Feb 20, 2013
McDonald’s TV commercials promote Michigan apples

Starring in TV commercials? Watched by millions?

Mike Dietrich seems to be taking it in stride.

“They did a nice job,” he said. “We were real pleased with it.”

Mike, a fruit grower from Conklin, Mich., is appearing in a series of McDonald’s commercials, along with several members of his family.

Mike and his brother, Jim, run Leo Dietrich & Sons, growing apples and cherries (tart and sweet) on about 500 acres. The sweet cherries and most of the apples are sold fresh to several customers, including McDonald’s.

The Dietrich family has farmed on west Michigan’s Fruit Ridge since 1853. Mike is part of the fifth generation. His nephews make up the sixth. Mike’s father, Leo, is still involved. His cousins, Al and Joe Dietrich, run another nearby farm.

The commercials were shot last fall. DDB Chicago, an advertising agency hired by McDonald’s, first approached Mike about filming his farm and family. After about six weeks of phone interviews, picture and video exchanges, his farm was chosen. The film crew showed up in September, and was at the farm for about two and a half days. There were 18 people, and as soon as they arrived they spread out all over the orchards. It was kind of exciting, he said.

There was a slight hitch: Like most Michigan apple growers, the Dietrichs lost a good chunk of their crop to the disastrous weather of 2012. There were a few pockets of fruit in the orchards, however, enough for the film crew to work with. They especially wanted to shoot the varieties grown for McDonald’s, such as Gala, Jonagold and Empire, Mike said.

Mike, his father Leo, brother Jim, son Trevor and nephews Phillip, Adam and Curtis all appeared in the finished product. Another nephew, Alex Culver, 4, played the little boy.

The Dietrichs had an idea of what to expect, but didn’t see the full four commercials until the Jan. 16 unveiling at the McDonald’s restaurant in Sparta, Mich. The finished product was a good representation of Michigan’s small family farms, Mike said.

“I’ve been involved in the production of a lot of McDonald’s commercials in the last 20 years, but this is top-notch stuff,” said Randy Price, who owns a chain of McDonald’s restaurants in Michigan, including the one in Sparta. “You guys did a marvelous job.”

Apples are becoming a bigger part of the fast food chain’s menu, Price said, and Sparta, also on the Fruit Ridge, is in the heart of Michigan’s apple country.

“Sparta is the perfect place to celebrate the expertise, quality and success of Michigan apple growers and what they’ve come to mean to us and all our customers,” he said.

McDonald’s continues to develop its relationship with Michigan growers and suppliers. In 2011, the chain bought more than 21 million pounds of apples from the state, which has become the second-largest supplier of apples to McDonald’s (after Washington state). The chain has committed to purchasing more than 20 million pounds of apples from Michigan in 2013, Price said.

The McDonald’s partnership with the Michigan apple industry has been a good thing for all parties: the growers, the restaurants and the customers who have access to healthful snacks, said Mark Youngquist, vice chairman of the Michigan Apple Committee.

The Michigan apple industry couldn’t supply McDonald’s the way it wanted to in 2012, but that’s in the past now, and growers are focused on a potentially huge crop in 2013. The state industry has put a lot of resources into every part of its supply chain, so when the big crop hits, everyone will be ready for it. That’s a problem to look forward to, Youngquist said.

Peterson Farms

As further proof of its commitment to Michigan, McDonald’s recently named Peterson Farms its 2012 U.S. Supplier of the Year.

As a supplier of apples, cherries and blueberries, Shelby, Mich.-based Peterson Farms won the award for being a “leader and strategic partner that has helped McDonald’s become one of the largest apple purchasers in the U.S.,” according to a McDonald’s release.

“They also share best practices and collaborate with other fruit suppliers to create cost savings, enhance product quality and develop more efficient processes for the benefit of the company’s system,” according to the release.

The McDonald’s U.S. Supplier of the Year Award is presented annually to the supplier that makes the most significant contribution to McDonald’s U.S. business. The award criteria include demonstration of leadership, commitment to quality and sustainable systems, efficient supply processes, optimized pricing and innovation, according to McDonald’s.

“The entire Peterson Farms team is both thankful and truly honored to be recognized for this prestigious award,” said Earl Peterson, chairman of Peterson Farms. “We value our longstanding relationship with McDonald’s, and we will continue to work hard every day to support the McDonald’s system.”

The Peterson family farms more than 2,500 acres of fruit. They also process cherries, apples, blueberries and peaches. The company provides up to 200 million pounds of frozen fruit, fresh-cut fruit and fruit juices/concentrates to customers annually, according to McDonald’s.

Matt Milkovich

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