Foodservice Offers Opportunities for Produce Industry

Delivering the state of the industry address at the group's Fresh Summit here at the Georgia World Congress Center earlier this week, Silberman alluded to a lack of knowledge among fresh produce growers and packers about the nature of foodservice, including distribution and operators, as he underscored the opportunities available to them as consumers choose more of their products while dining out.

Silberman pointed out that consumers often time get their first taste of specialty fruits and vegetables in a restaurant and then look for them in retail. The industry would reap the benefits of this expanding foodservice marketplace if it created separate channels of management, marketing and sales.

He said the PMA would become a clearinghouse for its members about distribution to help them get their products to commercial and non-commercial operators around the country. The PMA has already addressed the industry-wide concerns about the lack of qualified delivery drivers by creating a Transportation Taskforce to look into this issue and come up with wide-ranging solutions that would benefit the entire distribution stream from field to restaurant.

CONSUMERS REACH FOR PRODUCE IN RESTAURANTS Silberman cited National Restaurant Association statistics, which testified to the growth of consumers' selection of fruits and vegetables in restaurants. Salads as entrees are most often selected in family, casual and fine dining environments, he said. Other produce options that regularly attract consumers in those restaurants are vegetarian entrees, salads, vegetables and fruit as sides, as well as local foods and produce, he pointed out.

QSR, which has been driving fresh produce innovation in foodservice and its popularity among consumers, has also seen the growth of entrée salads, vegetarian entrees, and salad, fruit and vegetable side dishes, he said.

The extent of fresh produce's continued growth in foodservice will depend on the development of flavors and how the category is marketed and merchandised to consumers.

The entire category is experiencing a great deal of consumer interest due to the perceived healthfulness of fresh fruits and produce.

Silberman also offered a series of ideas that could sway school children from choosing sweet snacks to fruits. He indicated that the industry, though its distributors, is presented with growth opportunities in the noncommercial arena. He said that children could be induced into snacking on fruit with the appropriate flavor palette and manageable portions. Children, who are susceptible to peer pressure, will pick up fruit when they see their friends doing the same.


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