MONTEREY, Calif. — In all the thoughts of increased exposure and sales from McDonald’s plan to make sliced apples a standard side item in Happy Meals, perhaps a bigger “tipping point” was reached.
“It says a lot about sliced apples,” said Tony Freytag, national marketing director for Cashmere, Wash.-based Crunch Pak, a pioneer in the sliced apple market — but not a McDonald’s supplier — at the Produce Marketing Association’s Foodservice Conference.
When McDonald’s commits to a product, the product has to be big enough to supply its 14,000 U.S. stores, Freytag said, and high enough quality that McDonald’s can confidently serve it, let alone make it standard in a kids meal.
He said he was proud to be in that segment, and I don’t blame him. Fresh-cut apples are a model product in showing how they can become a regular part of a fast-food meal.
The July 30 opening session at the conference addressed the McDonald’s news.
“It really speaks well for fresh-cut,” said Lorri Koster, Salinas-based Mann Packing’s vice president of marketing.
Greg Drescher, executive director of strategic initiatives for the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, said McDonald’s had tried to replace french fries with apples before, but it got hit with consumer backlash. Having both standard in a Happy Meal is “stealth health” that can work.
Peter Testa, president of Testa Produce, Chicago, said product suppliers now have to work to get other items into kids meals.
Rich Dachman, vice president of produce for Sysco Corp., Houston, pointed out that earlier this summer Wendy’s ran a large promotion with fresh berries, and Subway had a promotion with avocados.
Indeed, The Packer’s 2011 Foodservice Achievement Award went to Tina Fitzgerald, director of produce and corporate responsibility for Miami-based Independent Purchasing Cooperative, Subway’s procurement division, in part for her work on promoting avocados in Subway stores.
Matching McDonald’s success
As good as Wendy’s and Subway’s promotions were, they weren’t designed to reach the scale that McDonald’s plans with fresh-cut apples.
There’s still a big difference between being a sometimes pricey addition to a sandwich or meal and being a standard part, like the fries and a drink.