Foodservice demand for apples is increasing, largely thanks to fast-food restaurants offering sliced apples to kids.

“The past three years, we’ve seen an increase in distribution of fresh-cut apples into the quick-service restaurants — this includes McDonald’s and Subway,” said Tony Freytag, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Crunch Pak, Cashmere, Wash.

In fact, the sliced-apple giant reports a 51% sales increase over the past four years.

Sliced apples also have seen success at the retail level with Crunch Pak’s expansion of its snacking options.

“We made the commitment over the last two to three years to focus on developing our snacking line,” Freytag said.

“As a result, today more than 50% of the 2 million packages we pack a week are less than 6 ounces in size — ideal for snacking.”

Those snacking options are opening up opportunities in areas other than restaurants and grocery stores, Freytag said.

“Fresh-cut produce is everywhere — from pharmacies to fast-food restaurants to video stores, because people want to eat healthier,” he said.

Even gas stations are getting in on the trend.

“Convenience stores are another growing channel. Shoppers want healthy choices when they grab and go,” he said.

Of course, sliced apples aren’t the only product to end up in foodservice.

“It’s mostly slices in the restaurant industry,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc.

“However, some restaurants are now putting small-sized fruit into the menus as a snack with sandwiches and such.”

Apple companies report that this part of their business is seeing growth.

“It seems like more and more apples are hitting schools. It’s a good staple item to keep kids eating fruit,” said Chuck Sinks, president of sales and marketing for Sage Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash.

“I think the foodservice business is increasing because of health initiatives coming out of the White House,” said Atomic Torosian, partner in Crown Jewels Produce LLC, Fresno, Calif.