NEW YORK — Produce companies exhibiting at the International Association of Culinary Professionals expo, book and blogger expo on April 1 in New York had little competition, with only five on hand.
Richard Collins, president of California Vegetable Specialties, Rio Vista, Calif., marked his 15th year exhibiting endive at the conference. In his 30 years of working with the foodservice industry and with chefs, he said the new generation of chefs is a different breed, getting their information differently.
“They work through social media via websites and blogs,” he said.
“Nothing beats face to face, but for efficient dissemination of information, it’s not through mailings, it’s on the Web,” he said.
Produce on menus has much to do with industry efforts.
“We are doing a good job of demystifying the pear, educating on how to tell when it’s ripe to ensure their peak flavor of ripeness,” said Cristie Mather, director of communications for Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, Ore., who gave out pear samples at the expo.
Pears are increasingly showing up on restaurant menus, including in salads at Panera Bread and The Cheesecake Factory.
“We’re seeing pears made into chutneys and served with pork, and we’re seeing pear salsas,” she said.
Many chefs, bloggers, recipe writers and food editors look for exotic products, and that was what Brooks Tropicals, Homestead, Fla., and Melissa’s World Variety Produce Inc., Los Angeles, were pushing at the expo.
“(Attendees) are taking our recipes and ideas and presenting them to their own audiences,” said Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals. Visitors at the booth signed up for her monthly newsletter for a steady stream of recipes and ideas.
Melissa’s brought about 100 diverse items representing Asian, Latin, tropical, vegetables, exotic fruits and more. A few of the company’s newest items of interest are the Sugarloaf pineapple from West Africa, introduced in January.
Kim Reddin, director of public and industry relations for the National Onion Association, Greeley, Colo., uses the alias Onionista when blogging.
“I’m hoping to recruit more interested people to my blog and share all things onions with attendees, focused on consumers, cooking schools, cookbook authors and editors,” she said.