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United Fresh And Pro*Act
Focus On Foodservice Innovators

Ready Pac has long sponsored the Retail Produce Managers Award presented each year at the United Fresh convention and, now, showing it knows how to play both sides of the fence, United has announced a new program to be sponsored by Pro*Act:


Program to Debut at United Fresh, Las Vegas Show

The competition is underway to honor companies and chefs among the foodservice industry’s top produce performers in the United Fresh Research and Education Foundation’s new Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards, thanks to a major grant from Pro*Act LLC.

“There are thousands of chefs who work hard every day to include fresh produce in their offerings to diners. The demand from consumers for more fresh produce in restaurant meals is increasing every day, and this is a great way to highlight outstanding performance,” said Tom Stenzel, president of United Fresh.

“With Pro*Act’s generous support, we’re delighted to honor individuals and companies that are committed to incorporating fresh produce into menu offerings and who deliver the highest level of customer satisfaction in their restaurants and foodservice operations,” he said.

Both the chefs responsible for menu development and their corporate produce executives will be honored in each of five business categories:

  • Fine Dining Restaurants
  • Casual and Family Dining Restaurants
  • Quick Serve Restaurants
  • Business in Industry/Colleges
  • Hotels/Healthcare Operations.

Nominations must be submitted before March 24, and a nomination form can be accessed here.

Either individual chefs or companies can be nominated. Winners will be selected based on examples of how nominees incorporate fresh produce into menu development, use protocols for correct storage and handling of produce, and build an overall positive dining experience featuring fresh produce.

Winners will be selected by a panel of United Fresh member representatives focused on excellence in the foodservice sector.

The five winning chefs and their corporate executives will receive complimentary airfare, two nights’ hotel accommodations, and registrations to the United Fresh show, May 5-7 in Las Vegas. The winners will receive their awards at the Annual Awards Banquet Tuesday evening, May 6.

The chefs will also participate in United Fresh’s convention education program to share their views on produce trends in foodservice in the “Produce Marketing Track — Foodservice Trends to Explode Produce Sales” on Tuesday morning at Bally’s.

The new United Fresh Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards are sponsored by Pro*Act, LLC. “Pro*Act is delighted to support this great new program honoring chefs who make it a point to incorporate fresh produce into their menu items,” said Steve Grinstead, president and CEO of Pro*Act.

“More and more people are eating out, and it’s clear that they want to eat great-tasting, healthy fruits and vegetables. So it’s important that our industry recognizes those who are working to deliver a great consumer experience with fresh fruits and vegetables when they eat away from home,” he said.

“The Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award is our way of telling chefs around the country that the produce industry appreciates what they do to help to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Amy Philpott, United Fresh vice president of marketing and industry relations. “Honoring these chefs in Las Vegas at the United Fresh May 2008 show is an important way to emphasize produce among senior foodservice management,” she said.

Although PMA offers the Nucci Scholarship for Culinary Innovation, that is, as the name implies, a scholarship program, not an award program.

The real significance of this program may be to begin an industry effort to really focus in on fresh. We’ve run pieces such as Will Fresh Industry Foot Bill If Frozen/Canned Uses More Matters Logo? and Facts Obscured About Frozen Produce On General Mills/Green Giant Web Site, which have pointed out that, increasingly, there is a conflict between promoting frozen and canned — which is really a separate industry — and promoting fresh.

Just take one look at and you realize what a battle the fresh industry has ahead of it.

We would actually like to see the nomination form revised to specifically ask these applicants: “What steps do you take to maximize your use of fresh produce as opposed to frozen or canned product?”

United Fresh is intelligently looking for things that play well with the new Las Vegas venue for United’s show. Las Vegas has become a venue for may trendy food service concepts; every celebrity chef seems to have a new place there, and dining ranks up there with shows and gambling as a top entertainment activity.

Steve Grinstead and his team at Pro*Act deserve industry approbation for generously funding such a project. Done properly, it will help United and help the fresh industry at large.

Congratulations to Pro*Act and United Fresh.

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