Contrary to widespread opinion, cost favors produce purchases, Taylor said.
“Over the past three years we’ve put more fresh fruits and vegetables on the plate, and yet we’ve added more than 12% to the bottom line,” he said. “That’s $1 million a year we’re generating in surplus in a government school district.”
Mark Munger, vice president of marketing at San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, said his company responds to changing foodservice demands by directing breeding efforts and its heirloom program to the quest for backyard tomato flavor.
“We’re pretty passionate about flavor and trying to get that in our hybrid varieties,” Munger said.
“It’s our responsibility as grower-shippers to be innovative and thinking about the next step, to not settle for the varieties that are available. That’s harder if you’re a tree fruit or grape grower and you’ve got a perennial, but we’re lucky that we’ve got annuals that we can make major changes to.”
Bill Slattery, salesman at Kingsburg Orchards, said the conference and expo was worthwhile.
“The interest from the foodservice sector and from providers to the public school system has been very positive,” Slattery said. “They’re looking for new items to offer students and the monies are there from the federal government. They’re very open-minded to new products and innovation this year.”