CHICAGO — Despite less than dazzling weather, the United Fresh Produce Association’s return to Chicago and its pairing with the Food Marketing Institute in the June 10-13 exposition was well-received by exhibitors and attendees.

The 2014 convention kicked off a three year-partnership with the FMI, and next year the event will include the International Floral Expo. It’s set for June 9-11, 2015.

“I think there has been lots of positive energy (in the expo),” Doug Ronan, vice president of marketing for Driscoll’s, Watsonville, Calif. “We’re happy to be partnering with United Fresh,” he said. “They have been very valuable in leading the thinking on industry issues and government relations activities.”

United Fresh exhibit space sold was about 15% over last year, according to John Toner, vice president of convention and industry relations for United Fresh. The number of exhibitors for United Fresh rose from 285 last year to 325, he said.

The United Fresh 2014 expo drew about 4,500 attendees, on par with last year. Combined FMI and United Fresh attendance was about 15,000, according to United Fresh president Tom Stenzel.

The combined show worked, said Tristan Simpson, senior director of marketing and corporate communications for Ready Pac, Irwindale, Calif.

“In the opening ceremony they talked about how collectively our organizations can work together to promote healthy eating,” she said. “I got a greater sense of purpose from both organizations working together.”

A few produce companies did not have traditional booth space but utilized business suites on the show floor.

“This show for us is a chance to get much more technical and tactical with our execution,” said Bil Goldfield, director of corporate communications for Dole Fresh Fruit Company, Westlake Village, Calif.

“We like to talk with our customers and with the base of operations here in the business suite we are not necessarily tied to a booth where we have to stand there all day, we can move around the floor and see customers and see what other innovations are happening with other companies.”

An opening night reception under a tent in Millennium Park was attended by more than 1,000, Stenzel said, despite rain that doused those coming and leaving the event.

Publix chief executive officer Ed Crenshaw spoke at the opening general session breakfast June 11 and described how the company’s culture of customer service has been fostered and strengthened by care for the company’s employees.

United Fresh has videos from the show available on its website.