Fast food is embracing fast fruit.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2004-11-07-fresh-fruit_x.htm

McDonald’s buys more apples than any other restaurant chain. Wendy’s is testing a fruit bowl entree. Arby’s chops apples into chicken salads.

But will folks go as gaga for fruit as they have for salads? In a world of increasingly nutrition-conscious consumers, many top names in fast food think so. Almost every major chain has some sort of new fruit salad or fruit side on the menu, in test or in planning.

Fresh fruit presents special problems. It has a short shelf life, is costly to store and requires refrigeration. Special packaging is needed to let nitrogen out, but keep air from getting in.

But consumers want it. Convenient fresh-cut fruit has ballooned into a $3.8 billion business at supermarkets. The fast-foodies want a piece of that.

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“How we feel about ourselves is linked to what we eat,” says Jeff Davis, a consultant at SandelmanEdge.com, which tracks consumer feedback on restaurants. “You can get a kid to eat fruit before you can get him to eat a carrot.