MONTEREY, CA – The foodservice industry’s biggest challenge during the pandemic was getting back to business after lockdowns and finding the balance of delivery, take-out and in-store dining that is right for them.
And now, with many restrictions lifted, they’re struggling to find the workers to meet the demand.
The produce industry’s solution at the PMA Foodservice BB #:153708 expo is clearly to help them save labor with value-added angles on products.
At the July 22 expo many exhibitors displayed new and previously less in-demand products that help operators get fresh fruits and vegetables in front of consumers in an easier manner.
Aside from noting how wonderful it was to see so many people in person for the first time in more than a year (attendance was announced as 1,200), helping labor problems was the key theme.
Buyers and chefs are asking for more specific specifications on products, and many times, suppliers have more efficient solutions.
Foodservice was shut down for so long, said Tim Ross, with Duda Farm Fresh Foods BB #:189666, and now that they’re back going strong, operators don’t want to spend precious workhours washing, cutting and cleaning product.
One of Duda’s solutions is a shucked and cleaned sweet corn pack.
HMC Farms BB #:254979 displayed sliced table grape wafers for use in salads and sandwiches.
Grimmway Farms/Cal Organic Farms BB #:112956 showed its new fresh-cut carrot chips.
Maglio Companies BB #:105281 offers fresh-cut mango “cheeks” to save cutting time.
It even comes in the form of technology, as Coastline Family Farms BB #:141488 is piloting an RFID component to its PTI label on boxes for a foodservice customer that uses passive scanning from its packinghouse and the equivalent on the receiver’s end to track product’s location and conditions in transit.
As one attendee pointed out, as labor continues to become harder to find, there’s a push in many states to raise the minimum wage, which will make automation at every level of the supply chain more attractive and provide return-on-investment much sooner than we anticipated 18 months ago.