'Practice what you preach', says Sysco exec
As vice president of produce at North America's large food service supplier Sysco, Richard Dachman is upbeat about the 'health revolution' that has captured consumers both at home and in retaurants. However, he struggles to see why it hasn't taken off as much as it could within the produce business itself.
Dachman says one of the biggest tasks ahead for the industry is to tell consumers a good story, but you can't expect to reach your selling potential if you haven't even convinced your co-workers.
"It’s something that I tell everyone, including my family, and my staff, that I’m going to encourage everyone of you to practice what you preach in the industry," he told delegates at Fresh Connections Chile last week.
"I don’t know how I can go to a customer and tell them to eat my product if I don’t, so I would advise you do something that was very controversial in my large corporate office of 1500 people.
"When the chairman likes cookies, I say we shouldn’t serve cookies anymore. We should be serving fruits and vegetables."
He says when a customer goes into a grocery store or restaurant, fresh produce is competing alongside other products.
"It’s not blueberries against strawberries, it’s not peaches against nectarines, it’s us against them.
"I think we’re going through a health revolution and I'm part of it. I took off 25 pounds (11.4kg) in the last year and a half, and I’m going to tell you the secret to how to be healthy and take off weight.
"I started eating well and exercising, that’s it. No diet, no nothing, I ate a whole lot of fruit, a whole lot of vegetables, and tried to exercise a few times a week."
He says trends of healthier eating are working in the industry's favor, with quick service restaurants looking for healthier options in kids' meals, while the U.S. government's MyPlate initiative says half the plate should be fruit and vegetables.
"I believe there is a revolution going on and I believe we’re in the right industry; we have a new generation that has become wise and come to the conclusion that they would like to live longer, eat healthier, and guess what? It's impossible to eat healthier unless you eat our product.
"It used to be in the food service business if you put something on your menu that said healthy you would never sell it, because was healthy was thought of as not tasting good, like a little kid who won’t eat his broccoli. Now people are changing, they want it."
He adds that more education about fresh produce is needed with both consumers and restaurants.
"We want food that tastes good, so we need to make sure as an industry we’re doing everything we can to serve the product properly in my mind.
"I know your peaches, plums and nectarines taste good, but if you eat them before they’re right they don’t taste good. I have to educate my consumers about when to serve the products, because many don't understand them.
"If they bite into a nectarine that's hard, they say 'I don't like nectarines', so we have to do everything we can to get flavor to our customers and to serve the product properly; tell the story from farm to fork."