|A, eating a bag of pre-sliced Crunch Pak apples|
As most people know by now, baby carrots are really ugly carrots cleaned and shaved down to a handy snack size. Their popularity took carrots out of the so-called "drawer of death" and onto appetizer platters and packed lunches. Now, to maintain momentum, one of the biggest carrot sellers in America is trying to market them like junk food. You can see some of their efforts at babycarrots.com.
Now while carrots might be a popular produce item, I'm fairly confident in stating that apples are pretty much Americans' favorite fruit or vegetable (not including the french fried potato). And unlike traditional carrots, which require scrubbing/peeling and cutting for maximum enjoyment and portability, the regular old apple is pretty darn convenient. I typically rinse an apple (Honey Crisp is my favorite) under running water, wrap it in a napkin and pop it in my lunch bag.
But kids. They want a sliced apple. And they want those slices as white and crispy as the moment they were cut. The apple processing company Crunch Pak figured out how to cut, preserve and bag fresh apple slices years ago, and they've made it big selling their processed fresh produce product (how's that for a mouthful) to McDonald's and other fast food restaurants.
As a mom, I'm delighted to be able to choose apple slices instead of fresh fries, but I've held off on buying pre-sliced apples for home use. It just seemed like such a luxury. I can hear my own mother's voice saying "Just sprinkle a little lemon juice on the slices and pop them in a baggie. That's what I did and it was good enough for you."
Well you know what? I tried that and my daughter sent back the whole bag, uneaten. "It's brown and slimy," she complained.
Crunch Pak apples? I've offered them as a snack at home, on a bike ride and in her packed lunch, and each time my 3 1/2 year old has eaten every last slice. You see, I was sent some free samples of Crunch Pak's new Disney-licensed line, and while A only showed a passing interest in the Cars 2 characters on her apple baggies, she went nuts for the Mickey Mouse-shaped snack pack with apples, cheddar cheese cubes and baby pretzels.
And the most I thought about it, the more I realized that by buying pre-sliced apples (or baby carrots, for that matter), I'm not paying a premium for fresh produce--I'm using convenience food funds that might otherwise pay for chips and crackers for something with equal kid appeal and a lot more nutritional value.