Video: Chains offering burger alternatives

By Mike Taibbi Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/9/2005 7:27:59 PM ET 2005-02-10T00:27:59

When you see the golden arches, is your first thought fresh fruit? McDonald's is betting that for many customers, it will be.

"Our customers are telling us that fresh choice and variety is a big part of what they want from McDonald's today," says Jackie Woodward, vice president of worldwide marketing at the restaurant giant.

In fact, there's a move to fruit throughout the burgers-and-fries establishment. Wendy's is launching an ad blitz to publicize its entree- and dessert-sized fresh fruit options.

"After our success with 'Garden Sensations,' the next evolution of this was fresh fruit," says Wendy's President Tom Mueller.

McDonald's, which has added apple slices to its popular salad selections, will soon offer an entree-sized fruit-and-walnut salad.

At a time when an obesity lawsuit against McDonald's is still rattling around the courts and with filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's critical documentary "Supersize Me" still resonating, one industry analyst says the move to fruit is just good business. All the fast-food chains compete not just with each other, but with boutique food retailers offering nutritional alternatives to get healthier.

"This is a new distribution channel for fruit and fruit is very popular in our lives," says Harry Balzer, vice president of NPD, a sales and marketing group that specializes in the food service industry.

Manhattan internist Dr. Bruce Yaffe says a fruit option is in no way a bad thing, but that patients with cardiac health or overweight issues will likely find better routes to the benefits of fresh fruit.

"There are other options for fruit that will be more cost effective and easier, including peeling one's own banana," says Yaffe.

At today's market price, a banana costs 35 cents and an apple about 50 cents. But the idea of fruit at fast-food restaurants must have some appeal because the country's biggest wholesale buyer of apples right now is McDonald's. First, apple pies — now apple juice and apple dippers.

It may take some getting used to — most customers see the golden arches and think cheeseburgers, french fries and chicken nuggets. But industry heavyweights say the new fast-fruit options will be here to stay.      

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