Several commodity boards have found working with the foodservice segment to be a good way to create awareness for their product.
The Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission works closely with restaurant chains to determine how potatoes can best fit their menus, said Don Odiorne, vice president of foodservice.
“We approach the chain, work with their culinary group, analyze their menu and look where Idaho potatoes might fit it,” he said.
Commission representatives typically present up to two dozen menu ideas and then ask the chain to select a half dozen, which a commission prepares in the test kitchen or company headquarters.
The commission also works with chains in other ways.
“At Wingstop (Restaurants Inc., Richardson, Texas), years ago, we provided a french fry expert to teach them best methods for doing fresh-cut fries from Idaho,” Odiorne said.
This year, he met with four officers from the company during a tour of growing areas and discussed partnering on merchandising promotions, such as in-unit signage.
The result was a promotional piece with the Wingstop logo explained to restaurant customers how the fries are “Cut from fresh, never-frozen Idaho potatoes every day in every restaurant.”
The commission, which contacts eight to 12 chains each year, has been successful getting new items on the menu, creating a need and making it essential for the chain to continue to stock Idaho potatoes, Odiorne said.
The Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission works with select restaurants, chefs, culinary organizations and schools across the country to expand eating occasions for fresh grapes from California, said Cindy Plummer, vice president of domestic marketing.
“We’re seeing increased usage and recognition of the versatility of grapes on menus,” she said.
California grapes were the featured fruit in October as part of Gaithersburg, Md.-based Sodexo Inc.’s Fresh Pick for Better Health program in schools nationwide.
Grapes were featured on menus in schools, in foodservice promotional materials, in games for kids and in take-home recipes, Plummer said.
Fall promotions at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Texas, Austin, also featured California grapes.
“Dining halls and retail venues on both campuses featured grapes, both in recipes, as a grab ’n’ go item, and as a healthy side alternative,” she said.
Fresh grapes were recently added to the kids menus of Orlando, Fla.-based Olive Garden and Eat’n Park restaurants.
The Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission has worked with Wendy’s International Inc., Dublin, Ohio, to develop the story “Behind the Berry” in support of the chain’s successful berry almond chicken salad, which was a spring/summer limited-time offer, said Chris Christian, the commission’s director of marketing.
California strawberries were featured in Wendy’s promotions of the salad to consumers, and a California strawberry grower video was posted on the company’s website.