Mike HornickPam Cherwak, left, foodservice sales manager for Mastronardi Produce, talks with Mark Pistorio, center, and Adam Levenson, both of US Foods Inc., at the Produce Marketing Association Foodservice Conference and Expo in Monterey, Calif., July 27.MONTEREY, Calif. — Built on the theme of innovating the plate, The Produce Marketing Association Foodservice Conference and Expo ended up remaking the record book as well.
There were all-time highs at the 33rd annual event in Monterey in five categories, including attendance at 1,821 — up 86 from last year — and exhibitor booth numbers at 164.
“What’s even more impressive is that 203 operators were here, up from 140 last year,” said Cathy Burns, Produce Marketing Association president. “I couldn’t be more thrilled not only about the participation numbers but the quality of the expo and the exhibits.”
The honor for best new product launch went to Gonzales, Calif.-based Misionero Vegetables for EarthGreens Lemony Organic blends. Firebaugh, Calif.-based Ruby Fresh, which showed new pomegranate arils packs, won Best of Show, while Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers took second.
The Chilean Fresh Fruit Association garnered first in the Sensory Experience contest with its Chilean grape, bacon and brie melt with fruit medley gazpacho.
“It’s as busy as we’ve ever been at this show,” said Sammy Duda, vice president at Duda Farm Fresh Foods. “The crowd looks bigger than normal. There were a lot of new concepts and a high degree of interest. It’s always a good thing for the show that you have leads on new items and a lot of interest.”
“We hope it means a lot of new business,” Duda said. “The rest of the equation will be how the follow through is and will they continue.”
Other event records July 25-27 included 60 field and plant tours and 389 participants in the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent 5-kilometer run. Foodservice distributor attendance was roughly on par with last year at 466.
“The innovations came in many forms and represented consumer trends across the foodservice industry, ultimately validating the drive to put more fruits and vegetables in the center of the plate,” Burns said.