PLEASANTON, Calif. — For Matt Lyons, the Fresh Produce and Floral Council’s annual Northern Fresh Produce & Floral Expo wasn’t just about meeting retail produce buyers.
The April 18 event provided an opportunity for the River Ranch Fresh Foods’ sales manager to get to know store-level produce managers.
“You get to connect with the person who’s actually merchandizing and handling your produce on a daily basis,” said Lyons, Salinas, Calif.
For Dan Canales, vice president of sales and marketing for Misionero Vegetables, Gonzales, Calif., the show provided an array of networking opportunities.
“We do a lot of business on the West Coast, and you have the key retailers show up here,” he said. “Face time is always good to have with the buyers. It seems up here that more of the independents come, which is always nice to see, whereas down there (at the Southern California Expo), it’s more of the majors. Don’t get me wrong, you still have the majors up here.”
Daniel Tilton of Pioneer Market in Mariposa, Calif., attended the show to see new products.
“I also get to see my distributor face to face,” he said.
These networking experiences are the main reason behind the Northern California expo and its pure tradeshow format, said Carissa Mace, president of the La Mirada, Calif.-based FPFC.
“We tried to introduce a luncheon speaker, but (FPFC members) really didn’t want it,” she said. “They wanted the education to be on the show floor.”
The FPFC’s Southern California expo, on the other hand, has a luncheon speaker, Mace said. It is scheduled for July 17 in Anaheim.
The Northern expo has grown since its inception six years ago, with 158 booths and approximately 200 companies, she said. About 60% of the booths showcase produce or related products, and 40% are floral-related.
“We were sold out last year with a wait list, and again this year we’re sold out with a wait list,” Mace said.
The expo was born from a grassroots effort among members more than six years ago.
“People on the board and companies who do business in Northern California said we should look into doing something like that up here,” Mace said, referring to the expo the council has hosted in Southern California for a decade.
A committee helped develop the expo and other subsequent events in Northern California.
The Northern California calendar now includes two membership luncheons,×April 25 and Sept. 20, a May 18 golf tournament and a Sept. 7 bocce ball get-together.
The bocce ball event began last year as a fun outing that provides pure networking, Mace said.
Bocce is easy to learn and provides unlimited opportunities to interact, unlike golf, where players typically are in foursomes, she said.
The composition of the board also has evolved to reflect a growing interest in Northern California. Six of 18 members are from the region.
But Mace said some of the board members just coincidently are based in Northern California and would have been asked to join regardless of their address.