Produce and foodservice companies interested in growing their business by promoting healthy fresh produce options on foodservice menus now have two new resources available to help them. Newly published reports document the discussions of a supply chain–wide executive think tank’s recent call to double use of fresh produce in foodservice by 2020, and the operator research that spurred them to set such an ambitious goal.

The two reports are now available from Produce Marketing Association (PMA), National Restaurant Association, and International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA). They are the result of a new partnership to create more produce-rich restaurant menus that was originally announced earlier this year and was sponsored by Markon Cooperative of Salinas, California.

The report, Executive Think Tank: Produce Opportunities in Foodservice documents the recent discussion of a panel of 25 senior executives representing foodservice operators, distributors, and suppliers. The panel was convened in July to identify goals and priorities to increase fresh produce use in foodservice and promote healthful menu options.

The report documents the group’s discussion of forces working for and against increased produce use. For example, the group noted that greater collaboration across the supply chain could significantly improve produce use in foodservice. They discussed various areas for potential collaboration, including helping meet chefs’ and consumers’ desire for locally grown foods, more ethnic (and produce-rich) foods, and new textures and flavors. Meanwhile, produce’s deserved healthful reputation and ties with sustainability should help promote increased produce use and consumer interest. The executives agreed that the supply chain better need to understand chef preferences to help them increase produce use, and likewise must work more closely with government and other stakeholders.

The group also identified five priority strategies to work toward that goal; their discussion regarding each strategy is documented in the think tank panel report. The group will reconvene to determine next steps.

The other report—titled An Examination of Fresh Produce Usage in the Restaurant Industry: Summary of Results&mdsash;summarizes operator research conducted for the associations by the National Restaurant Association in April and June. The research included a quantitative survey of a nationwide sample of 500 restaurant owners and operators with fresh produce purchasing authority. That research also included qualitative interviews with 10 purchasing executives from chain restaurant companies.

“All of this research is the result of the first step in a landmark multi-phase project by the three associations to identify opportunities to increase fresh produce use in foodservice and to promote healthy lifestyles,” says PMA president and CEO Bryan Silbermann. “This is the first time top executives representing the restaurant, distributor, and produce industries have joined together for such an important common goal.”

“As part of our Food and Healthy Living initiative, the restaurant industry is committed to meeting the growing consumer demands for healthful options and using more produce on menus,” says National Restaurant Association president and CEO Dawn Sweeney. “We are looking forward to working with our colleagues at PMA and IFDA to map this future course and explore the challenges and opportunities facing restaurant operators, distributors, and suppliers alike.”

“These reports offer significant food for thought to industry leaders as they seek to meet customer needs and help provide consumers with an even broader array of healthful menu choices when they eat away from home,” says IFDA president and CEO Mark Allen.

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