Produce plays a role in foodservice category comeback

12/09/2011 12:23:00 PM
Tom Burfield

Consumers were taking “one step down,” agreed Jay Iverson, partner and vice president of sales and marketing for GreenGate Fresh LLP, Salinas, Calif.

Considering today’s hectic lifestyles, “most people don’t have time to not take advantage of dining out,” he said. 

“They’re just spending their money differently.”

Chains served by Freshway Foods, Sidney, Ohio, are adding more produce and produce-related products, said Dan Purdy, vice president of sales and marketing.

Trends

“People are starting to be health-conscious again,” he said, and that’s good for the industry as well as consumers.

Purdy also has observed a trend toward locally grown products, especially in the Midwest during the summer, and he said chefs are getting more creative with their salad offerings.

“They’re still using salad mixes in bags, but they’re starting to put some unique items in there,” he said.

Instead of just lettuce, red cabbage and carrots, chefs now are buying mixes that include endive, escarole, raddichio and romaine.

One chain, Carrollton, Texas-based T.G.I. Friday’s, even features butternut squash as a side dish, he said.

“It’s nice to see something a little different,” Purdy said.

Ease, convenience and price are foodservice trends that Vince Choate, director of marketing for Hollandia Produce LLC, Carpinteria, Calif., has noticed.

“Anything that is labor saving and has stable pricing seems to be the key that brings good penetration in that segment of the market,” he said.

Demand has increased for processed product that is ready to use, and Choate includes the company’s Live Gourmet brand living lettuce in that value-added category.

Easier to add

Foodservice operators are looking for new offerings to enhance their menus, just like consumers are, said Mike O’Leary, vice president of fresh-cut for Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

Five or 10 years ago, menus typically featured a single garden salad, he said, but today, chefs are competing to make their salads unique.

Foodservice business at The Chuck Olsen Co., Visalia, Calif., has seen some minor fluctuations during the past couple of years, but on the whole, vice president Jeff Olsen seemed satisfied.

“Overall, business is staying fairly steady,” he said. 

“If it’s up or down, it’s only by few percentage points.”


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