(Aug. 27) With billions served since 1955, McDonald’s Corp. has perfected the science of burgers and fries.

Now, Mitch Smith wants the apple industry to deliver fresh-cut apples of the same unwavering consistency to meet expanding demand for its new Apple Dippers menu item and a fruit salad likely to be added next summer.

Smith, director of quality systems, U.S. supply chain management, for the Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast food giant, addressed the U.S. Apple Association Outlook 2004 conference Aug. 19.

He said the quick-serve leader wants a combination of flavor, texture and appearance in its apples.

In June, McDonald’s introduced Apple Dippers, a 2.4-ounce poly bag of sliced and peeled apples, as an option for Happy Meals and an a la carte item for the core menu.


Smith said McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. might use about 63 million pounds of apples per year for the Apple Dippers product. Chain use of apples would climb to perhaps 100 million pounds after a fruit salad is added to the menu next summer, he said.

For the Apple Dippers program, Smith said the ideal apple slice is a well-cut, half-moon shape. The appearance should be creamy white, without browning.

Approved varieties for the Apple Dippers Program include gala, empire, cameo and pink lady, Smith said. Fuji is not approved; Smith said the flesh color is “too yellow.”

“We are also looking at other varieties, including crispin, braeburn and jonathan,” he said.

He said apples used for the apple slices should be 88s to 138s, with a firm and juicy texture. The apples should have a characteristic sweet tart taste, and have no off odors.

Apples are tested for acidity, brix and acid-brix ratio, he said.


Smith stressed that McDonald’s needs a consistent year-round product and said the company strives to use American products when possible.

Some of the requirements of supplying McDonald’s include using approved varieties, having an audited food safety plan in place and complying with handling and storage specifications, Smith said.

He stressed the need for industrywide compliance to good agricultural practices that are written, employed and audited.

“It is critical that it becomes a standard throughout all the industry,” he said.
Smith said McDonald’s favors the use of SmartFresh, or MCP, on apples to enhance their storage quality.

Steve Tompos, senior director of U.S. communications for McDonald’s, said Aug. 19 that a food safety and quality summit is tentatively planned by the company for October. That will be a time to showcase the efforts of all of McDonald’s suppliers to provide safe food to the chain, he said.

“McDonald’s is a pass-through for your product, and we want to tell that story,” he said.

McDonald’s wants year-round apple consistency
McDonald’s uses three suppliers of sliced apples:

  • Peterson Farms, Shelby, Mich.

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

  • Tree Top Inc., Selah, Wash.