Hungry for foodservice growth

07/27/2012 09:11:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

It may seem a bit trite and obvious to say children are the future, but in shaping appetites and ultimately demand for food products, it’s spot on.

At the recent Produce Marketing Association Foodservice Conference, fruit and vegetable marketers and their restaurant industry clients showed they are doing their part to sway young diners with fresh, fun and healthful innovations.

Dining out can be an opportunity to indulge, but for tens of millions of Americans, foodservice dining — whether it’s the burger joint drive-through or the something further up the value chain — is an almost daily part of life.

The average U.S. adult eats 4.8 meals per week in restaurants, a 2011 survey suggests, even as the recession has many Americans continuing to stretch their food dollars.

But as the fiscal outlook eases a bit and consumers regain spending power, restaurants are poised to post gains, and they need to do it with more nutritious menus, which is where fresh produce comes in.

It can’t compete though if the quality, flavor and value aren’t all in line.

A National Restaurant Association survey finds nearly two of three operators say they’re optimistic about sales this year but fear increases in commodity prices.

On a more positive note, suppliers and buyers recognize they must grow together.

By participants’ own admission, the Foodservice 2020 initiative to boost consumption (PMA along with partners NRA and the International Foodservice Distributors Association) has found consumption gains difficult to quantify — but produce offerings on menus remain on the rise.

The innovation and enthusiasm on display in Monterey are cause for optimism.

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