Chicago Tribune: Fast Food Chains Add Fresh Fruit to Their Menus
Chicago Tribune: Fast Food Chains Add Fresh Fruit to Their Menus

Brands are trying to keep up with growing consumer demand for fresh food.

When Wendy's wanted to add blackberries — a fruit it had never used on its menu before — to a new salad, the process of finding farmers and growing enough berries took more than two years. McDonald's faced a similar challenge when rolling out a new fruit smoothie. It took the chain more than two years to find and grow enough mangoes to supply its 14,000 U.S. restaurants.

Fast-food companies are trying furiously to keep up with customers' growing appetite for fresh food. But the race toward a fresher menu can often mean big challenges for fast-food chains, which don't generally have the farm sources that are needed to feed a new fruit into the system.

Unlike grocery stores, which regularly buy a variety of fruits and vegetables in big numbers, fast-food companies like McDonald's and Wendy's for decades only had to worry about finding enough fresh lettuce or tomatoes to top a sandwich. But now the demands are much greater, and the effort that a fast-food giant puts into sourcing a fresh ingredient comes with a big risk: What if, after years of finding farms and suppliers to support a new menu item, customers don't buy it?

There have been flops before. Before trying fruit in Happy Meals, McDonald's offered baby carrots in U.S. stores. It also tried salads in a cup called "McSalad Shakers." Wendy's tried a fresh fruit bowl and Subway-esque deli-style sandwiches. None lasted.

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