Opportunities abound when it comes to using fresh produce on restaurant menus, according to new research presented at Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) 2009 Foodservice Conference & Exposition July 24 in Monterey, Calif.
Conducted by the National Restaurant Association and PMA as part of a joint project that also included International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), the research highlighted that foodservice operators focus on produce’s expanded options, sourcing and food safety.
â€˜Our new research lays the foundation to move forward with our collaborative efforts to indentify new opportunities to serve our guests more fresh produce options on restaurant menus nationwide,â€™ said National Restaurant Association President and CEO Dawn Sweeney. â€˜Nutrition and food safety are key issues to our industry, and working with the produce and distributor industries will enhance both.â€™
Fresh Quality Produce Can Be a Point of Difference
The research on fresh produce in foodservice shows that restaurant operators see fresh produce as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition. Nearly three out of four restaurant operators (72 percent) said emphasizing fresh produce in their marketing efforts drives more customers to their restaurant. In addition, 46 percent of restaurant operators said they look for fresh produce items that their customers cannot buy at their supermarket, including 78 percent of fine dining operators.
In addition, 67 percent of restaurant operators said they wish they had more options regarding fresh produce selections, while 60 percent of operators said they wish there was more information on how to incorporate fresh produce on their menu. Forty-one percent said they expect to serve more fresh produce in the next two years, while 56 percent said they expect to serve about the same amount.
Restaurant operators also look at sourcing of fresh produce, with 77 percent saying they prefer to purchase domestically grown fresh produce. The majority (56 percent) of survey respondents say they serve locally-sourced produce in their restaurants.
Most Would Pay More for Guaranteed Safety
Food safety remains a top priority for restaurant operators. Eighty-nine percent of operators said they are willing to pay more for their fresh produce if its safety is guaranteed, and 76 percent of operators said they are willing to pay more for fresh produce if it is traceable all the way up the supply chain.
â€˜This research gives us tremendous insight into where we should focus our efforts to increase use of fresh produce in foodservice, which benefits everyone that touches the plate, with the ultimate beneficiary being the end consumer,â€™ said PMA President and CEO Bryan Silbermann.
The research set the stage for the Executive Think Tank: Summary and Discussion at the PMA conference on July 25 featuring top executives from across the supply chain representing the restaurant, distributor and produce industries. Conference speakers summarized a closed-door â€˜Executive Think Tankâ€™ July 24, at which senior foodservice and produce industry leaders reviewed the operator research, prioritized forces that could make the greatest difference on use of produce in foodservice and identified strategies to help the supply chain address those priorities.
These efforts are all part of a landmark multi-phase project by PMA, National Restaurant Association and IFDA. The project is sponsored by Markon Cooperative, a foodservice buying organization based in Salinas, Calif.
The three associations announced a new collaboration earlier this year to identify opportunities to increase fresh produce use in foodservice to promote healthy lifestyles. The research, as well as outcomes of the executive think tank session, will be available this fall.
Founded in 1949, the Produce Marketing Association is the leading trade association representing nearly 3,000 companies from every segment of the global produce and floral supply chain.