Produce and foodservice industry leaders have set an ambitious goal to double use of fresh produce in the foodservice sector over the next 10 years, and have identified five strategies for doing so, they announced July 25. The announcement came during the opening general session of Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) 2009 Foodservice Conference & Exposition, held July 24-26 in Monterey, Calif., USA.

The goal had been set during a July 24 invitation-only “Executive Think Tank” discussion of senior foodservice and produce industry leaders that was co-led by PMA President and CEO Bryan Silbermann, National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney, and International Foodservice Distributor Association (IFDA) President and CEO Mark Allen.

Silbermann announced the group’s goal in his conference opening remarks, and then outlined for conference attendees the five priority areas the think tank participants identified to help achieve that goal of doubling produce use:

•re-imagine the restaurant experience, with produce having a stronger presence and telling its story from field to fork;
•increase consumer confidence in fresh produce, including product safety, trust and integrity;
•demonstrate social responsibility, balancing the needs of people, the planet and profitability;
•foster closer collaboration among the industry sectors, including operators, distributors and grower/shippers; and
•foster 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 foodservice, for healthier menus, healthier consumers and ultimately healthier industry,” says Silbermann. “The journey has just begun, and we are all looking forward to sinking our teeth into that next phase of our project.”

Following Silbermann, Sweeney unveiled new foodservice industry research conducted as a joint project of that association, PMA and IFDA, noting that the data clearly showed operators’ strong interest in expanding their produce options, product sourcing and food safety. The joint project, including its research and the think tank session, is sponsored by Markon Cooperative, of Salinas, Calif

To explain the five priorities in more detail, Silbermann then led a question-and-answer session with a panel of think tank participants that included Sweeney. Hailing from across the supply chain, other panelists included: Sunkist Growers’ Kevin Fiori, vice president of sales and marketing; Jim Lavender, executive vice president of marketing, purchasing and national accounts for foodservice distributor Ben E. Keith Foods, and chair of Markon Cooperative; Fedelle Bauccio, CEO of foodservice contract management company Bon Appetit Management; Tina Fitzgerald, director of produce and social responsibility for foodservice operator Subway’s Independent Purchasing Cooperation; and retailer Dave Corsi, vice president of produce and floral for Wegmans Food Markets, and PMA’s board chairman.

The research and think tank project was announced by the three associations earlier this year, as part of a new collaboration to identify opportunities to increase fresh produce use in foodservice to promote healthy lifestyles. The associations expect that these activities will serve as the foundation for future high-level dialogues within the foodservice and produce sectors to find solutions that benefit everyone – consumers, operators and their produce suppliers.

A report summarizing the operator research and think tank’s recommendations will be published by the associations and distributed to their members this fall.

Think Tank Participants

The following executives participated in the July 24 Invitational Think Tank.

•Ted Balestreri, Sardine Factory
•Fedelle Bauccio, Bon Appetit Management
•Tina Fitzgerald, IPC/Subway
•Greg LaMothe, Kimpton
•Mike Liewen, Yum! Brands
•Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association
•Hudson Riehle, National Restaurant Association

•Rich Dachman, Sysco Corporation
•Jim Lavender, Ben E. Keith Foods
•John Martin, Martin Brothers Distributing Co.
•Greg Reinauer, Amerifresh
•Roger Toomey, UniPro Foodservice
•Jorge Hernandez, U.S. Foodservice
•Tim York, Markon Cooperative
•Mark Allen, International Foodservice Distributors Association

•Ray De Riggi, Dole Fresh Vegetables
•Kevin Fiori, Sunkist
•David Gill, Gills Onions/Rio Farms
•David Russell, Del Monte Fresh
•Martin Ley, Del Campo Supreme
•Bruce Taylor, Taylor Farms
•Bryan Silbermann, Produce Marketing Association
•Lorna Christie, Produce Marketing Association

Special Guests:
•Dave Corsi, Wegmans Food Markets
•Greg Drescher, Culinary Institute of America

•Kerry Tucker, Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, Inc.
•Sharon McNerney, Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, Inc.