McDonald’s making apples a default side item in its Happy Meals may be the tipping point American consumers and the produce industry need.

In late July, the world’s top restaurant chain announced it would make sliced apples a standard side item in its kids meals, while reducing the size of the french fries.

The overall effect, according to McDonald’s, will be a 20% reduction in calories and lower fat levels than traditional Happy Meals.

It also should mean a nice bump to the apple industry this fall as harvest begins.

There are several positives to take from this move:

  • It is a private company making a business decision rather than a government mandate.
  • It brings the Happy Meal in line with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Half a Plate recommendation, as long as we still consider fried potatoes a vegetable.
  • It still allows for consumer choice, as fries and apples are included by default, but are customizable.
  • It targets children, who have influence but ultimately don’t make their own food choices.
  • Fresh-cut apples have proven to be a high-quality, low-priced winner, which shows quick-serve restaurants that fresh-cut produce can be a profitable part of their business.

Moves like this show how restaurant chains can still provide their popular fare and offer healthier choices, especially as default items. Any consumer has the choice to opt out of apples.

We expect more chains to follow McDonald’s lead.

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