NWPB Foodservice Program Accelerates Watermelon Menu Growth With Four Key Elements

WINTER SPRINGS, FL – In 2019, National Watermelon Promotion Board’s (NWPB) Foodservice Program strengthened the momentum built in the first five years of the program by reaching even more culinary, marketing, purchasing and nutrition decision-makers with foodservice organizations through media, industry events, promotions, menu ideation sessions and culinary schools. The first half of the 2019/2020 Foodservice Marketing Program focused on:

Participating in food trends to Engage Operators and Distributors. In 2019, plant-forward eating and minimizing food were just two of those trends. The Board found and created watermelon examples the media could write about and then highlighted at events. Then chains were inspired by to create their own twists, leading to more watermelon on menus.

  • The NWPB sponsored the Culinary Institute of America’s Global Plant-Forward Culinary Summit. The Compressed Watermelon, Pickled Rind, Thai Basil, Peanut Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette was a huge success and spoke to plant-forward eating as well as food waste initiatives. This event was culinary driven with more than 150 in attendance primarily from colleges, universities and healthcare. 
  • In addition to this inaugural event, the Watermelon Board worked with the Culinary Institute to create inspiring plant-forward recipes. This expanded watermelon’s presence through their CIA ProChef Series, found at www.ciaprochef.com/watermelon, in total featuring almost 20 recipes and providing millions of impressions over the last few years. The new recipes have been promoted through the Culinary Institute as well as pitched to media during the International Foodservice Editorial Council’s national conference. 

Investing in Quality Events to reach Culinary and Purchasing Decision-Makers.

  • FoodOvation is an intimate event where NWPB featured a “watermelon playground” with multiple formats and techniques including flesh, juice, rind, smoked watermelon, and grilled watermelon in addition to over a dozen flavor pairings ranging from basil pesto to Tajin to furikake. The meetings wrapped up with an 80/20 watermelon tuna poke bowl and a Roasted Watermelon and Jackfruit Taco with Habanero Slaw and Pickled Watermelon Rind, highlighting both trends. Throughout the events, the Board met with 38 operators representing more than 20,000 foodservice locations, including B.GOOD – a fast casual restaurant chain specializing in seasonal salads, burgers and more. Foodservice Director Megan McKenna initially pitched the B.GOOD Chef at FoodOvation and worked with their team to include roasted watermelon as part of Spicy Korean Bowl, on a limited time winter menu.
  • PMA Foodservice and The Flavor Experience both reached hundreds of marketing, culinary and purchasing decision-makers from both operators and distributors. 

Presentation and Ideation Sessions to Educate and Inspire.

  • The executive chef from Google invited NWPB to present to their culinary team. The California campus alone serves more than 40,000 meals a day and they are considered trendsetters in the foodservice industry. The session started with a short education presentation to their culinary team before the group tasted their way through three stations. The campus offers multiple plant-forward stations and they are committed to using their watermelon rind to reduce food waste.
  • The Board led an Ideation session with Garden Fresh, the parent company of Souplantation and Sweet

Tomatoes, which have 97 total restaurants. Garden Fresh requested salad ideas with watermelon for

their buffets as well as operations support to ensure the best watermelon experience for their customers. Attendees included not only culinary, but also supply chain, marketing and nutrition members of the menu development team.  

Promotion Support for Operators: Once on the menu, NWPB supports operators with promotion funds. These funds help to promote a new menu item or limited time opportunity. Promotions also help to extend watermelon messages to consumers. In 2019, promotions took place in over 700 restaurants in more than 35 states. Examples include:

  • Social Media Giveaways and Amplification for First Watch’s Summer Blush juice including watermelon at 300 locations. According to the Executive Chef, the offering has become the most successful juice in First Watch history. 
  • In-store signage, social media messages across multiple channels, ECLUB member e-blasts, and staff tshirts to support Sizzler’s Watermelon Strawberry Lemonade at 130 locations in the western U.S.

For more information about the Foodservice program including how NWPB can support watermelon usage in the foodservice sector, visit watermelon.org/foodservice or contact Megan McKenna at mmckenna@watermelon.org.

About National Watermelon Promotion Board  

The National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB), based in Winter Springs, Florida, was established in 1989 as an agricultural promotion group to promote watermelon in the United States and in various markets abroad. Funded through a self-mandated industry assessment paid by more than 800 watermelon producers, handlers and importers, NWPB mission is to increase consumer demand for watermelon through promotion, research and education programs. 

Watermelon packs a nutritious punch, with each serving providing an excellent source of Vitamin C, 8% of your daily vitamin A, and a delicious way to stay hydrated, with only 80 calories. Watermelon consumption per capita in the United States was an estimated 15.8 pounds in 2018. Watermelon consumption in the United States was approximately 5.2 billion pounds in 2018. The United States exported an additional 325.4 million pounds of watermelon. For additional information, visit www.watermelon.org.