CHICAGO — The Packer’s first Midwest Produce Conference & Expo proved popular enough to warrant an encore.

Midwest Produce Conference & Expo earns an encoreAfter generally strong reviews from attendees of the inaugural Midwest Expo at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, the 2013 Midwest Expo will be bigger, Aug. 19-21 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, according to Shannon Shuman, publisher of The Packer.

Exhibitors said the 5-hour trade show traffic was active Aug. 14, but some said retail buyers were lighter in attendance than they would have preferred.

Show floor traffic was active late in the day, some exhibitors said.

“It was a slow start but a strong finish,” said Dan Floyd, account executive for the Castellini Co./Grant County Foods, Wilder, Ky.

Ed Osowski, director of produce and floral for Martin’s Supermarkets, South Bend, Ind., said the show gave him the opportunity to network easily with vendors.

“Especially when (Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit) is clear out on the West Coast this year, being from the Midwest I won’t go to that,” he said.

Melissa Athanasopulos, director of key account sales for fresh-cut for Del Monte’s, Kankakee, Ill., location, said the expo’s sold out booth space is a good sign for exhibitors.

“I think the set up was nice, with a nice intimate atmosphere,” she said. “I think next year we’ll do a better job and get more customers here,” she said.

“There is certainly an opportunity to improve, but at the same time validation that having a show in the Midwest is wanted and needed is justification for having another one,” Shuman said.

More 1,000 attended the show, which featured 154 exhibitors, he said.

“I think the show was great,” said Denver Schutz, technical services manager for Gerawan Farming Inc. “I’ve heard a lot of positive comments that people like a smaller show, just because they can get through the (exhibit hall), talk to people and have a little more in-depth conversations.

“I’ve seen a lot of people that we have relationships with and I’ve seen a lot that we don’t have current relationships with,” Schutz said.

Al Lemke, general manger with SunBelle, Schiller Park, Ill., said he believes the show will pick up momentum and retailer participation in coming years.

“Retailers will hear the show was well attended and I hope the show gets bigger with (retail participation) going forward,” he said

Lemke said regional shows in the Southeast and the Northeast also took time to be established.

Rick Stock, general manager of sales and marketing for Plantation Sweets Vidalia Onions, Cobbstown, Ga., said Chicago is a great location for the show.

“Attendance was very good and it has been very brisk,” he said.

Foodservice buyers, terminal vendors, small independents and buyers for retail chains were at the show, he said.

John Heidkam, central division foodservice manager for Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Northfield, Ill., said there was an unexpected foodservice presence at the show.

“I think there was a little hunting and pecking going on.”

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