SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Richard Ruiz sat in a comfortable chair in the grand lobby of the Scottsdale Hilton Resort & Spa. It was March 18 and there was a brief afternoon break in the schedule of the March 17-19 annual conference of the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
Ruiz, president of Ruiz Sales, an Edinburg, TX-based distributor of tropical produce items from Mexico and a strong proponent of the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s mission to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, was very pleased by the program. His only concern was that of the many thousands of people involved in the produce industry, only 200-plus were in attendance.
He added that of the produce representatives at the conference, who mixed with foodservice and retail nutritionists and dieticians, “I would like to see more owners here” to help expedite change, he said.
Ruiz noted that the PBH program involved a school foodservice leader encouraging schools to offer small portions of fruits and vegetables to entice children to try something different. Such action will lead children “to learn something that no one ever told them before.”
He added, “Consumers don’t know where produce comes from. If we make more information on where it comes from, we will see a changing trend for a healthier America. The coming years will be a challenge, but we are on the right track. Here at PBH, there is an exchange of ideas and research, and they are doing what is necessary to assure we don’t miss the mark. It’s a good message.
“There are no losers,” Ruiz continued. “We’re all winners” by promoting PBH, he said. “This is a good message and a productive message.”
Ruiz encourages retailers to “put a little more emphasis on nutritional values and recipes and the good things about the fresh fruits and vegetables available at the retail level. I really believe it would help.”
Ruiz, who has been attending the PBH conference for the last three years, said, “I learn something new every day.
“As an industry it is a challenge to us,” he continued. “The time is right now. We need to keep the message simple and do it. The profit will come by itself. When there are more sales, everyone will make a profit.”
For his commitment to promoting increased produce consumption, Ruiz was recognized at the conference with an Industry Role Model Award from the PBH. This marked the second straight year Ruiz Sales received the award.