(April 4) SEATTLE — The foodservice industry is starting to notice a change in consumer preferences for dining out.

Guests are more adventurous in trying new things, they are beginning to wonder where the organics are and they are starting to understand that what they eat affects their well-being. Combine those trends with good flavor in a new product or recipe idea, and a food writer or culinary instructor is likely to take it to the four winds.

At least that’s what the 14 produce industry exhibitors were counting on at the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ 28th Annual Conference and Culinary Showcase on March 29-April 1.

More than 1,400 culinary professionals from 20 countries made up of cooking school instructors, food photographers, cookbook authors, food writers and marketing communicators gathered for workshops and an expo to keep up with the food industry and gather information to help with their businesses.

The group of what often is referred to as “foodies” frequently hears the value of local, sustainable cuisine above the value of global sourcing, a disheartening message, said Allison Moore, communications director for Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz., which represents produce companies that source from Mexico.

But she said she was encouraged by the challenge to the “buy local” thinking given by renowned chef Charlie Trotter of his namesake Chicago restaurant. In the opening general session panel, he told the audience that buying locally holds less appeal when he can have product flown in fresh from far away in less time than he can have it driven in from a neighboring state.

Moore’s message at the booth, which sampled Mexican mangoes, was that Mexico allows restaurants to have a consistent menu year-round with its spring grapes and spring and summer mangoes.

Samantha Cabaluna, senior marketing manager for Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif., said the company notices more restaurants, from fast-casual to fine-dining, are looking for ways to add organic and sustainable items to the menu.

“Where normally dining trends start in foodservice and work their way out, the trend toward more organic has worked the other way,” she said. The company sampled its new 1-liter bottle of organic carrot juice.

Rich Collins, president of California Vegetable Specialties, Rio Vista, Calif., has exhibited at the culinary professionals’ conference for 10 years and barely had a chance to take a break for all the people that wanted to discuss the endive he displayed at the booth.

“People are walking around here with their radars up. They want to know and are receptive,” he said, adding that convention attendees are starting to pay more attention to how items are grown, showing an interest in the items from the soil to the plate.

Of note from other produce booths at the expo:

Melissa Hernandez of World Variety Produce Inc., Los Angeles, which sells under the Melissa’s brand, was present to show off the company’s book just released a few weeks ago, “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” a 326-page guide to more than 500 fruits and vegetables with recipes and serving suggestions.

The newly formed Campari Marketing Group, managed by the Perishables Group, West Dundee, Ill., exhibited at the conference for the first time to offer samples of the campari tomato in a tomato salad.

This also was the first year the California Walnut Commission, Sacramento, Calif., exhibited at the conference.