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Foodservice and produce leaders from across the supply chain will want to make certain they are in the room July 25 when industry principals convene to discuss the implications of new research about produce's role in growing the foodservice industry's business at the Produce Marketing Association's 2009 Foodservice Conference & Exposition, being held July 24-26 in Monterey, CA.

This year's conference kicks off with the Executive Think Tank: Summary and Discussion, during which the first public report on new research into foodservice operators' attitudes and input about produce and what key industry leaders had to say in reaction about how to increase use of produce in foodservice. This opening session will take place immediately on the heels of a facilitated think-tank discussion among top executives representing the restaurant, distributor and produce industries.

These efforts are all part of a landmark multi-phase project by PMA, the National Restaurant Association and the International Foodservice Distributors Association. The three associations announced a new collaboration earlier this year to identify opportunities to increase fresh produce use in foodservice to promote healthy lifestyles.

"Produce is both a very important part of a healthy diet and a versatile ingredient in the culinary arts," IFDA President and CEO Mark Allen said in a press release. "By conducting research on foodservice operator attitudes to fresh produce and then engaging high-level industry executives in dialogue through the Think Tank, we can identify opportunities to increase fresh produce use in foodservice."

"Insights gained from working in collaboration across the supply chain are always more valuable," National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney added in the press release. "The restaurant industry is dedicated to meeting the growing demands of food safety and nutrition, and this think tank is a great opportunity to begin that work with the produce and distributor community at large."

The conference's opening session will first summarize findings of a comprehensive operator research initiative underway now that is examining opportunities and barriers for greater produce use in the foodservice sector. This research, led by the National Restaurant Association with assistance from produce industry leaders, will also set the stage for a first-ever think tank discussion among senior thought leaders from across the supply chain. Association leaders will then summarize the discussion and outcomes of that think tank meeting, which will take place July 24 and is being sponsored by Markon Cooperative.

The associations expect that the first think tank discussion will serve as the basis for future high-level dialogues within the foodservice and produce sectors to find solutions that benefit everyone.

The operator research will explore a range of topics, including historical and anticipated trends in operators' use of fresh produce; key influencers of purchasing patterns; satisfaction levels with the produce they serve; attitudes about sourcing seasonally vs. year-round; and the weight they give to motivators like flavor and taste, and sustainability in making produce decisions. A summary report, available to the associations' memberships is planned.

Foodservice operators can receive discounts on registration rates, but space is limited. Advance registration ends July 10. For more information and to register on-line, visit www.pma.com/foodservice.