Cathy Burns Talks IFPA Foodservice Conference, Industry Urgency, and More
MONTEREY, CA - International Fresh Produce Association’s (IFPA) Foodservice Conference is just around the corner, and I wanted to know all I could about the show going in. The first iteration of Foodservice since IFPA’s inception, I was curious to hear about Cathy Burns perspective on the event—and what attendees can expect.
“For years, this event has been the premier space for produce and foodservice to come together to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to the plate. A record number of 800 buyers are attending this year,” the Chief Executive Officer shared with me. “An indication that there is a strong appetite for this community to discuss solutions to current headwinds, explore innovation, and network. It has been a rough two and a half years for this sector, and the members I speak with are focused on shifting to positioning themselves for future growth.”
There are a few major differences that those in attendance should expect, which sets this Foodservice Conference apart from years past.
“First, we will be welcoming an exciting new audience segment to the event in the K–12 foodservice professionals who will be joining us from all over the country, representing some of the largest school districts in the nation. K–12 schools are large volume buyers who serve tens of thousands of meals to children every day,” Cathy explained. “This is an incredible opportunity to reach our youngest consumers at a time when we can help to shape comfort levels and taste preferences for years to come. This is coming at a time when policy changes are happening both nationally and more locally.”
Secondly, Robert Irvine, Food Network star, chef, and philanthropist, will be taking to the stage to talk about helping businesses diagnose challenges and reignite their menus.
There will also be three industry panelists who will speak about how they’re successfully pushing produce from their respective places on the supply chain. Award-winning author and television host, Leslie Sbrocco will moderate a panel featuring Bruce Taylor of Taylor Farms, Michel Nischan of Wholesome Wave, and Vincent Huynh of Agricole Hospitality.
“As I’ve heard in conversations with our Chair Bruce Taylor, there are new channels of opportunity emerging for foodservice produce,” Cathy noted. “The pandemic uniquely impacted foodservice, requiring an incredible amount of resiliency, creativity, and change. We had to change how we served consumers, but we also saw a big change in what we serve consumers. There was a global awakening of the role food plays in health. While consumers look to include produce in their meals, and inflation rates are making other protein options more expensive, putting more produce on the plate is not only needed, but it’s also urgent.”
Another urgent need is helping industry members more effectively navigate relationship building in the foodservice space, something which Cathy speaks to with passion.
“Now more than ever, it is important to have strong connections and relationships between the buying and growing/supply communities, and our time in Monterey provides a forum for that. Many of the innovations that foodservice underwent to endure the past two years have become expectations for consumers,” she emphasized. “As we continue to move through recovery, factors like inflation and labor will remain challenges, and I know creativity from operators and suppliers will help address these pressures in terms of new product offerings and menu development. I believe that we’ll see opportunities at the Conference that show how the produce industry is excelling not only at flavor and freshness but also creating innovative ways to increase efficiency.”
We’re looking forward to the connections made and the education shared this 28–29. Stay tuned for more coverage here at AndNowUKnow!