Every pie sold in all 14,000 U.S. McDonald’s restaurants is baked by a single company in Tulsa, Okla.
Bama Companies produces more than 2 million pies per day as McDonald’s exclusive pie supplier.
Bama recently showcased its 50-year-plus partnership with the fast-food megachain by inviting the media to view how it manufactures the company's reformulated pastry.
Working with McDonald's, Bama has removed artificial colors, preservatives and high fructose syrup from the pies. Officially relaunched in May, they now include a lattice top — instead of a whole top with slits — plus bigger chunks of apple and less juice, or slurry, Bama CEO Paula Marshall said.
"We worked with our apple suppliers in Michigan and Washington state to develop a premium cut apple," she told the Tulsa World . "Our other product was slices of apple and some smaller cut pieces. These are all large apple pieces.
"It's primarily apples and sugar and the cinnamon, with a small amount of liquid added to it. The flavor of the apple comes out twice as much as it did."
Bama has three production facilities in Tulsa and employs more than 800 people. Workers also produce seasonal pies such as holiday, strawberry and cream, cherry and cream and pumpkin.
The sole producer of pies for McDonald's, Bama also makes biscuits and hotcakes for the food chain.
Prompting the dessert recipe change, Marshall said, was McDonald's commitment to improving the customers' perception of its menu.
"Anything that has the word artificial in front of it or some name that you can't spell or pronounce that most consumers don't recognize, that really concerns them," Marshall said. "(Customers say), 'That's in my food. I don't know where it came from. I don't want to eat that.'
"So we have been working on freshness, reduction of preservatives, improvement of the flavor profiles from a natural perspective."
Bama's lines run 24/7. Each batch of dough weighs 930 pounds; it takes about 25 minutes to make the batch of pies. Ten packers each place a dozen pies into a 120-count shipment.
The desserts are baked at McDonald's restaurants daily.
"What we tell people who really loved the apple pie before is try the new one," Marshall said. "We've done so much consumer research.
"We've put the product in front of our older consumers. We've put it in front of young consumers. We've put it in front of our 35- to 45-year-old consumers. Without question, it's preferred 2-to-1 over the other product. ... Once they try it, they're hooked."