Produce Marketing Association Launches Inaugural Think Tank Foodservice Session
- by Melissa De Leon Chavez
MONTEREY, CA - Two heads are better than one, four are better than two, and a whole gamut of foodservice professionals brings, apparently, a Think Tank. That is the idea that fueled the Produce Marketing Association when it decided to launch an inaugural Think Tank event to coincide with its annual foodservice expo, capturing the opportunity to collect upward of 30 leaders across the industry and ask them to open their minds to new approaches on old issues.
“There are huge opportunities for continued fresh fruit and vegetable growth in foodservice, but the challenge PMA and our industry has historically faced is really understanding the needs of the culinary gurus who set food trends,” said PMA Chief Marketing Officer Lauren M. Scott. “Since the foodservice and produce industries connect in Monterey for our conference, we convened an eclectic group of growers, distributors, operators, consumer advocates, and chefs to uncover the deeper conversations that the supply chain needs to have, as well as breaking the mold to uncover creative ways to innovate produce on the plate. Based on the energy in the room, it was very clear we had a community of passionate leaders who want to grow a healthier world.”
Set up as something of a roundtable of industry members, we all sat in an organized circle as we were walked through several exercises, first to break the ice, then introduce business issues, and finally to hatch possible new approaches to those issues. Think of a giant team building exercise that encompasses everyone in the supply chain, including, at any one time, the consumer, if you could approach it as such.
Amongst those in attendance were representatives from Naturipe Farms, Markon, HelloFresh, Sysco, Mission Produce, Taylor Farms, 4Earth Farms, Sizzler, PF Chang’s, and The Cheesecake Factory, all asked at one point to break off into five groups that named top challenges they face. After picking the two challenges that seemed to overlap most from the list, we were instructed to write them on two balloons, tossing them into the group and writing down possible solutions to whatever issue we caught. Balloons noted concerns such as:
- Consumer engagement
“The Think Tank provided a unique way to get decision makers at opposite ends of the distribution channel to come together, and, through an unexpected series of exercises and discussions, develop some key targets and issues that need attention and provide potential solutions within our industry,” Brent Scattini, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Mission Produce, shared. “The approach was unique and I feel that follow up sessions at other PMA events will continue to move the dialogue forward and potentially come up with solutions that will lead us into the future.”
In another exercise, groups were given the name of a professional or personal role, such as a hairdresser or barista, and asked how those people would respond to specific needs on a worksheet. Later we were told to apply the filter of our own businesses and identify overlaps, encouraging everyone to see beyond the traditional molds our industry may have set.
These are just some of the things that took place as we were guided through three hours of brainstorming exercises, relationship builders, and given a few fun prizes along the way.
Moving forward, ideas and insights from the Think Tank will be shared with each participant to keep the momentum moving forward, according to Lauren. “Additional confab sessions like these will be held on different topics, but the intent is to spark ideas and build relationships. It was a great experience to spend three hours with new and familiar faces, and we can’t wait for 2019!”
What happens when you put a bunch of operators into a room with toys, funny questions, and a few core concerns? A lot, evidently.