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Fast Food Getting Fruitier

Hot & Cool Food Trends

With more consumers strive to eat healthier, quick-service restaurants are working to meet the demand by incorporating fresh fruit onto their menus.

Makes a lot of sense. Most fruits are low in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium, but loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Plus, fruit's natural sweetness can add great taste to a wide range of dishes.

Fruit, of course, has had a place on limited menus for ages, but it’s expanding today, as reported by Barney Wolf, writing for the restaurant trade journal QSR Magazine.

“There is a genuine response to consumers asking for healthier, fresher food,” says Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of foodservice strategies at WD Partners, a food and retail design and consulting firm based in suburban Columbus, Ohio. “As customers are slowly learning to eat better and make better choices, you find the restaurant industry is responding wholeheartedly.”

But there’s lots of room for growth. According to a 2010 study by the NPD Group, only 3% of fruit in the U.S. is consumed in restaurants (the study did not consider tomatoes as a fruit).

The USDA’s new My Plate dietary guidelines, championed by first lady Michelle Obama, calls for more consumption of fruits and vegetables—basically half of one’s dinner plate—and restaurant owners want to offer choices for consumers who are trying to live that lifestyle.

QSRs are using fresh fruit, when they can get it, and sourcing IQF (individually quick frozen) fruit as well. They’re using fuit in everything from salads and soups to breads and beverages.

Industry biggies are getting on board.

  • McDonald’s has pledged to include sliced apples in its Happy Meals, and puts fresh berries into its Fruit ’n Yogurt Parfait. Arby’s has also added sliced apples to its kids meals.
  • Panera serves a number of salads with fruit as an ingredient, and offers a whole fresh apple as one of the sides that comes with its entrees and sandwiches
  • Wendy’s uses apples, dried cranberries, and mandarin orange slices in its salads, and this summer offered a seasonal Berry Almond Chicken Salad with strawberries, blueberries, and a raspberry vinaigrette.
  • Corner Bakery serves more than a dozen menu items with at least one fruit ingredient, including a raisin-pecan bread. Avocados are the chain’s most popular fruit. It’s on Corner Bakery’s top sandwich (Uptown Turkey on Harvest Toast) and in its number one breakfast scrambler.

Next time you’re in a quick-service restaurant, take a quick look at the menu. You’ll probably see that fruit is becoming the new “low hanging fruit.”

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