SNA Annual National Conference 2010: She Wasn’t There, But She Was Everywhere
It seemed everyone who spoke or exhibited at or attended the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference in Dallas mentioned the First Lady in nearly every other sentence. Mrs. Obama, of course, has championed improvements in school meal programs as part of her quest to end childhood obesity within a generation. Her “Let’s Move!” and “Chefs Move to Schools” programs were the talk of the conference.
Hundreds of chefs have signed on to adopt school cafeterias across the country in the Chefs Move initiative, and on hand to represent the First Lady and bring the school nutrition professionals up to speed on the program was White House assistant chef, Sam Kass (pictured above).
Even the exhibitors had Mrs. Obama’s initiatives on their minds, and often in their sales pitches. It seemed every new product being introduced and sampled was touted as whole-grain, reduced-sodium, low-fat, low-calorie or 100% juice. Healthy kid-friendly foods were the order of the day. The fight against childhood obesity…it’s on!
Politics was on the agenda too. Conference attendees were urged to call or write their representatives in Congress in an effort to get the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill passed. In a passionate speech in one general session the message was simple: Tell Congress to pass this bill now!
The association also introduced a new community outreach program to its members, called Tray Talk. The campaign will help SNA member schools present the facts about quality school nutrition to parents and the general public.
Food Channel’s on-the-scene coverage of the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference was sponsored by Advance Food Company, Michael Foods, the National Dairy Council and Pinnacle Food Service.
Beyond the Açaí Berry: Brazil Targets Growth for Its Other Fruits
During the past few years, much of the world’s attention has been directed toward Brazil’s amazing açaí berry. Studies have shown the berry, which is native to Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest, to be one of the most nutritionally complete foods found in all of nature. Although some critics have suggested that the berry’s health benefits have been exaggerated, products containing açaí berries as an ingredient have enjoyed tremendous sales growth in the U.S. and throughout the world.
In 2009, buoyed by the global excitement and explosion in export sales of the açaí berry, the government of Brazil embarked on the Amazon Flavours Brazil Project.
The initiative promotes the diversity and quality of fruits that originate from the Amazon region, aiming to widen the commercialization of Amazon products. Besides the açaí berry, there are about 120 varieties of native fruits found there, many of which Brazil hopes to have commercialized.
Brazil is the third largest fruit producer in the world, with more than 42 million tons produced last year. Currently, 15 types of fruit are commercially produced and processed in the Amazon Rainforest, including the cupuaçu, the bacuri, the taperebá, and the camu-camu. More conventional fruits are also produced in the region, such as pineapples, passion fruit, oranges, acerola, and soursop (also called graviola).
The Amazon Flavours Brazil Project has created a new American website (the U.S.A. is the largest importer of the açaí berry). Visitors to the site can find recipes for some of Brazil’s native fruits and nuts. The project has also been conducting product sampling at major events, including the Indianapolis 500 in May and at the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa this summer.
Other than smoothie shops, we have yet to see many American restaurants menuing dishes that contain açaí berries. But açaí berry fruit juices and concentrates have become ubiquitous in health food stores, supermarkets and club stores. We’ve even seen the introduction of an açaí spirit, called VeeV, which features the berry as its main ingredient.
Time will tell if the Amazon Flavours Brazil Project will get more açaí dishes on American menus (not to mention cupuaçu, bacuri, or camu-camu), but the powers-that-be down in South America are certainly making the effort.
Antonio Swad: One Gutsy Pizza Hombre
Pizza Patrón’s founder and CEO, Antonio Swad, is an entrepreneur who has made the restaurant industry his home since starting out as 15-year-old dishwasher in Columbus, Ohio. Along the way he founded and sold one successful restaurant concept, Wingstop, and he now has plans to expand the Pizza Patrón franchise beyond its current six-state territory. The pizza chain, targeted specially to the growing Hispanic market, made national headlines when Swad began allowing his customers to pay for pizza with pesos. The controversial promotion increased sales by more than 30 percent. In the tough economy of 2009, Pizza Patrón recorded four solid quarters of comp store sales gains.
Swad is a leader with guts who offers these comments in an in-depth video interview with Ellen Koteff, editor-in-chief for FoodChannelPro™.
- With success, his appetite for risk has only grown. “You get almost addicted to taking good, intelligent risks. It seems the older I get, the more I want to do it.”
- He has a “sort of formula” for taking risks. The first step in the evaluation process: “If it goes completely wrong and absolutely blows up in my face, will we still live to fight another day?”
- That’s only half of Swad’s risk measurement formula. Click here to view the rest of the interview segment (Part 1).
Upcoming interviews in the “Leaders with Guts” video series include Jeff Sinelli of Which Wich?, Phil Costner of La Madeleine, Susan Smith of Buffalo Wild Wings, and Todd Graves of Raising Cane’s.
FoodChannelPro is the new beta site where food professionals can go for inspiration, menuing information, education and more. Partners in the new venture include Johnson & Wales University, CultureWaves®, MenuMax, Mintel International, Penton Media, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), Manifest Digital, and Noble.