(Jan. 24) It has long been said, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. But what if an apple a day keeps the calories at bay?

That is the idea Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers is supporting in its latest promotion, Crunch before Lunch, which is based on a recent study by Pennsylvania State University researchers. They found eating an apple 15 minutes before lunch caused people to ingest nearly 190 fewer calories during the meal, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.

“It’s cool that you can eat something fun and nutritious and then eat less calories at lunch,” Pepperl said. “People are eating just the crappiest lunches, and apples — they’re so easy to carry around.”

Stemilt just launched the campaign and hopes to get 10 retailers nationwide involved, he said.

The company also intends to customize point-of-sale promotional materials on a per-retailer basis, Pepperl said.

“We can create materials around whatever the individual wants,” Pepperl said. “We used to do one-program-fits-all, but there is better execution and results having a customized program.”

Stemilt believes the Crunch before Lunch campaign will spark renewed interest in apples, giving consumers a fresh perspective on the fruit’s nutritional value, Pepperl said.

The company plans to continue and enhance the promotion in years to come, Pepperl said.

“We hope to keep this program for the next couple of years and embellish it,” he said. “I think the message is so strong, that it’d be a shame not to keep it.”