Food service industry aims to double fresh produce use

by Staff
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MONTEREY, CALIF. — Produce and food service industry members have established a goal of doubling the use of fresh produce in the food service sector during the next decade.

The goal emerged during a July 24 meeting of produce and food service industry executives, and led by Bryan Silbermann, president and chief executive officer of the Produce Marketing Association, Dawn Sweeney, president and c.e.o. of the National Restaurant Association, and Mark Allen, president and c.e.o. of the International Foodservice Distributor Association.

The meeting identified five priority areas the industry must work on to achieve its goal, including: reimagining the restaurant experience with fresh produce having a stronger presence; increasing consumer confidence in fresh produce; demonstrating social responsibility; fostering closer collaboration between the industry sectors; and fostering closer collaboration with government and other stakeholders.

"It will now be up to the three associations together to develop a plan for working these five priority areas to help increase use of fresh produce in food service, for healthier menus, healthier consumers and ultimately healthier industry," said Mr. Silbermann.

During the meeting, the results of a survey of restaurant operators revealed the opportunities and challenges facing the fresh produce industry was released. The research showed restaurant operators see fresh produce as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition. Nearly three out of four restaurant operators said emphasizing fresh produce in their marketing efforts drives more customers to their restaurant. In addition, 46% of operators said they look for fresh produce items that their customers can not buy at their supermarket.

Sixty-seven per cent of restaurant operators said they wish they had more options regarding fresh produce selections, while 60% of operators said they wish there was more information on how to incorporate fresh produce on their menu.

Food safety remained a top priority for restaurant operators. Eighty-nine per cent of operators said they are willing to pay more for their fresh produce if its safety is guaranteed, and 76% said they are willing to pay more for fresh produce if it is traceable all the way up the supply chain.

"This research gives us tremendous insight into where we should focus our efforts to increase use of fresh produce in food service, which benefits everyone that touches the plate, with the ultimate beneficiary being the end consumer," said Mr. Silbermann.

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