As 2017 comes to a close, I’ve found myself reflecting on trends in the produce and foodservice sectors.

While we have good news in some areas, there is still work to be done in others. From misfit produce going mainstream to ongoing food safety challenges, it’s been an interesting year ... and we have much to look forward to in 2018.


Ugly Is In

We’ve all heard about food waste and the role that fresh produce — particularly “ugly produce” — plays in the waste stream.

From fields disked under and produce that doesn’t meet specifications to consumer waste at restaurants and at home, food waste across the supply chain continues to get attention. The untold story is that foodservice has always used “misfits.” Created by Tanimura and Antle in the early 1980s, “Cleaned and Trimmed Lettuce” was a product of smaller size iceberg that didn’t match retail needs, yet was ideal for foodservice.

From No. 2 avocados and onions to choice and standard grade citrus, select cucumbers, Lunch Bunch grapes, jumbo cabbage and more, foodservice has played an important but unheralded role in the reduction of food waste.

If you’re a grower-shipper, foodservice distributor or operator, are you telling the story of your waste reduction efforts? If not, let 2018 be your year.


More Work on Food Safety

Earlier this month, romaine contaminated with E. coli in six Canadian provinces sickened 30 and killed one person, reminding us that we have an ongoing responsibility to our customers to provide safe food.

Bill Marler, the food safety attorney, won’t eat sprouts, spinach or bagged lettuce. Marler loves sushi but won’t eat a restaurant salad because it likely came from precut product.

What does that say about our industry? While Marler may not be our typical customer, perception is important. Even more important is ongoing vigilance in bringing safe food to market.

One way to up your food safety game is to get involved with The Center for Produce Safety, of which I am chairman of the board. The technical committee, led by Taylor Farms’ Drew McDonald, has the best and brightest minds in our industry and is developing research priorities. Donor dollars are used judiciously, and with more than 120 research projects conducted, we’ve found answers to many questions that have allowed the industry to improve practices. 


People are Top Priority

Having just returned from the New York Produce Show, I am reminded yet again about what I love about the produce industry: the people.

The hallmark of this business is the integrity and quality of the people. I feel privileged to call many of you friends, and as we celebrate the season of gratitude, I offer my thanks for helping make this a great industry and one that has been my home for 40 years.

My best wishes for a great holiday season and prosperity in the new year.

Tim York is CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative. Centerplate is a monthly column on “what’s now and next” for foodservice and the implications for produce. E-mail him at

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