CHICAGO — The National Restaurant Association’s annual Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Show is in full swing May 16-19, this year with a produce aisle.

Fresh Connect, a Seal Beach, Calif.-based company that handles sales for a group of produce companies, brought its clients together for a 10-booth produce aisle.

“We’re trying to bring fresh to foodservice,” said Andrew Siegel, president.

Fresh-cut and value-added produce seemed to be center stage at most booths that featured produce. All of Fresh Connect’s clients offered value-added items, because the company only markets value-added produce, Siegel said.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Fresherized Foods’ Wholly Guacamole brand had a few new looks. The company promoted its new 100-calorie, 2-ounce, single-serve packages, which could be used for quick-serve restaurants that want to offer guacamole as a side dish or topping for their products.

“It’s kind of the buzz,” said Ron Police, international sales manager. “It’s great for on-the-go, could be great for colleges, it has a lot of foodservice applications.”

Fresh-cut sliced apples were a popular item at this year’s show, on display at several booths. Foodsource, a C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. company, had fresh-cut Motts brand apples, and is working to expand the fresh side of its Motts marketing program.

“It’s an evolving product we’ve done for retail,” said Mike Castagnetto, Foodsource operations manager. “We’re working with our foodservice accounts to identify the best format to develop the best product for foodservice.”

The Michigan Apple Commission also showcased sliced apples, handing out samples from Peterson Farms, Shelby, Mich.

“It’s unbelievable the number of people who come by with their kids who say, ‘Hey, I eat these at school,’” said Denise Donohue, executive director of the DeWitt, Mich.-based commission.

Tree Top Inc., Selah, Wash., gave away bags of its apple slices, but really promoted its fresh-cut apple chunks, a shorter but thicker piece of

Restaurant show features produce aisle, focuses on fresh-cut
                                                                Ashley Bentley

Denise Donohue, executive director of the DeWitt-based Michigan Apple Committee, discussed potential foreign competition with Eric Trachtenberg, director of the Agricultural Trade Office for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, at the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Show May 16 in Chicago.
Restaurant show features produce aisle, focuses on fresh-cut
                    Ashley Bentley

Tree Top Inc. has had success with its sliced apple program, and was pushing its apple chunks product at the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Show May 16 in Chicago. The Selah, Wash.-based company sells the apples in red, green or mixed 3-pound bags.

apple.

“They’ve had a lot of success in salad bars and on sandwiches,” said Lisa Baldoz, marketing manager for foodservice.

Among the other hits for produce were micro greens, baby vegetables and specialty items.

San Marcos, Calif.-based Fresh Origins LLC’s clamshells of baby carrots, radishes, turnips and onions were new at the show. Fresh Origins also had micro salicornia, also known as sea asparagus or sea bean, said Kelly Sasuaga, sales manager.

Koppert Cress promoted micro greens, and was sampling a variety of its living plants.

Although the association won’t release a final count of attendees and exhibitors until after the four-day show ends, exhibitors had their own opinions about this year’s turnout.

“This is a huge show, and a lot of people in Chicago are very supportive of the Michigan apple industry,” Donohue said.

This was the first year at the show for the Michigan Apple Committee, which was part of the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s pavilion.

This was the second year at the show for the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, Minn., which baked red potatoes for attendees at its booth.

“I can already tell there are less people here,” said Ted Kreis, marketing manager, May 16, the first day of the show.

Whether the economy had an affect on how many attended, the aisles of the show floor were still packed, and attendees flocked to samples of produce at booths.

“They’re excited about something fresh and healthy to eat at the show,” said Lindsay Martinez, director of marketing for Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif.

Boskovich Farms sampled cole slaw with an Asian dressing in an attempt to feature the salad in a form not covered by mayonnaise, Martinez said.