said that McDonald’s is using three suppliers in five states:

  • Peterson Farms, Shelby, Mich.


  • Fresh Express, a division of Performance Food Group, Richmond, Va.


  • Tree Top Inc., Selah, Wash.



The idea of increasing volume of fruit moving through the McDonald’s marketing machine was welcomed by one grower who supplies the chain via a processor.

“It’s a huge plus for the entire industry,” said Chuck Andola, owner of United Apple Sales Inc., New Paltz, N.Y.

STICKLER FOR QUALITY:

Andola said another plus is that the chain is strict on product quality, including firmness and sugar.

“They want to make sure they put a sound product on the shelf, and that’s good for the industry,” he said.

Oldani said representatives from McDonald’s were to make a presentation Aug. 19 at the 2004 U.S. Apple Association Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference in Chicago.

BRIGHTER DAYS:

As the dark cloud of obesity has hung over public policy debates, McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants have been under pressure to provide healthier menu items. Momentum for increased presence of fresh fruit on fast-food menus seems to be building.

More fast-food restaurants are responding to the calls for better nutrition, said Tracy Fox, nutrition consultant to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del.

She said PBH officials have met with McDonald’s officials on a number of occasions in the past few years to beat the drum for fruit and vegetable menu options.

Fox said McDonald’s and other quick-serve restaurants can do more.

She said there is a need for point-of-purchase nutrition information that would make fruits and vegetable choices even more attractive.