Key Takeaways from the New York Produce Show and Conference

How to get consumers to eat more plants
and the new foodservice trends of 2023

It was exhilarating to experience the New York Produce Show and Conference in its full post-pandemic force at the Javits Center in New York City. Held in December, the second-largest produce show in North America offers attendees networking opportunities, educational micro-sessions, and an inside look at the country’s thriving produce industry.

One major highlight is the trade show itself, with 400 vendors welcoming approximately 5,000 attendees. Those who want to take a break from conducting business can attend some of the educational seminars that run during the show. I attended two seminars at the New York Produce Show and Conference where I took away new learnings and insights that I’m sharing in this column.

First Seminar:

Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, PBH President and CEO discussed the PBH Hacks To Habits research findings

Hacks To Habits: Unpacking Behavioral Insights To Bolster Fruit & Vegetable Consumption, presented by the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), showcased the organization’s latest research identifying ways to reverse fruit and vegetable consumption decline through the development of sustainable habits. Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, PBH President and CEO discussed the findings and moderated a panel of experts who offered practical solutions for how communicators can help consumers eat more produce.

According to Ms. Kapsak, the new PBH Hacks To Habits research was designed to be laser-focused on the attitudes and behaviors of those consuming varying levels of fruits and vegetables, to better understand which strategies, such as simple hacks, could effectively make it easier for Americans to adopt and sustain fruit and vegetable consumption habits.

“Now more than ever, it is imperative to raise national awareness for fruits and vegetables and acknowledge the important role they play in America’s health and happiness. Identifying successful ways to inspire simple and sustainable habits at all points of consumers’ food journey will be essential to successfully reversing the fruit and vegetable consumption decline,” explained Ms. Kapsak.

One key finding from the PBH research is that low-frequency fruit and vegetable consumers can build habits from hacks. Ms. Kaplan and a panel of three experts discussed a number of hacks that could entice consumers to make fruit and vegetable eating.

Panelist Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND, PBH Culinary and Foodservice Specialist, emphasized the importance of creating “craveability” for produce. Applying flavor to vegetable dishes through spices is one way to turn on desire. Collectively, the panelists agreed that delicious taste, affordability and convenience are essential components of effective hacks. For example, use dips, sauces and dressings to perk up produce offerings.

Second Seminar:

Activating Foodservice to Fruit and Vegetable Consumption explored how the foodservice industry is moving forward following pandemic lows and through inflationary highs. A panel of top foodservice operators/distributors discussed how to capitalize on the increased health consciousness of Americans and other lifestyle trends to build the menu around fresh produce and to boost the use of fresh produce in the foodservice channel overall.

New York Produce Show Conference
Culinary and Foodservice Specialist Amy Myrdal Miller (L) moderated the panel discussion, Activating Foodservice to Fruit and Vegetable Consumption.

Culinary and Foodservice Specialist Amy Myrdal Miller, (a panelist for Produce for Better Health’s Hack to Habits session), moderated the panel discussion. Participants included Stephan Manning, Purchasing Manager, True Food Kitchen;  Julie Olivarria, Vice President of Produce, Sysco, and  Gwyneth Rampton, Vice President, Category Development, Foodbuy USA.

Moderator Ms. Miller asked about the challenges their industries face in the post-pandemic landscape, and there was agreement among the panelists that labor shortages, supply continuity, and inflation continue to present a difficult business environment. Labor shortages have led to an effect known within the industry as “menu shrink” – where restaurants and foodservice resort to scaling back their menus.

Ms. Miller’s question on what the panelists predict as consumer trends in 2023 led to a lively discussion.

True Food Kitchen’s Mr. Manning said, “Good dishes that offer comfort.”

Ms. Rampton of Foodbuy USA, sees a trend toward health and nutrition and “using food as a part of medicine” in healthcare settings.

When it came to the question of how can we boost produce consumption in 2023, the panelists provided a number of solutions, which included:

  • Focusing on seasonal menus with produce on the center of the plate
  • Innovating to get away from menu fatigue
  • Swapping ingredients
  • Introducing people to new items and presenting old items in a new way
  • Emphasizing flavor to create flavor explosion

And what about trends for 2023? Ms. Miller asked a representative from Baldor for his thoughts on what he believes will be next year’s market movers, and his answers ranged from diversification in taste to more produce rather than protein. He also projected that global cuisines and international flavors will continue to play a big part in the marketing and desirability of produce.

The panelists concluded the discussion with a note about their optimism for the coming year. They all voiced an appreciation for their guests and customers, and were excited about continuing to build upon these existing relationships.

Free Foodservice Resources from Meatless Monday: Whether you provide food services to college campuses, K-12 schools or other large institutions, Meatless Monday can help you promote delicious plant-based options. It’s easy to participate; just encourage your diners to give up meat one day a week. Meatless Monday provides toolkits for free, and also have a variety of promotional assets available for download. Need additional materials or assistance? Contact me at [email protected] to learn more.

The post Key Takeaways from the New York Produce Show and Conference appeared first on Total Food Service.

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