You can find frozen custard, burgers and cheese curds at Culver’s restaurant. You won’t find any fresh fruit.
 
It is much the same for thousands of other foodservice outlets, and that’s why a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report providing estimates about how much produce is consumed “at home” compared with foodservice outlets shouldn’t be too surprising.
 
The USDA has released a 37-page report called “U.S. Food Commodity Availability by Food Source, 1994-2008.”
 
The report estimates the percentage of fresh produce consumed "at home" compared with at foodservice locations.
 
The USDA said it used data from four national food intake surveys conducted between 1994 and 2008 to arrive at its estimates.
 
Study results
 
What did researchers find?
 
The report said the at-home food market (typically food purchased at grocery stores) accounted for 58% of total food expenditures and 68% of total caloric intake.
 
Between 1994 and 2008, an average of more than 80% of total fruit, dairy, and nuts was obtained for at-home use. The at-home market for fruit was a whopping 86.5% of total supply from 1994-2008.
 
Predictably, bananas had the highest at-home share among fruits, the report said, averaging 93.8% during 1994 to 2008. “Other citrus” fruit (fresh tangerines, fresh grapefruit, fresh lemons, fresh limes, grapefruit juice) had the smallest at home percentage, at 74.8%.
 
The agency said the at-home share of berry consumption has been headed higher with greater per capita consumption.
 
With per capita availability rising from 4.5 pounds per person during the mid-1990s to 6.6 pounds in 2008, the USDA said the at-home share for berries from 82.8% in 1994-1998 to 88.6% to 90.6% in 2003-08.
 
Vegetable strength
 
For vegetables, the USDA reports that 62% of volume was purchased to consume at home.
 
The at-home share was smallest for lettuce and potatoes, averaging 52% and 53%, respectively. Sweet corn and green peas had the highest at-home market shares, both averaging 80%, according to the USDA. 
 
Researchers noted that the amount of lettuce consumed at home and away from home changed little over the study period. 
 
Potato consumption at home declined from 32.3 pounds per person per year during 1994-98 to 28.3 pounds in 2007-08, the USDA said; consumption away from home declined from 28.9 pounds to 23.7 pounds.
 
USDA researchers said per capita tomato consumption declined for the at-home market from 20.9 pounds in 1994-1998 to 19.0 pounds in 2007-08. However, the agency said away-from-home tomato consumption
rose from 10.4 pounds per person per year during 1994-98 to 11.5 pounds during 2007-08.
 
What implications does the research have? For growers of potatoes, lettuce and other popular restaurant menu items, the USDA suggests that foodservice should be an equal player with retail in targeting promotion efforts. 
 
For commodities overwhelmingly consumed at home, marketers may want to devote the most “bang” for the marketing buck at supermarkets.
 
For all produce marketers, the steady rise of foodservice sales can’t be ignored. The USDA estimates spending on food away-from-home as a percentage of total food expenditures rose from about 25% in 1970 to 43.1% in 2012, and figures to keep rising.
 
Marketers can’t afford to be shut out of  this space. 
 
No, you can’t find a bowl of fresh fruit or apple slices at Culver’s. Why not try to make it happen?