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The 2017 PMA Foodservice Conference and Expo is just a week away — here’s a look at what will be happening July 28-30 in sunny California at the Monterey Marriott and Portola Plaza Hotel.

The industry’s premier foodservice event offers networking, information and insights that help businesses grow, sessions on trends and innovation and an expo with more than 170 exhibitors.

Now in its 36th year, the conference and expo continues to draw strong participation because of business networking opportunities, proximity to Salinas Valley, access to influencers and a fun, informative approach to helping foodservice industry professionals gain inspiration and keep the pulse on customer demands and product trends..

Trends Influencing Consumers’ Menu Choices in 2017Restaurant industry sales are forecast to reach US $799 billion in 2017, a 1.7 percent gain (adjusted for inflation) over the industry’s estimated 2016 sale, according to the National Restaurant Association’s “Restaurant Industry Outlook 2017”. Significant variance among geographic regions and industry segments will affect restaurant sales performance, with quick service and fast-casual sales expected to total US $233.7 billion in 2017, a 5.3 percent gain over 2016 sales volume.

Produce growers and marketers are well positioned to take advantage of the growing appetite for natural, simple and flexible diets. This preference will drive further expansion of flexitarian, vegetarian and other plant-focused formulations. Simplicity is an important component of a successful menu, and as the clean label/clean menu trend continues, more chefs are responding with a “less is more” approach to their ingredient lists.

Those will be just a few of the items on the docket at the show.

 

Highlights include: hands-on produce training, chef demos, and menu tastings; insights on new culinary trends and flavors; a dynamic expo; and multiple opportunities to network with customers and potential partners at the conference/expo, as well as related fundraising events — like the Bocce for Talent Tournament pictured above — to support Center for Growing Talent by PMA (CGTbyPMA) initiatives.

“The networking opportunities with suppliers and customers alone provides significant ROI,” said Jeff DeBoer, Regional Vice President, Added Value, FreshPoint, following last year’s conference. “When you add in all the other events that you can attend from education, expo, tours, hands-on experience, it’s simply the best value imaginable. PMA Foodservice is the top premier event where learning and networking is optimal, and there is truly a return on investment.”

More than 170 exhibitors will present the latest in products and solutions at PMA’s Foodservice Expo. In addition, 24 companies will participate in PMA’s Fresh Ideas Showcase this year, where attendees will get a sneak peek at products that could be the next trend-setting flavor, variety, or convenience product in foodservice meal preparation.

The 2016 expo floor

Fresh Ideas Showcase products include: cone cabbage, veggie hash, citrus “caviar,” ginger herb crystals, chef-ready bell peppers, quick-cook brussels sprout halves, beet powder, radish coins, lettuce blends, lettuce that delays pinking, specialty peppers and herbs, and finely diced ready-to-blend mushrooms.

Participants in PMA’s Hands-On Fruit & Vegetable Training will get firsthand experience creating creative recipes. This year’s sponsored ingredients include radishes, celery, microgreens, mini watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, and cherries. Sponsors will share info on the latest menu trends, and will provide tips on care, handling and usage of fresh fruits and vegetables to help foodservice providers learn news ways to “innovate the plate” with global flavors.

“I believe the insights regarding market trends and innovative ingredients is very useful information, and [the Foodservice Conference & Expo is] a great experience for our marketing and culinary teams,” said Maggie Miller, Quality Assurance Product Manager, Dine Equity, after the 2016 event.

PMA Foodservice Conference and Expo was first held in response to growth in the foodservice industry brought about by the rise of family incomes in the 1970s and changes in consumers’ eating habits. The event continues to evolve in response to consumer trends and needs of the evolving foodservice industry. Trends PMA will address this year include organics, rise in demand for vegan menu choices and acceleration of the blurring lines between foodservice and retail.

The event attracts a wide range of buyers, including Pro*Act, Sysco, Chipotle, Wegmans Food Markets, Blue Apron, Meijer, FreshDirect, HelloFresh, LSG Sky Chefs and The Cheesecake Factory.

Attendees will hear from fresh produce and foodservice experts to gain insight on foodservice trends affecting the industry. These include strategic marketing, product development and popular menu items. Here are a few of the highlighted sessions:

“Let’s Talk About Trends, Baby”

Joseph M. Pawlak, Managing Principal of Technomic, a foodservice research, fact-finding and management consulting company, will share the latest trends. Pawlak’s research has caught the attention of Business Week, NPR and CNN. His expertise includes market trend analysis, forecasting and implications development. He will present on the latest foodservice trends, including: What do college diners crave? Are meal kits worth the hype? And is clean eating finally becoming affordable? The trends that shape customer’s demands are all here. From dining to retail, from fresh to prepared, participants will learn what’s now and what’s next, with the inspiration to shape decision-making.

“No, You Are Not the Smartest Person in the Room” 

David Nour, CEO of The Nour Group, Inc., will present about ideation and how to differentiate through cocreation to remain relevant, sustain viability, and have fun! A noted growth strategist and thought leader on Relationship Economics® – the quantifiable value of business relationships – Nour will explore collaboration development strategy, and participants will learn actionable processes they can apply back on the job with supply chain partners. Following a brief break, Nour will lead participants in a hands-on, collaborative exercise to put what’s learned to use.

“Innovate the Plate? Why Stop There?”

Event organizers will facilitate a panel discussion with supply chain peers and food experts who will address disruptors in the industry and what attendees can do to address such dynamics. Expect to gain insights on staying ahead of industry and consumer trends.

Related activities to network, learn, and support talent development leading up to and during the event include the CGTbyPMA Bocce for Talent Tournament, Joe Nucci Memorial Golf Tournament, 5K Race for Talent and the Women’s Fresh Perspectives Reception.

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