Since its inception in the 1960s, the concept of increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables has been part of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council’s mission statement in one way or another.
However, rarely over the years has this regional trade association had such a ready-made program to help achieve that goal. The salad bar donation program developed by the United Fresh Produce Association is just that vehicle.
Hundreds of salad bars have been donated to schools throughout the nation by produce industry firms, individuals and associations, and now the FPFC has added its name to that impressive list of donors.
As this past school year was winding down, the FPFC wrote two checks to California schools, and donated a salad bar to Earl Warren Elementary School in Sacramento and another to Western High School in Anaheim. When the new school year begins in September, those salad bars will be in full operation, and the FPFC will hold a formal grand opening at a date to be determined.
“This dovetails perfectly with our mission statement,” FPFC President Carissa Mace told The Produce News. “This gives us the opportunity to directly spend member funds in a way that both increases consumption of fruits and vegetables and helps build consumers of our products for years to come.”
Ms. Mace said that the donation came from the FPFC’s charitable outreach fund and the idea, like all other charitable giving, was first vetted by the committee that scrutinizes donations before receiving approval by the full board. The donation was made with an eye toward the future.
Although the board has not yet voted on whether to make this an ongoing donation, the FPFC executive said that would be discussed at a future board meeting.
It has been a busy year for the FPFC board as it has proactively re-evaluated many of its programs and projects. As a result of that review, Ms. Mace said that the annual Southern California golf tournament, which is held in August, has changed venues this year. And the annual dinner dance, typically held in January, will also move to a new location the next time around.
After 14 years at a Newport Beach golf course, the Aug. 21 golf tournament is being moved to Tustin Ranch Golf Club. “The committee has revamped the entire tournament,” said Ms. Mace. “They have changed the schedule, added on-course food service and altered the format.”
She urged interested parties to peruse the FPFC website (www.fpfc.org) to view all the changes.
For the past three years, the annual dinner dance has been held in Long Beach at the Westin Hotel. While that has proved to be a popular location, Ms. Mace said that variety is truly the spice of life and a change of venue typically occurs about every three years to keep attendees interested and to vary the geographic location.
On Jan. 26, 2013, the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena will serve as the venue for this event. The land that the hotel occupies was first developed as a hotel site more than 100 years ago. Over the years, it has been home to several luxury resorts including the Huntington Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel. The current buildings were rebuilt about 20 years ago and include some structures that date to early in the 20th century.
Another FPFC project that has been reworked is its quarterly market report. In 2011, the FPFC launched a retail research effort to help the members of the association get a better handle on their consuming public. Data from the retail marketplace in five distinct California locations — San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco and Sacramento — have been collected for the past year and are being distributed to members as a member service on a quarterly basis. Members can view the information and develop sales strategies based on consumption habits in those individual markets.
Ms. Mace said that with a year of data to draw from, the task force charged with overseeing this project is currently tweaking the delivery method of the information for the release of the next quarterly report at the end of summer. She said there will be more analysis for the membership to digest.
The establishment of the market report was designed to give more useable information to the members of the FPFC. Ms. Mace said that is a constant theme of the association and is the reason that a new task force has been established to research the needs of the younger, newer professionals that come into the industry for FPFC member companies every year.
“We are not sure what this group needs or even if they have a need,” she said. “The task force has been charged with first identifying and defining this group, and then they will assess the need if there is one. We have no preconceived notion. Maybe this will lead to a new event or a new educational effort, or maybe [it will lead to] nothing. The worst thing to do is go into a project like this with the solutions already determined.”
Ms. Mace was interviewed for this story just a few days before the FPFC would hold its largest event of the year — the FPFC Southern California Expo. On July 17, more than 200 companies occupying 171 booth sites will cater to about 1,200 industry professionals that are either very well-versed in the world of produce, first-time industry members or somewhere in-between.
The expo typically attracts a very diverse crowd ranging from corporate vice presidents of produce from the nation’s largest chains to produce managers from local one-store independents.
“This year we have all the typical attendees but we also have more independent retailers represented than ever before, and also a very large number of school foodservice personnel,” said Ms. Mace.
She said the growth in the number of independents is a direct result of a concerted effort by the FPFC to identify that hard-to-find group. In the past year, the FPFC has added 800 independent California retailers to its database. Each of these retailers, which are typically one- and two-store operations, receives the association’s bi-monthly magazine and its marketing materials.
“For this reason we have attracted a great number of new buyers and produce managers to our expo,” said Ms. Mace.
She said that the addition of school foodservice personnel came about because of positive experiences by some people in that category last year.
“That group has its own association, and we were able to distribute promotional material through that association this year because some foodservice people came last year and loved our expo,” she said 10 days prior to the show. “School foodservice people have a mandate to improve their healthy eating profile and they have discovered that our expo is a great place to learn about the industry and get good ideas. Many of the school foodservice people that are coming classify themselves as menu developers. So far this year, we have two dozen school districts represented.”
She said this means more potential buyers for the exhibitors to introduce to their fresh products.