MONTEREY, Calif. -- The increasing use of fresh fruits and vegetables as center-of-the-plate menu options reveals how the produce industry is making new headway into an area dominated by beef, poultry and other proteins.
of which was financial. As part of the three-day event, a special Culinary Arts Salon featured local chefs who prepared produce versions of their signature protein dishes. Following the preparation phase, the chefs shared a cost analysis of the entree showing how using produce can reduce food expenditures and enhance a restaurant's profile by providing healthier meal alternatives. On average, the food costs for the produce-focused meals were at least $1 less expensive than costs for protein-based dishes.
Attendees also learned a menu analysis of the top 200 restaurant chains shows total fruit and vegetable use has significantly increased in menu mentions during the last year. The research, along with related behavioral attitudes presented during the conference, found there is an "opportunity gap" for quick-service, quick-casual, family and casual-dining restaurants to appeal to consumers who might be interested in healthier eating options.
The survey noted that, while 67% of consumers reported they visit a QSR outlet at least once every two weeks, only 18% said they "regularly consume" fruits or vegetables -- excluding french fries -- from such restaurants. When asked why, some 30% stated they felt there were not enough fresh produce items on today's menus.
Other conference highlights included an expanded food-service produce expo, with 140 exhibitors; a new-products showcase highlighting 21 of the more innovative products at the expo; an expanded flight of chef demonstrations; and more sophisticated roundtable discussions focusing on key trends in the food-service industry.