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PMA foodservice conference and expo are set to go

by Christina DiMartino | July 18, 2010
The Produce Marketing Association's Foodservice Conference & Exposition, set for July 30 to Aug. 1 in Monterey, CA, will provide foodservice professionals an outstanding menu of events and exhibitors.

Julia Stewart, PMA's public relations director, told The Produce News that this year's conference is placing a big focus on food-safety programming. The Food Safety & Traceability: Where We Are, Where We Need to Be workshop is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31.

"The PMA and industry experts will discuss using traceability as more than a food-safety system and its positive effects to [the] foodservice operator's bottom line," said Ms. Stewart. "Additional discussions will focus on the importance of traceability in any food-safety implementation plan. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask food-safety and traceability questions to panelists Dr. Bob Whitaker, PMA chief science and technology officer, and Brenda Lloyd, director of equipment distribution and systems at Unified Foodservice Purchasing Co-op, the purchasing arm of Yum! Brands."

The conference will kick off with the annual golf tournament Friday, July 30, at the Bayonet & Black Horse Golf Course, which supports the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent, known as PMA FIT. All proceeds benefit PMA FIT's Nucci Scholarship for Culinary Innovation. New for 2010, PGA teaching professional Dean Reinmuth and two of his South African students will conduct a golf demonstration clinic prior to the start of the round.

At 4 p.m. Friday, PMA will host the new member, attendee and exhibitor welcome reception at the Monterey Marriott Hotel. The gathering provides an opportunity for those who are new to the conference to meet with members of the planning committee and with each other. The annual kickoff reception follows at 5 p.m., also at the Marriott, giving attendees the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet new acquaintances.

Friends and colleagues can gather at 6:30 Saturday morning for the PMA FIT 5K Run-Walk. Runners and walkers will be able to enjoy the sites of a beautiful seaside course through Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Hopkins Marine Institute, with the turnaround above the crashing surf. The course starts and finishes on the Portola Courtyard between Fisherman's Wharf and the Portola Plaza. Registrants receive a post-race continental breakfast, a commemorative T-shirt and race gift bag. Aerobic warmup for the event is at 6:30 a.m., with a start time at 7 a.m. Additional workshops scheduled for the event include Locally Grown: Supply Chain Success Stories. Ms. Stewart said that this much-requested session is in response to overwhelming feedback from PMA buyer members.

"It will feature four case studies created by researchers from the University of California, Davis," she said. "Each will detail the success of locally grown supply chains. The studies will be followed by a discussion of the impact of the 'triple bottom-line' of economical, social and environmental in these successful supply chains."

The Networking: More than a Business Card workshop will teach attendees how to be remembered and to create real trust using proven techniques they can put to use right away. This presentation promises to be both entertaining and motivational. It will provide a well-documented, repeatable and predictable process presented by Rob Jolles, sales expert and author of the business bestselling book, Customer Centered Selling.

PMA FIT is hosting The Fresh Perspective @ Foodservice: Women's Networking event. This event -- for women only -- is an opportunity for attendees to connect with current and future industry leaders while gaining inspiration and insight from one another.

A highlight at every PMA foodservice conference is the general session. This year, Chefs Dish! will be presented at 7:55 a.m, Sunday, Aug. 1. The session will address trends that influence growth and profitability. Moderator Chef Robert Danhi, who specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine, will be joined by celebrity Chef Rick Bayless as well as by executive chef of the Playboy Mansion Bill Bloxsom-Carter and Chef Eric Justice, vice president of culinary operations at Pei Wei Asian Diner.

The chefs will discuss their philosophies on produce, their backgrounds and their views on current industry trends.

"The opening general session of the conference will be on foodservice 2020 initiatives," said Ms. Stewart. "This project was launched after the 2009 PMA foodservice conference by the PMA, the National Restaurant Association and the Foodservice Distributing Association. Representatives from these organizations got together to discuss how the foodservice and produce industries could work together. It's known that the foodservice industry is criticized for the high obesity rate in the U.S., and the group considered how that might be contributing to the decline in foodservice sales in recent years. The group decided to work together to create healthier menu items that would help consumers, the restaurant industry and the produce industry at the same time."

As a result of that meeting, 25 executives from the restaurant and produce industries were brought together to brainstorm about the initiative. They came up with the ambiguous goal of doubling fresh produce consumption at foodservice operations by 2020.

"This year, the day before the conference opens, the group will meet again with the original panel from last year to create a steering committee," said Ms. Stewart. "It will lay a course to move ahead with a definite plan and a timeline to work toward the 2020 goal. The PMA will report on that steering committee at the opening session, with a panel discussion on what this means for the foodservice and produce industries. We will encourage people to get involved now and explain to them what they can do to help the project to reach its goal."

Doors will open at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, to the foodservice exposition, tagged the "Best Five Hours in Foodservice." Attendees can network and discover new product ideas from 153 exhibitors, and view the best new products and services featured in the New Products Showcase. The conference and exposition will wrap up with the networking breakfast at 7 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 1.