(June 25) Low-carb? That’s so 2003.

When they go out to eat, 49% of Americans say the presence of fruits and vegetables on the menu is extremely important to them. Only 13% say the same about menu items low in carbohydrates.

“While various diets come and go, the health benefits of fruits and vegetables have remained constant,” said Bryan Silbermann, president of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del. “We believe that the low-carb trend has peaked.”

The stats come courtesy of Opinion Dynamics Corp., Cambridge, Mass., a market research firm commissioned by PMA to conduct a survey of consumers’ foodservice preferences.

That almost half of restaurant diners pine for fruits and veggies really isn’t all that surprising, Silbermann said, considering the success enjoyed by restaurants that prominently feature produce on their menus.

Chalk that success up, in part, to the high profile of obesity and health issues. Fruits and vegetables play a key role, Silbermann said, in providing healthful meals, particularly as more foodservice operators make produce an integral part of their center-of-the-plate offerings.

Silbermann said the survey supports findings from PMA’s “FreshTrack 2003: A Menu of Opportunity” report, which showed that 83% of foodservice operators consider fresh produce to be very important relative to center-of-the-plate items.

“There are huge opportunities for increased produce usage in foodservice, which has traditionally been underserved by many in the produce industry,” Silbermann said. “At a time when the public is looking for convenience and taste at every turn, and we are spending more of our food dollars in food prepared away from home, we must focus more attention on foodservice than we have in the past.”

The produce industry should also pay attention to the high degree of innovation in foodservice and use that knowledge to drive produce consumption, he added.

Silbermann found another of the survey’s findings reassuring. More than 75% of those polled said they are confident about the safety of foodservice produce.

PMA’s decision to commission such a survey highlights the organization’s focus on consumer trends, which will be a topic at the upcoming PMA 2004 Foodservice Conference, Tours & Expo, set for July 24-26 in Monterey, Calif.

Study shows attitude change toward low-carb diets
  • Foodservice may deserve more attention, a PMA report says.

  • Survey respondents say it’s important that menus include plenty of fruits and vegetables.

  • The survey will be discussed at PMA’s 2004 Foodservice Conference July 24-26 in Monterey, Calif.