Foodservice Joins the Local Movement

6/09/2011 14:57:16 PM

OAK GROOVE, Va. – The local movement has come to foodservice in a big way as more operators are tapping nearby farms as sources for produce, The Packer reports.

“Years ago we started getting demand from retail,” said Sean McFadden, sales manager for Parker Farms. “Now it’s getting big in foodservice. They’re aggressively looking for local product, and they’re promoting it on their quote sheets to customers.”

McFadden said foodservice captures a third of his company’s sales these days. While retailers, such as grocers, realized the potential of buying local early, foodservice owners dragged their feet for a while.

“Foodservice guys don’t want to do it,” said McFadden. “It’s a pain to have a slot for California romaine and a slot for local romaine, but the high-end chefs and institutions — like college cafeterias — are demanding local stuff. They’ve been forced by their customers to offer local product.”

“It’s a marketing niche,” said Leanne Dubois, who manages the Virginia Grown program for the state’s agriculture department. “People want to know where their food came from. Some white-tablecloth restaurants have had farmers come out and meet diners the same way that their chefs come around to tables. I’ve been involved in agriculture for a long time. It’s exciting to see people have respect for farmers.”

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