The way incoming Produce Marketing Association chairman Rich Dachman sees it, the produce industry remains poised for increasing gains in consumption.

That is, if its members can work together and take advantage of all the people and organizations promoting increased healthy eating with more produce.

As PMA chairman for the next year, Dachman, vice president of produce for Sysco Corp., Houston, said he plans to remain focused on expanding consumption.

“It solves a lot of problems when people eat more produce,” Dachman said.

“It helps our industry fulfill its sales goals, and, more importantly, in conjunction with others, it gets our country healthier. I am obsessed with trying to preach health to anyone who will listen to me.”

Serving as committee chairman of PMA’s Foodservice 2020, which aims to double produce offerings on restaurant menus by 2020, Dachman said he sees “the stars perfectly aligned” for the produce industry.

“As an industry, we need to act more as a team,” Dachman said.

“We have different advisory boards fighting each other with different products competing against each other. Some have done a great job, and I’m a huge fan of Produce for Better Health. We all need to get behind something like that and provide it the right funds so we can get that Super Bowl commercial or whatever we need to compete against Domino’s. I really want to push that as much as I possibly can.”

Although he works for a company that sells all kinds of food, Dachman said it’s important that produce people view their true competition not as cherries versus nectarines, but the snack aisle.

“We all need to get together as a single organization and figure out a way to promote our product instead of the fragmented manner in which we do it today. When we talk about increasing consumption, it hits all the hot spots. We have to make sure food is safe and traceable when a problem happens. This ties ultimately into getting people to eat more products and gain their confidence. Consumption is a result of us doing everything else right.”

When it comes to promoting produce, outgoing chairman Mike O’Brien, vice president of produce and floral for Schnuck Markets Inc., St. Louis, says Dachman is the real deal.

“He really believes in the produce industry and has a passion for growing consumption,” O’Brien said.

“That’s one thing he’s always been pushing all of us in our board meetings. That will be his mantra, to walk the walk. We can be out saying we want to grow consumption, but let’s live it.”

O’Brien said Dachman possesses a strategic outlook, and added that he’s glad that he as a retailer is being followed in his position by a foodservice leader.

O’Brien said it’s critical that retail and foodservice operators work together at growing consumption.

Dachman has long been involved with PMA. His work to actively help the industry expand consumption began during the late 1980s when he served on PMA’s foodservice board. He thought he had finished his PMA involvement until the mid-2000s when former PMA chairman Bruce Taylor, chairman and chief executive officer of Taylor Farms California Inc., Salinas, personally asked him to return.

Considering how networking with other foodservice and retail people helps him and the produce industry, Dachman said he jumped at the opportunity to serve again.

“It’s amazing the group of players we have in the industry,” Dachman said.

“Some of the key people I’ve known, the people who were together with me on the board in the late 1980s, they’re still involved.”

Dachman said changes in modern communications allow more communication with PMA members and produce companies’ customers via web seminars and greater global outreach, an area in which he sees PMA expanding.

Attending a PMA function in Australia, Dachman said the connections PMA has with overseas produce people intrigued him.

PMA’s establishing satellite offices in places such as Australia, Chile and South Africa can only help bring the world’s produce industry together, he said.

“It really opened my eyes as to how important it is that we look at this industry from a global perspective,” he said.

“PMA is the leader in doing that. The borders of our industry have disappeared. In the end, it will be good as we bring in more people from Latin America and other areas.”

A Denver native, Dachman entered the industry as a young teenager working on the dock of his family’s produce distribution business, Perry’s Produce Co. In 1979, he and his father opened a new foodservice operation in Denver for Kraft Foods Inc. before he joined Kraft’s corporate office in Chicago in 1987 as national director of produce.

In 1992, a predecessor to FreshPoint asked Dachman to work as its president in its Denver, Houston, Salinas and Atlanta locations. After Sysco acquired FreshPoint in 2000, Dachman worked his way up to senior vice president of the western region and in 2007 became Sysco’s vice president of produce.

Bryan Silbermann, PMA’s president and chief executive officer, said Dachman possesses the same energy of his predecessor.

“We have that same commitment and passion for increasing consumption and growth in membership and the value PMA provides in Rich Dachman,” Silbermann said.

“I could not be more excited about the opportunities for PMA working with Rich and our talented member volunteers.”