Produce for Better Health Brings Influencers to PMA Foodservice Conference
MONTEREY, CA - The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) made a splash at this year’s PMA Foodservice show, hosting its second annual Fresh Concepts event in conjunction with the expo. The event brought together influencers from volume foodservice together with leaders from the produce industry to share insights and information on this booming sector.
“Strategic partnerships like these allow our expanding network of key influencers to join the plant-forward dialogue and take back learnings they can immediately implement,” Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, and President and CEO of PBH, commented. “It also helps the produce industry expand their strategic thinking beyond retail applications. It’s important that these conversations happen if we want to uncover innovative ways to connect with the consumer at various eating occasions, including inspiring positive interactions with fruits and veggies in an away-from-home setting.”
The Fresh Concepts event is a demonstration of PBH’s commitment to increasing fruit and vegetable consumption among consumers. The event puts a spotlight on the work that menu research and development professionals do to bring new flavors, formats, and foods to U.S. diners across a variety of channels.
“Consumers are now spending 54 percent of their food dollars on foods prepared away from home. Restaurants and other foodservice outlets are having an increasing impact on our attitudes toward food, our flavor preferences, and our expectations for what we want from retail,” said Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, and PBH’s Culinary and Foodservice Specialist. “It’s important for produce industry leaders to work with foodservice leaders to keep up with the trends, the demands, and the power of the people in foodservice.”
PBH’s hand-selected industry leaders this year come from chain restaurants, leading contract dining organizations, and influential campus dining programs. These industry leaders participated in focus group discussions with potato breeders from HZPC; a chef tasting and sensory experience with Duda Farm Fresh Foods; field and processing facility tours with Taylor Farms Foodservice; and a new product showcase on the expo floor with Mann Packing and Del Monte Fresh.
“Increasingly, we need to collaborate and cooperate across various channels of food service, manufacturers, distributors, and growers. Traditional standards of size, shape, color, and shelf life are no longer acceptable to our customers—nor should they have ever been. Today’s customers are looking for items with distinguished aroma, flavor, and taste that are specific to the fruit or vegetable,” said Rafi Taherian, Associate Vice President of Yale Hospitality, which serves more than 15,000 meals per day to demanding Gen Z customers—Taherian also serves on the multi-sector PBH Industry Leadership Advisory Council.
Chef Patrick Mulvaney of Mulvaney’s B&L in Sacramento, California, added in a press release: “This was an incredible program. Chefs of independent restaurants like mine have many direct relationships with small growers. It was impressive to see the efficiency of production in the Salinas Valley, inspiring to meet growers who brought new products to the U.S., and important to make connections with distributors who have such an impact on the larger market. I appreciate PBH making this possible for me, and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with colleagues in this area.”
Chef Mulvaney was not alone in his praise of the event, as many attendees commented on the opportunities for growth and exploration it offered.
“If you have something new for the market, share it with us. We’re always looking for new products, new colors, new flavors, new opportunities to delight our guests and clients,” added John Coker, Senior Vice President for FoodWorks, a division of Compass Group North America.
All of the influencers in attendance agreed that the event was informative and critical to the work they do, particularly when it comes to working towards the goal of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. Many stressed the importance of having suppliers and produce companies work in tandem to achieve that common goal.
“It’s important for produce companies and other suppliers to engage with us earlier in the process,” commented Ken Toong, Executive Director of Auxiliary Enterprises at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, which feeds more than eight million meals per year. “Don’t tell us what you have to sell us. Talk with us about what we need, and we can partner with you to bring new produce items to market.”
What exciting opportunities will next year’s event provide? AndNowUKnow will keep you informed.