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Produce, Foodservice Leaders Partner to Identify Fresh Produce Opportunities

The joint project will begin with a comprehensive research project, led by NRA with assistance from produce industry leaders, to examine opportunities for and barriers to greater produce use in the foodservice sector. The research findings will be used as the starting point for facilitated discussions of a first-ever “Executive Invitation Think Tank” of top executives representing restaurant, distributor and produce supplier segments. That first discussion will be the basis for ongoing, high-level dialogues within the foodservice and produce sectors to promote increased collaboration.

“The restaurant industry has a strong commitment to providing our guests a variety of healthful menu options on our menus, and fresh produce plays an important role in a balanced diet,” said NRA president and ceo Dawn Sweeney. “Working with our supply chain partners to identify ways in which we can expand these options will be of great benefit to the dining public, as well as to restaurant and foodservice businesses. Our research shows that locally grown produce and healthy kids’ meals with vegetable and fruit side items are among the hottest trends on restaurant menus right now.”

“As a critical partner in getting fresh fruits and vegetables to operators throughout the nation, foodservice distributors welcome the opportunity to bring their perspective to this important discussion,” said IFDA president and ceo Mark Allen. “Distributors play a vital role in supporting nutrition programs with their customers and this effort by the industry to enhance nutrition provides meaningful solutions for America’s consumers.”

The research project is underway and the Think Tank’s discussion – to include senior executive operators, distributors and produce suppliers – will take place July 24 in conjunction with PMA’s popular annual Foodservice Conference and Exposition, to be held July 24-26 in Monterey, California. The research findings and highlights of that discussion will be presented by a panel of project participants at the conference’s opening general session. The associations also plan to publish a joint report summarizing the research and the July think tank discussion.

Sponsorship for the project is being provided by Markon Cooperative, a foodservice buying organization based in Salinas, California. “The Think Tank research, discussion, and subsequent analysis are important due to the tremendous opportunities that produce represents for foodservice,” said Markon president Tim York. “We look forward to participating with other distributors, operators and suppliers in this event, which promises to benefit the entire fresh produce supply chain.”

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