(May 10) The year’s most comprehensive produce training and networking opportunity for the foodservice industry comes together the end of July. The Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., will sponsor two events in Monterey, Calif. for foodservice operators and produce suppliers: the 2004 Foodservice Conference, Tours & Expo and the PMA Fresh Produce Academy.

THE BIG EVENT

The purpose of the foodservice conference is to illustrate how produce can bring more to the table by enhancing menu offerings and improving operators’ and suppliers’ bottom lines, says Lee Mannering, PMA’s media communications coordinator. He outlines the highlights of the July 24-26 conference.

Panel and trends

The opening general session features a panel of industry leaders who will discuss and add their perspective on a study PMA conducted on consumer attitudes and behaviors when eating away from home. The session also will reveal new menu trend data about fruits and vegetables.

Demonstrations

After the opening session, area chefs will demonstrate innovative uses of fruits and vegetables in recipes, which attendees will be able to sample.

Exhibits

Nearly 150 produce and produce-related exhibitors will show their products during a one-day five-hour expo. New this year, PMA will have a New Products Showcase in which 24 new products for foodservice will be featured along with a booklet describing the products.

Tours

One morning attendees have the opportunity to attend a “Workshop on Wheels” and visit Salinas Valley growing, packing and processing facilities of a few leading produce suppliers. The topical tours will address such issues as food safety and regulations, consumer trends leading to new product development and technology.

Roundtables

As an alternative learning option to the “Workshops on Wheels,” PMA will conduct Hot Issues Roundtables. The facilitated discussion topics will be economics: how produce increases profits; regulations: understanding them and making them work for you; competition: how to win; and technology: how it can make you faster, smarter and more profitable.

THE ACADEMY

Immediately before the foodservice conference, PMA sponsors a two-day Fresh Produce Academy for foodservice operators, brokers and distributors.

PMA vice president of training Ronnie De La Cruz leads the practical, hands-on training program.

“We will cover industry trends and issues, value-added, how to select a distributor, operator/grower-shipper partnerships and back of house receiving and handling to reduce shrink and increase quality,” De La Cruz says.

Industry professionals also will offer product knowledge on eight specific fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, lettuce, onions and melons.

The program features lunch and a back-of-house tour at an area restaurant.

“It’s a great networking and learning experience in a small-group environment,” De La Cruz says.

Those who attend the academy receive a certificate of completion from PMA.

If you miss this Fresh Produce Academy, PMA conducts regional academies and can customize a training academy for warehouse and/or sales staffs of distributors or for their key accounts.

Large foodservice accounts also can contact PMA about holding an academy for their operators to fit their operational requirements, De La Cruz says.