Today we welcome guest blogger Rich Dachman, Vice President of Produce at Sysco and Chair of the Foodservice 2020 Steering Committee. Rich considers the importance of Foodservice 2020 to the future of produce in foodservice and shares how you can use your time at the expo to do your part in increasing produce consumption at foodservice.
As I reflected for this blog post on Foodservice 2020’s importance, I was struck by how much the initiative epitomizes the Foodservice Conference & Expo. Like the conference, Foodservice 2020 brings restaurants, distributors and the produce industry together in collaboration like nothing else can. And just like the conference, Foodservice 2020 comprises more than just its end goal of increasing produce usage, but also focuses on education and inspiration. Foodservice 2020 is as important to the health of our customers as it is to the health of our industries, which is why I think the Foodservice Conference & Expo sets the ideal stage for making Foodservice 2020 come alive and advance.
As I mentioned, Foodservice 2020 is multi faceted. First, people clearly need to eat more fruits and vegetables to improve health and curb obesity. This is a point underscored by USDA with its recently introduced MyPlate icon and message to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. This guidance applies to away-from-home eating as much as it does in-home eating, and it’s our job to make sure produce is on the menu to choose.
Of course, if we’re to help people put more fruits and veggies on their plates when eating out, food safety needs to be high on everyone’s list. Foodservice 2020 encourages us work in unison to do every thing we can to serve the safest product to our customers to keep consumption up.
This initiative also addresses profitability. Bringing restaurants, distributors and the produce industry together helps us better understand the cost of goods from every facet. Doing so gives us a true meaning of cost of goods and an understanding of what can be done to control these costs for the customer.
And then there’s spawning innovation, which is a big part of 2020 and the expo. If we are going to increase use of produce at foodservice, people want new products, packaging, cooking ideas and cooking styles. We also need to create innovative, tasty ways to showcase produce in a manner that really appeals to people’s senses. I’m looking forward to learning about the winners of the Sensory Experience contest to take place this year among exhibitors that will challenge them to create produce-centric recipes to do just that.
The 2020 initiative unites the supply chain on all these fronts, and so does the Foodservice Conference & Expo. As a result, exhibitors must really understand what they’re trying to achieve and then maximize their expo time to learn from the people you interact with about how you’re going to get to those goals. I’d like to see exhibitors prepared with really good questions for us. I’m hoping they’re not just selling, that instead they’re asking questions about what they need to do to help us sell more and get our customers eating more produce. I encourage exhibitors to take the approach that this expo isn’t just a networking show, but that it’s an informational exchange. This show gives exhibitors the opportunity to engage with buyers at a level they may not be able to experience anywhere else.
For exhibitors to seize the opportunity this expo presents to advance Foodservice 2020 for everyone’s benefit, my advice is simply to ask a lot of questions and then listen. Listening is equally as important as talking. Don’t approach the expo just thinking you’ll get new customers and sell more. Instead, walk in saying: “I’m going to get more educated to gain a better understanding of how we can work together to increase consumption.”
Now it’s my turn to listen. What do you think? How can we leverage the Foodservice Conference & Expo to work better together to increase produce consumption?