Grappling with the Grapple: A Confession

by Bettina Elias Siegel on February 10, 2011

In a perfect world, my kids would gobble up all the fresh, organic produce I buy every week — all the clementines, apple slices, berries, and cubed pineapple or melon I put in their lunch boxes, not to mention the wide variety of vegetables I creatively prepare and serve for dinner every night.

In reality, however, it’s a different story.  With respect to vegetables, I’ve got one child who will try most of them – reluctantly — and one staunch veggie-phobe who (with a growing but still small list of exceptions) simply will not eat them.  And when it comes to fruits, the situation is often no better.  Both kids will eat fruit but they don’t seem to love it, and I often have to coax a bit to make sure everyone’s getting at least a modicum of phytonutrients in their diet.

So when, a few days ago, my daughter came home from school touting a new fruit she’d tasted from her friend’s lunch box, it certainly got my attention.  “It’s called a ‘Grapple,’” she told me.  “I really want one in my lunch.  Can you find them in the store?”

Well, I found them, all right.

For the uninitiated, the Grapple (pronounced Grape-l) is a perfectly innocent Fuji or Gala apple that’s subjected to “a relaxing bathing process” (I’m not making this up, it’s on their website) in a mix of water and natural and artificial grape flavor.  (The company is really squirrelly about that last part — rather than just owning up to the artificial flavor, which of course they have to disclose on their label, they hem and haw on their site: “Our main flavor ingredient is the same synthesized grape flavoring agent used in 100’s of other retail food items. Because it is not feasible for us to ‘crush all of the flavor’ we would need from grapes themselves, we are forced to say ‘Natural and Artificial Flavor’. The grape flavoring is the same that you would get out of Mother Nature’s grapes themselves.”  In other words, fake grape.)

Every food and environmental principle I hold dear was in opposition to these bizarrely grape-smelling, plastic-clam-shell-encased apples.  Why do we need to artificially flavor Mother Nature’s handiwork?  Why cater to kids’ palates, already mucked up by too much processed, chemical-laden foods?  Why does an apple need a clamshell package and why spend the resources needed to recycle it, or, worse, despoil the earth by chucking it into a landfill?

And do you know what I did next, dear readers?  I put the Grapples in my cart!

It was a moment of weakness, I admit, fueled in part by curiosity.  Just what would a grape-flavored apple taste like anyway?  And there was also that tiny maternal voice in the back of my head, the one the Grapple marketing geniuses were no doubt targeting, whispering seductively “So, what’s a little artificial grape flavor if it gets the kids to eat fruit?”

Well, the kids and I tried the Grapple, and here’s our review:  Pretty darn delicious.  They’re perfectly crisp and juicy (probably from their “relaxing bath”) and rather than tasting like grape candy, they taste more like a really flavorful, if slightly unusual, apple.  The kids LOVED them and begged for more.

So what do I do now?  Proclaim it a fun experiment, never to be repeated in our home?  Become a regular Grapple purchaser (albeit one wearing dark glasses and a trench coat)?  Reserve the Grapple for the odd treat, just like other artificial junk?

In writing this post, I can already identify in my head certain Lunch Tray readers by name (and you know who you are) who are about to cancel their blog subscription in protest.  The folks over at the Feingold Association, whose sole mission is to get artificial flavors and colors out of kids’ diets, are probably going to stage some sort of intervention.  And several of you will just cry softly, shaking your head, as you head off to pick up wholesome, unadulterated apples from your organic CSA . . . .

OK, guys, let me have it.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela Nuckles February 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Oh don’t worry about it. Seriously…just like with everything else balance it in your house. My kids love these too but they only get them occaisionally because I do find the “artificial grape flavor” a bit freaky. Remember what they say, if something sounds to good to be true it probably is! So just like fast food and junk food let it only happen every now and then :)

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Bri February 10, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Um, read the post I just wrote — I think it will make you feel much better. :-) http://redroundorgreen.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/a-tale-of-cupcakes-or-why-convenience-food-should-not-be-convenient/

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bettina elias siegel February 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm

OK, I actually do feel better, Bri. But really, I think it was the combo of artificial junk in a fruit that really got me going. I mean, we expect a certain amount of junk in our “treats” maybe, but not our apples!

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NotCinderell February 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Bri, I think truer words were never written on the Internet.

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Bri February 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Why, thanks! :-) And Bettina…yeah, I know…when I tried to describe the grapple to my husband after reading this post, he turned white and asked me whether or not he was going to have to start reading labels in the PRODUCE section too, now! Poor guy!

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Jamie February 10, 2011 at 4:03 pm

You’ll never lose me over Grapple. Sandwich in a Can…maybe (but probably not cause I’d admire you for trying it).

I have to make my confession here, in public.

And you can ditch me as a subscriber.

My son bled straight pee this morning. After a harrowing 6 and half hours in the ER, waiting anxiously for every test result we learned that at 4.5, he passed a tiny kidney stone.

He was a total trouper. And really well behaved. I asked him what he thought he needed as a special treat. Yup. McDonalds.

Done. And done (minus the happy meal and toy, cause that’d just be wrong). And I don’t feel guilty.

If schools can do chocolate milk for the milk value, I say you’re allowed a relaxing bath of weird grape stuff for the fruit value.

We’re all good moms who try our best to feed the best to our kids. The occasional slip must be allowed.

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bettina elias siegel February 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Jamie! I’ve missed you! :-) And if you ask me, the kid can do McDonald’s for a week. Men always claim that kidney stones are worse than childbirth (which I pooh poohed, because, really, what do men know?) but then I read an account from a woman who had been through both and she said it was true! Hope he’s feeling better.

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Kristi February 10, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Your poor son, Jamie. OUCH Glad he’s doing good, though.

I think this grapple thing is funny on so many levels. First, I’ve tried one. My husband thought it was good. I couldn’t get over the tastes like a grape but feels like an apple. My mouth was confused and didn’t like it. Second, we’re doing Feingold with my son. LOL He can’t have fake foods. Or grapes. Or apples. So grapples are totally out with him. :)

But I think they’re just like other things. All in moderation.

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Marci February 10, 2011 at 4:48 pm

If my extremely fruit-and-veggie-challenged kiddo would eat them, I would buy them. Sadly, I consider it a victory that he will now eat baked potato.

Thank you for your public confession and for making me feel less like a Bad Mom!

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bettina elias siegel February 10, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Marci — for us, too, the baked potato was a huge victory – don’t discount it! :-)

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June February 10, 2011 at 9:41 pm

I’ll stick with you – though the grapple thing kind of freaks me out (not about you eating them, just that they exist). And as a once in awhile treat, why not. I mean, we eat chick-a stick (kinda like like a butterfingers, but shaped like a stick) and that’s all artificial, except for the sugar.

I want a relaxing bath process. I should be a Grapple.

And I’m with you on the claim shell thing – why do apples come in that?

As for getting kids to eat fruit – have you ever tried frozen berries? Thawed just a little? Kind of tastes like sorbet (my guys love them).

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bettina elias siegel February 11, 2011 at 8:11 am

From the Grapple website (and I think this says it all):

Even though the apple is not changed, genetically, or altered physically via its characteristics (calories, fiber, etc.), the WSDA (Washington Department of Agriculture) deems our product as ‘processed’, and thus we are required to follow the guidelines of a processed food. This includes sealing the product so it may not be tampered with by consumers before purchase, and kept separate from other ‘loose/bulk’ apples. We chose the clam shell due to its ease in showcasing our product, and protecting it during shipment and transportation to the store and your home.

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Stephanie February 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm

and they are great for starting seeds for your garden!

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Mrs. Q February 10, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Hilarious! I’m going to still be reading you by the way!!! :)

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bettina elias siegel February 11, 2011 at 8:10 am

Thanks, Mrs. Q!

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Lisa Suriano February 11, 2011 at 8:43 am

You make a good point here on the packaging that came with the “Grapples.” This fall I attended the 1st NYC Produce Show in Times Square. Many, many presenters told me that the latest trend in the produce industry was convenience. i.e. pre-cut celery sticks packaged with a little dip or hummus, pineapple wedges treated like a “Push-up Pop”, peeled and diced butternut in a bag. While as a nutritionist and veggie promoter, I appreciated the effort to make fresh produce more accessible to the hectic American lifestyle, I kept taking pause at the excessive packaging it required.

This trend clearly indicates a societal trade-off between the health of our people and the well-being of our environment. Ideally, of course, we would all purchase whole fruits and veggies from the local farm stand, but our infrastructure and values as a culture haven’t completely returned back to that point yet. So what do we do, scoff at the convenience packed veggies or embrace them?

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jenna Food w/ Kid Appeal February 11, 2011 at 9:03 am

thanks for letting me know what the grapple were. i’d seen them in the store but never bought them or even flipped the package over to see what they are.

agree with other posters, about moderation. although the Spoonfed follower in me suggests this is a window of opportunity to educate your kids on how the apple came to be and all the trade-offs they’re making when eating them (environment, extra cost, unnecessary additives, candifying fruit, etc.)

Let your educated kids decide whether they accept them as a treat in moderation or would rather have a plain apple and a piece of candy. that would probably cost less and produce less waste.

if my kids ever get turned on to these and request them, i think i’ll show them the cost difference between real plain apples and grapples and ask them to pay the difference with their fun money. personally i don’t want to spend my hard earned cash on apples that have taken a relaxing bath.

i also have kids who gobble up apples, so i don’t have that pull to let it slide because it makes an apple go down the hatch.

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Waverly February 11, 2011 at 9:13 am

TAKE A DEEP BREATH! It’s okay, really. Look at the big picture and don’t worry about getting every little detail right. You’re doing a great job exposing your children to a variety of fruits and vegetables. A few grapples won’t upset the apple cart!

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Milehimama February 11, 2011 at 11:05 am

If it really bothers you, why not make your own? Add some fuji slices to a “relaxing bath” of 100% natural grape juice overnight, then pop them in the lunchbox.

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bettina elias siegel February 12, 2011 at 8:57 am

Thanks all, for granting me absolution on the Grapple thing. And I’m intrigued by the idea of self-Grappling — I wonder if that would work? :-)

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Bri February 14, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Also, can you patent the term “Self-Grappling”? :-)

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Karen February 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Apples are my very favorite fruit. I think I’ve eaten an apple a day for most of my life. Grapples are, to me …. so awful as to be beyond description. I think I tasted one once served sliced at a party. Oh, the horror. Kristi’s explanation (above) about her mouth being confused explains some of my problem with it. Also I find most grapes to be too sweet so the Grapple – blech.

I allowed Pop Tarts for many years as a breakfast item, but after reading your blog, Bettina, and paying closer attention to the sugar grams being consumed in our house as part of a meal, I have removed them permanently from our grocery list. I think you might find the Grapple to be a step on that same slippery slope!

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bettina elias siegel February 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Karen: I, too, love apples and really enjoy trying different varieties, etc. I’d never give up the real thing for a Grapple. But I can’t say I didn’t like it. Clearly you have a much more sophisticated apple palate than I do! And I’m laughing that I was in any way responsible for getting Pop Tarts out of your house when the WF version (chem free but otherwise no better) still resides in my pantry for the occasional treat. Blogger, heal thyself!

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Christine Sullivan May 5, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I enjoy your blog regularly but this post made me laugh so hard, I almost fell off my chair! Nearly the exact same thing happened to me – I bought the Grapple thinking (for sure) they were some genetic combination like the Asian pear (crunches like an apple, tastes like a pear), then we got it home, tried it and liked it and then I gasped in horror when I learned what it really was. I couldn’t help but think ‘who does this in this day and age?’ Now I just tell my son that they’re out of season… :)

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Bettina Elias Siegel May 6, 2011 at 6:38 am

Christine – so funny! My kids are old enough to know that they’re forever in season, but the Grapple novelty seems to have died off now, leaving ME the only one who secretly still wants to buy them! :-) Thank you for reading TLT and leaving a comment. – Bettina

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Kerry November 19, 2011 at 10:33 am

I succumbed to the Grapple. I gasped at the $3.99 price tag for 4 – yes only 4 – apples!!!!!!! But, they smelled so good and I was curious. So, I did it too… I was thinking that they were a hybrid type fruit and really grape and apple genetically engineered together. After tasting them – you can totally tell it’s an artificial grape taste because real grapes just don’t taste like that. It’s more like a grape candy taste. Anyway – I was curious – so I googled Grapple to find out exactly what it is and now I know. This is how I stumbled across your post. Well, like most things that are really bad for us, I have been craving more. After reading up on them however, I’m glad they store didn’t have them anymore the last time I went looking for them :)! I may break down once in a while and get them for a treat – but certainly won’t be a staple in my house like “real” apples are. Thanks for your post. I feel much better knowing I’m not the only one wondering and struggling with this one – haha!

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Bettina Elias Siegel November 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I’m glad I’m not alone, Kerry! I confess every now and then I eyeball the apple area in my market to see if they’re still there, but I haven’t bought them since. My kids lost interest, even though I still would happily eat one! :-) Glad you found The Lunch Tray and thanks for commenting.

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Marcia March 29, 2012 at 8:36 am

I (like Kerry above) also came across your site when I googled “Grapple” and was looking to see how these are actually made… I really like reading your posts! I have been doing my “Apple Project” for the past few weeks now, and I have to admit I was intrigued when I first saw these in the store! I bought them last night out of curiosity… And today I did my review of this apple. Personally you won’t find them in my cart again b/c I love REAL apples so much, that I just don’t see the need to synthetically modify such a great fruit which already has so many different varieties and flavors which occur naturally and organically… But I can’t blame a parent for being curious! I do however like Milehimama’s suggestion about using your own apples and soaking them overnight in real, fresh grape juice!

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Alana August 22, 2012 at 9:19 am

Just found your blog through my own interest in food and nutrition. Being in the UK, I have no idea about Grapple (all sounds very strange!). However, on reading this post I thought you might be interested in a mother and son adventure through the A-Z of vegetables that was big here a few years ago. Whilst they have now finished their challenge, you may find the historic posts an interesting read. http://greatbigvegchallenge.blogspot.co.uk/

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Bettina Elias Siegel August 23, 2012 at 6:22 am

Alana: Thanks for sharing that link – I’m going to go check it out now. And welcome to The Lunch Tray!

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