Fresh produce companies work hard to get their products onto restaurant menus.
“We try to make products as beneficial for customers as possible,” Jeff Olsen, president of The Chuck Olsen Co., said. “We just work with everyone individually and find what’s best for both parties. We find what makes sense for (customers).”
The Chuck Olsen Co. offers specially sized packages of grapes and citrus products for foodservice customers.
Orlando, Fla.-based Spice World customizes garlic selections for foodservice vendors. Mitch DiMarco, director of foodservice and industrial operations, said they can mince, puree, chop and dice their garlic or leave it as is, depending on what the client wants.
Church Bros.LLC has many clients who want unique products that are catered to their customers’ wants. The company works with clients to create custom salad products.
“We want to work closely with restaurants and chain restaurants to redo their salad offerings,” said Ernst Van Eeghen, director of marketing and product development for Church Bros. “We are in close collaborations with many of our customers to create what they need. Every chain has a different demographic, so it is ‘what do they need?’”
As in retail, sales of kale have been growing.
San Miguel Produce has been offering clients a variety of kale products.
Jan Berk, president of Oxnard, Calif.-based San Miguel Produce, said that the company offers de-stemmed kale varieties and a variety of cuts for the green. This gives foodservice clients options for adding kale to their menus.
Berk said that the company is offering Tuscan, lacinato and regular kale that has been destemmed. She said the de-stemmed varieties are preferred for salads and kale chips.
San Miguel also is cutting kale in a variety of ways. The company offers shredded kale, which is great for slaws and salads. The largest cut is good for cooking, Berk said. The middle-sized cut is great for salads.
Gold Coast Packing, Santa Maria, Calif., also is working with customers on new kale products, along with collard greens and broccoli products.
The baby lacinato kale Gold Coast Packing now offers comes in 4-pound packages and has had rave reviews, according to Brett Scattini, vice president of sales for Gold Coast Packing. The new baby lacinato kale comes right in time for the kale trend Van Eeghan mentioned.
Scattini said that the company is constantly coming up with new things for the foodservice industry. Joan’s Broccoli Madness is one of the company’s new options.
New salad blends
Gina Nucci, director of healthy culinary innovations for Salinas, Calif.-based Mann Packing Co., said the company’s new salad line offers variety.
Mann’s Arcadian line features three new salad blends: the classic, ruby and emerald.
The classic blend contains three green and two red lettuce varieties. The ruby has two red varieties and one green. The emerald is the first all green salad blend since chopped romaine, Nucci said.
“With a dark rich colored green and a blonde green, it is ideal for salad for people who are wanting to get away from the reds,” Nucci said. “And it’s a better price than chopped romaine.”
Nucci said these blends are also special because the plants used to create them are smaller than normal but are not baby lettuces. Therefore, they have more “forkability,” Nucci said. So when someone puts their fork into the lettuce, it stays on.
Kathleen Preis, marketing coordinator for the Mushroom Council, said the council is working on getting mushrooms on to restaurant menus by helping chefs blend mushrooms into dishes.
The technique, “mushroom blendability,” helps chefs incorporate mushrooms into dishes that typically consist of a lot of meat. To do this, mushrooms are chopped into the consistency of meat and added to the meat in the dish. It is becoming popular because consumers are shifting toward a plant-based diet, Preis said.
“Operators are looking for a way to please customers and to get (mushrooms) on the menus, but keep the dishes delicious and still have great savory flavors,” Preis said.