Apple consumption is going up thanks to an unbelievably simple fix.
It doesn’t take a group of researchers to figure out that kids prefer slices to whole apples, though it does take a group of researchers to calculate just how much they prefer them. The Washington Post reports that two studies found that apple consumption increased substantially when the fruit was served to school kids pre-sliced.
One study conducted in eight schools found that consumption increased by over 60% when apples were served sliced. A follow-up study looking at six schools found similar results, as apple consumption grew by 70%.
In 2014 Americans ate 511 million fresh sliced apples, a growth of about 350% from a decade earlier. Between 2010 and 2013, overall apple consumption grew by 13%; in 2013 Americans ate 17.5 pounds of apples per capita, the highest consumption had been in nearly 10 years.
“Sliced apples just make a lot more sense for kids,” study author and behavioral economics professor David Just told the Post. It may seem silly to think of eating an apple in its natural, whole form as inconvenient. But for kids with missing teeth or braces, it is. “It’s one of those circumstances where what seems like a really small inconvenience actually makes a huge difference,” Just added. The USDA even recommends that fruit be served in “age-appropriate pieces.”
McDonald’s noticed the convenience of pre-sliced apples earlier than most, and began selling them in 2004. Mark Seetin, director of regulatory and industry affairs for the U.S. Apple Association said that while school lunches were a “significant contributor” to increased consumption, “When a company as big as McDonald’s helps promote something, it not only boosts sales, but also really raises public awareness.”
However, we also have to consider the potential environmental impact of pre-packaged apple slices. It helps reduce food waste, because less apples are thrown away, but slices tend to be served in plastic bags, increasing plastic waste—something that Whole Foods (WFM) was criticized for not too long ago.
Sliced apples still only account for about 5% of all apple sales, though many expect that number will soon increase.