( Photo courtesy Markon Cooperative )

Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak burst on the scene earlier this month as the new head of Produce for Better Health Foundation with an ambitious goal to double produce consumption — a goal that will take not only reshaping PBH but the industry as well. 

And, if successful, would be a boon to the produce supply chain and public health.

We know the enormity of the challenge because we trod a similar path in 2009 and 2010 when Markon and Paramount Farms (now Wonderful Citrus) co-sponsored a think tank that made a similar commitment — to double foodservice produce consumption within 10 years. 

We’re familiar with audacious goals, and the daunting task that lies ahead of PBH and the produce industry. 

We offer a couple of nuggets from past experience to help Wendy achieve her goal:

> Involve the right people in the planning process. Our think tank was a collaboration of the National Restaurant Association, Produce Marketing Association, and the International Foodservice Distributors Association, along with leading suppliers, distributors, operators and others. Consider a planning team of thoughtful representatives of the industry and stakeholders who can lend credibility to your goal and your game plan.

> Involve all sectors in the supply chain to bring the goal to life. Reaching the goal requires engagement from growers to shippers to distributors to foodservice operators or store managers. Imagine what could happen if the grower only grew varieties that appealed to consumers (think Honeycrisp versus red delicious apples). Imagine if shippers working in logistics expedited speed to market, thereby enhancing product appeal. Imagine a store manager who only put great tasting fruits and crisp vegetables on display, and actually increased shrink for the long-term goal of growing consumption and maintaining the appeal of fresh produce. 

> Foster ownership in the planning process and the final product. The greater the involvement, the greater industry ownership in the direction you’re headed. During our experience, while NRA members were under assault on the obesity crisis and IFDA wanted to claim the produce health halo, they had no real motivation to invest resources to attain the goal. Words proved easier to chronicle than action, and the three groups did not integrate the goal into their strategic plans.

> Establish a clear goal line. Doubling consumption is very specific and ambitious. While we had a specific goal, there is no IRI or Nielsen data to track produce usage in foodservice. We had no baseline data on which to measure progress against the goal. 

> Set priorities to achieve the goal. While the goal is important, so is a plan of action. Priorities should be established to outline how the goal will be achieved. Our think tank identified five priorities: re-imagining the produce experience with greater presence on the plate and telling our story; increased confidence in produce; demonstrating social responsibility; and cooperating more closely between sectors as well as with government and other stakeholders. The emphasis continues to be on bringing excitement to the produce category with enticing offerings that appeal to consumers, as research shows this is a prime motivator for consumption — even beyond health. 

We love the sense of urgency Wendy brings to PBH. 

Tim York is CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative. E-mail him at [email protected].