KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Produce companies from Southern California to New Jersey met in the middle for a regional trade show sponsored by Associated Whole Sale Grocers’ Kansas City area division.
Geared toward retailers in nearby states, the one-day AWG show also included vendors for every major grocery department, from floral to meat.
Harold Paivarinta, director of U.S. sales for Kingsville, Ontario-based JemD Farms, said he’s been working with AWG for 14 years. He said even though the company’s Kansas City shows aren’t the biggest in the industry, they are worth the trip.
“They have three shows a year and it gives us a chance to see retailers face-to-face,” Paivarinta said. “The retailers in this region are really progressive, they have unique approaches. They aren’t cookie-cutter box stores.”
Officials with AWG’s Kansas City, Kan., headquarters cultivate retail customers with that in mind, said Dave Leiker, AWG’s produce director.
That’s one reason the show draws vendors from across the country, he said. More than 660 attendees turned out for the Aug. 22 event, Leiker said.
Produce companies at the show included Albert’s Organics, Bridgeport, N.J.; The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia; Sunkist Growers, Sherman Oaks, Calif.; North Bay Produce, South Traverse City, Mich.; and WP Rawls, Lexington, S.C.
A number of vendors had holiday themes displays, ranging from Halloween through Christmas, with point-of-sale materials and suggestions for retailers.
Bill Schraad Jr., president and chief executive officer of Schraad & Associates, Oklahoma City, agreed that the AWG shows in Kansas City are a good place to do business.
He said his representatives used the Aug. 22 event to set the stage for fall sales and promotions through the end of the year.
“We talk specific deals here,” Schraad said. “Vendors, customers and brokers are actually writing orders here today.”
Associated Wholesale Grocers’ clients in the Midwest are an important faction in the customer base of Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce, said Tim Hallows, Mission’s marketing manager for the region.
Hallows said Mission does a lot of ripening for AWG customers, and provides a variety of fresh commodities to them.
The diversity of AWG’s clients is a factor that makes the Kansas City show a priority, said Mindy VanVleck, a saleswoman for Peri & Sons, Yerington, Nev.
She said AWG is a big Peri & Sons customers, and AWG retailers in the Kansas City region range from high-end chains to independent neighborhood grocers.
Sage Fruit, which has offices in Washington state and Overland Park, Kan., where vice president for sales Tim Colln is based, makes it a point to have a presence at the AWG shows.
Colln said the good retailer turnout is what makes the shows valuable.