Foodservice produce distributors expect another strong Mother’s Day, with demand for strawberries, asparagus and other commodities spiking for the busiest day of the year for restaurants.
“Traditionally, it’s our No. 1 produce day,” said Bill Sewell, director of produce and dairy for Fort Worth, Texas-based distributor Ben E. Keith Foods.
The restaurant industry approaches Mother’s Day in good shape, Sewell said — at least as measured by produce volume growth for foodservice distributors like Ben E. Keith.
“For the year, starting July 1 (2011), we’ve seen over double-digit growth on cases,” he said.
The National Restaurant Association expects restaurant traffic on Mother’s Day to be similar to last year, when an estimated 75 million Americans ate in restaurants, said Annika Stensson, director of media relations for the Washington, D.C.-based association.
At the top of the holiday list for Ben E. Keith is strawberries. The company moved 30,000 flats last year in the week leading up to Mother’s Day, and Sewell has no reason to think 2012 will be any different.
Strawberries and asparagus will be the big promotable items this Mother’s Day for Salinas, Calif.-based produce foodservice specialist Markon Cooperative, said Mark Shaw, operations director.
Staples like potatoes, lettuce and tomatoes also are expected to bet big holiday bumps this year, Shaw said. Markon also is bullish on Mother’s Day sales of its new line of salad mixes, which include spring mix, romaine blend and a nutrient-dense “power” blend.
Strawberries are popular in restaurant desserts and salads on Mother’s Day, Sewell said. Ben E. Keith also promotes blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for the holiday.
Strawberry prices are likely to be lower for Mother’s Day than they were for Easter, when prices surged due to a supply gap from one source that made Ben E. Keith hustle for product at the last minute, Sewell said.
But strawberry markets will still likely be higher than they were in the weeks leading up to the spring holidays, despite highly promotable volumes.
“We’re looking at a good crop, but they’ll go up,” Sewell said. “They always do.”
While Ben E. Keith’s Mother’s Day promotions lean heavily on strawberries, pretty much every other fruit and vegetable the company sells does well.
“We expect growth in all categories,” he said. “Everything grows for Mother’s Day. We’re looking forward to it.”
Because of the abundant supplies of many popular Mother’s Day commodities, Shaw doesn’t anticipate significant changes in markets, though strawberry prices for Mother’s Day should be higher than they’ve been in the past two years.