Silbermann With a record-attendance Fresh Summit under his belt, the recent success of regional trade shows for the fresh produce industry doesn’t bother the Produce Marketing Association’s Bryan Silbermann.
“You know, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” said Silbermann, president of the Newark, Del.-based trade association since 1996.
With regional shows growing in various parts of the country — including The Packer’s Midwest Produce Expo — Silbermann said that doesn’t change the association’s business model, but merely affirms the power of the free market.
“Others have seen the value of what PMA does,” he said. “So far from being a reason for us to change, I think it in fact reinforces we are on the right path.”
In an interview several weeks before Fresh Summit 2012, Silbermann talked about the failed merger talks with the United Fresh Produce Association, his future with PMA and whether the association could play a role in the tomato dispute between Mexican and U.S. growers.
While other regional shows may mirror PMA’s education events or trade show format, Silbermann said Fresh Summit has a global dimension that no one else in the U.S. even attempts.
“So much of our business model is globally based, and that is so different than any of the regional events,” he said.
International attendance at the show increased slightly.
Total Fresh Summit show attendance in recent years has been around 18,000, and PMA officials said more than 21,000 attendees from 61 countries — were in Anaheim, Calif.
The event is the biggest part of the association’s revenue, according to tax forms filed by PMA with the Internal Revenue Service.
With $11.5 million generated from Fresh Summit 2010, the group reported total revenue of more than $17 million and expenses of $15.7 million that year, PMA’s tax document revealed.
While the bulk of Fresh Summit 2012 attendees were from the U.S., Silbermann said there was heavy participation from Canada and Mexico. Brazil had a strong showing, with a large contingent from Australia and New Zealand and more attendees from South Africa than ever.
United Kingdom-based Tesco brought top executives and produce suppliers to California for an Oct. 25, and some executives attended Fresh Summit 2012, to take in educational sessions and the trade show.
“I think you are going to see that even though global (attendance) has been growing very noticeably over the last five years, I really think you are going to see almost a tipping point this year in terms of the show really becoming truly global and attracting entire supply chains from other countries,” Silbermann said.