Opinion: is produce really riding the foodie revolution wave?
By Dawn Gray Global Consulting founder and president Dawn E Gray
I think that there would be universal agreement that the current foodie revolution is a positive movement for the fresh produce industry. However, I wonder if we passionate produce folks are really taking full advantage.
The conversation is certainly taking place. I googled 'Food Blogs' and there were over 500 Million options. Fruit blogs, well that drops to 51 million and for veggies its 30 million. Still very impressive to be sure.
In addition to being passionate about produce I would consider myself a foodie. I love to engage in all things food - preparing, cooking, conversations aout, savoring, eating and yes, I'm a Food Network junkie. In just the past few weeks I had a couple of those 'aha moments'.
I had a group of food lovers at my home for a kitchen cookbook and gadget swap. It sounded like a great way to meet some new people and swap some cookbooks and tools languishing in the cupboard. As this group of food lovers gathered the conversation turned to an article that one of the participants was writing; she is a much respected freelance food writer.
Her next article was on goat, so there was a spirited conversation about how to make goat more accessible to everyone. Really? Goat? I have nothing against goat and have enjoyed it on occasion but really, when we struggle to increase consumption of fresh fruits and veggies how about demystifying the plethora of tomato or apple varieties on offer?
A fellow foodie and produce industry friend was coming to town for a visit. On her drive she stopped into a market for a quick snack. She was rather shocked to find on offer a GIANT soft drink and a corn dog for $1.60. When she expressed her surprise she was told that she could make that two corn dogs for only 20 cents more. As an apple industry veteran what immediately came to mind was, 'wow, we struggle to get $1.99 per pound of apples'. Is this a foodie dilemma?
During the visit we opted to take a 4-hour knife skills class at a local cooking school. We diced, julienned, and made batons, rondelles, and lardons and some other really yummy dishes. There were a couple of sticking moments, like when I heard the belief that preparing veggies was hard. Yet once we had some basic knife skills, what we were able to prepare in a very short time was full of flavor and really pretty simple.
So as producers and marketers of fresh fruits and vegetables are we taking full advantage of the foodie revolution? In the land of celebrity chefs and locavores, where is the Next Great Veggie Chef...or Fruit Showdown?
There are many brands of top shelf knives; Santouku, Calphalon, Wusthof, J.A. Henckels, and even Chroma 301 by Porsche. Can we connect with these brands to promote the simple preparation of fresh fruits and veggies? If we are eager to learn how to debone a quail or properly truss a chicken, I am betting that we could embrace the concept of simplifying the preparation of produce.
So how do we get even more engaged? Who starts the potato peeling?
Growers by their nature are an independent lot and I have often described them as the ultimate entrepreneurs; part artist, part scientist and part riverboat gambler! They are inherently passionate about what they grow - sounds like a great Food Network Opportunity to me. As consumers who become increasingly interested in where and how their food comes to be, it strikes me that this is indeed the time to launch the Celebrity Grower. We have so much to offer, like flavor, color taste, and the fact it's good for us - from Millennials to Baby Boomers we have something to offer to all.
So our challenge is to really get engaged in as many of the conversations that are taking place as we can. No offense intended to any would be goat chefs out there but surely OUR offerings can be made as accessible and exciting.
Reach out to your favorite food blogger, celebrity chef and food loving home cook. I would tune in to the Next Great Produce Pro and I am betting that others would as well. Bon Appetit!