If the foodservice category follows the lead of McDonald’s Corp., then the apple industry is rejoicing at the fast-food giant’s July announcement that it would add apple slices to its children’s meals beginning this fall.
Media reports speculated the move was a result of increased pressure from federal regulators who have been pressuring quick-service restaurants to offer more nutritious fare than has been their tradition.
Some critics said the move didn’t go far enough to fight obesity in children.
The new apple slices will not be served with caramel dipping sauce, as has been an option in McDonald’s Happy Meals.
“McDonald’s will always try to do the right thing, and we know we can help make a difference in our communities,” Jan Fields, president of McDonald’s USA, Oak Brook, Ill., said in a news release.
“The commitments we’re announcing today will guide the future evolution of our menu and marketing.”
Whatever the motivation, the result will be more apple sales, said Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association.
“The biggest thing is McDonald’s with apples and Happy Meals,” he said in discussing inroads apples had made in the foodservice sector.
“I think that’s going to be a tremendous boon for apples across the country, and it’s a great win for the kids and the health of our youth. I think it’s going to spur and increase consumption across the board, not just in foodservice restaurants but across the retail front.”
“I don’t know specifics, but I think it’s going to be great for all the apple industry, as well as New York,” said John Teeple, owner of Teeple Farms in Wolcott, N.Y.
“I’m assuming a number of different varieties for slicers will be coming from the packing line. When you get a big chain like McDonald’s picking up on this, it’s fantastic for the apple industry.”
Everybody wins in a move like this, including McDonald’s, Teeple said.
“A lot of the fast-food places like the McDonald’s and the Burger Kings have an image problem, and they’re trying to change that image,” he said.
“If apples can help, we’ll be glad to supply them.”
Others in the Eastern apple industry said they were excited by the announcement.
“That’s really big,” said Doug Minard, owner of Clintondale, N.Y.-based W.G. Minard & Sons Inc.
“I think the whole category continues to grow. Overall it’s going to be good for the business. It’s big news.”
More sales and firmer prices seem certain to result, said Tim Mansfield, sales and marketing director with Burt, N.Y.-based Sun Orchard Fruit Co.
“What it does is put a floor, helps take away some of the product that may end up in processing and strengthens the foodservice sector,” he said.
“It helps strengthen the slicing part of the equation. The great benefit is we’re starting to educate young consumers about the benefits of apples.”
Karin Rodriguez, executive director of the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program, said everyone in the business will benefit.
“It’s a super-exciting announcement for our industry, and it’s good news for all apple growers,” she said.
“I assume that everybody in the country will benefit from that.”
Lee Peters, vice president of salesand marketing with Wolcott, N.Y.-based Fowler Bros. Inc., agreed.
“We like to see companies grow, and that helps us grow and it’s good for the consuming public and the next generation of apple purchasers,” he said.
The McDonald’s announcement also came at a time when apple shipments to schools appeared to be headed upward.
“We work real close with our school foodservice in New York and work very hard with the USDA, and they recently said schools can specifically request regionally grown apples,” Allen said.
“Before, they couldn’t do that, so we’ve worked hard on that. Foodservice, we do interact with the large foodservice providers, especially those that interact with schools and colleges. The customers at the colleges are students and they say they want to buy what is grown here, so those companies supplying the colleges we work with.”