PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo Advances Healthy, Flavorful Menu Options

The call from consumers and health advocates for healthier menu options for kids and adults was answered by the produce and foodservice supply chains as they came together at Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) Foodservice Conference & Expo, held July 20-22 in Monterey, Calif. This year’s conference was the largest ever, drawing nearly 1,800 chefs, growers, menu developers, packer/shippers, distributors and restaurant operators, the conference focused on healthy menu items for kids, innovative flavors to satisfy increasingly global palates and communicating with consumers about food safety to ensure consumer confidence.                                                       

Highlights from this year’s conference include:

  • National Restaurant Association Board of Directors Chair Roz Mallet joined PMA President and CEO Bryan Silbermann in a session discussing the equal importance flavor and menu innovations, food safety, research and sustainability holds in increasing produce usage in foodservice.
  • Education sessions addressed food safety and menu trend lifecycles, and a menu developer’s panel explored restaurant, college and public school formats.
  • Six professional chefs competed at a live Chef Demo Challenge to create flavorful kids’ menu options meeting U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s ‘Half the Plate’ guidelines. Kid-judges named The Swappable Meat-Mushroom Taco the winning dish by The Mushroom Council. Video footage of this event is available here.
  • A sold-out Produce Expo made its mark as the largest in its history, featuring 160 exhibitors with foodservice-specific produce solutions offering attendees what’s known as the “Best Five Hours in Foodservice.” For the 15th year, exhibitors donated remaining produce to The Food Bank of Monterey County.
  • Twelve university students and four faculty members attended as part of PMA Foundation for Industry Talent’s Career Pathways Program, which provides students the opportunity to attend industry events to learn about produce careers. The students and faculty represented California State University, Fresno; California State University, Monterey Bay; Hartnell College; and University of California, Davis.
  • Several networking opportunities specifically designed to bring buyers and sellers together took place, including a Fresh Market Fair at the Friday evening opening reception.
  • Awards:
    • Duda Farm Fresh Foods received the People’s Choice award
    • Church Brothers won Best New Product Launch
    • California Avocado Commission was voted this year’s Sensory Experience winner for their recipe Spicy Shrimp Lettuce Wrap with California Avocado.
    • Best of Show went to Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, with Gills Onions following in second place.

Next year’s conference is scheduled for July 26-28, 2013, in Monterey, Calif. For more information, visit www.pma.com/foodservice.

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