Industry upbeat heading into PMA Foodservice Conference

July 9, 2012

It’s a fun time to be in foodservice.

That’s one of the messages attendees at the Produce Marketing Association Foodservice Conference & Expo coming up July 20-22 in Monterey, Calif., are going to hear.

Suzy Badaracco, president of the Culinary Tides, Inc. trends forecasting firm in Tualatin, Ore., is going to be speaking in a session on menu trends. And she said that right now, as the U.S. emerges from recession, is an exciting time for foodservice professionals.

“Consumers are moving from recession to recovery, and so the foods change as their mindset changes,” she said.

“During a recession, you’ve got comfort foods. Fruits and vegetables tend to be more traditional.

“What happens when you come into recovery, consumers’ eyes are open, their senses are open, they get more experimental, more playful. They’re not so fearful … and it causes them to do more risk taking, including foods.”

Other sessions will focus on consumer behavior and produce safety. A live chef challenge will use USDA’s “half the plate” guidelines to develop healthy and flavorful kids’ menus. The sold-out Foodservice Produce Expo will feature 150-plus exhibitors with new products along with opportunities to meet with suppliers face-to-face, all in one place.

“It’s still the one and only event that’s dedicated to fresh produce and the foodservice industry,” said Bryan Silbermann, PMA president and CEO. “You’ve got the entire supply chain there from field to fork.”

Silbermann said the event has evolved in recent years, getting away from being mostly an opportunity for produce suppliers to meet with purchasing reps to bringing in more involvement from the menu development side of foodservice companies.

“It’s the menu development people that really make the decisions on what’s going to end up on the menu that you, the consumer, are going to select – not the purchasing people,” Silbermann said. “On the sell side, we’ve also got more and more hands-on engagement by people on the supply side working with partners in menu development to create new items.”

Bringing all sides together at PMA gives them a chance to explore possibilities, he said.

“More and more, what operators are looking for is convenience,” Silbermann said. “They’re looking for lowering the cost of labor. They’re looking for new items. And new items could be … everything from a different cut of carrots to a different variety of a product.”

And Silbermann predicts an upbeat show.

“Certainly three to four years ago with the economic downturn, there’s no question that the foodservice sector got hit harder than retail did,” Silbermann said. “We saw a marked upswing last year in the mood and I think that’s continuing.

“People are starting to eat out more, based on the data we see. I think generally there is a strong mood within the foodservice sector and obviously that translates well to fresh produce.”

For more information, visit www.pma.com/foodservice.