WATSONVILLE, Calif. — Strawberries continue to grow in popularity on foodservice menus because of their desirable flavor and nutritional contribution.
To encourage chefs and menu developers to add the berries to even more dishes, the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission has expanded its foodservice program plans this year, said Chris Christian, vice president of marketing.
A large portion will involve increased visibility and sponsorships at foodservice and restaurant trade shows and events.
In June, for example, the commission plans to host a San Diego field tour for selected members of the Winter Park, Fla.-based International Corporate Chefs Association.
Participants will hear about how strawberry grower-shippers have adopted sustainable practices as well as learn how strawberries are produced. A local chef also will show off dishes featuring the fruit.
National chain program
In addition, the commission is partnering with six to eight national restaurant chains to promote strawberries on their menus from April through August.
Not all of the participants have been confirmed yet, but Christian said the programs will include multiple menu items that contain California strawberries.
“Use of strawberries is really expanding on foodservice menus, especially in salads,” she said. “Every fast-casual and even some of the fast-food chains are incorporating strawberries into salads. It comes from consumer interest in healthful items.
“And chefs and operators are very interested in creating or expanding healthful offerings on their menus.”
Even pizza chains are incorporating limited-time offerings of salads with strawberries, she said.
“I think it’s great,” Christian said. “It helps expand consumer demand and use when they see how easy it is to add strawberries to salads.”
Salads are just one of the menu dishes where strawberries can be used, she said.
Salsa, fish tacos
Many chefs have expanded the fruit’s use to include savory dishes, such as strawberry salsa, strawberry fish tacos and chicken and strawberry panini sandwiches.
And it’s these types of innovative recipe concepts that Naturipe Farms LLC, Estero, Fla., promotes to its foodservice customers, said Vince Lopes, vice president of sales for the west.
He said keeping berries on the menu and using them not just for desserts but for drinks, garnishes and center-plate items, including salads and savory dishes, can have wide-ranging benefits for foodservice providers.