(UPDATED COVERAGE, 8:30 p.m.) SAN DIEGO — United Fresh 2013 found success on several levels for the estimated 5,000 attendees who attended the May 14-16 show.

UPDATED: Issues drive success at United Fresh 2013On the show floor, Mac Riggan, director of marketing for Chelan Fresh Marketing, Chelan, Wash., said he believes packaging exhibitors drew interest from retailers.

“Packaging has become such a more important thing at the consumer level, and I think you are finding retailers want to come here and see what is going on with packaging,” he said. “It is not just marketing stuff, they want to find out what is new and what is eco-friendly.”

“Packaging has gotten to where customers are paying attention to it; what it is made of, is it recyclable?”

Todd Baggett, chief executive officer of Redline Solutions Inc., Santa Clara, Calif.. said the show featured a good amount of programming geared toward the application of technology.

On a related note, Baggett said the momentum for the Produce Traceability Initiative appeared to be picking up at United Fresh 2013 after being stalled for much of last year. There is an expectation that large retailers will begin to ask their suppliers to become PTI compliant this year, he said.

Nicole Ly, customer operations manager for Reichel Foods Inc., Rochester, Minn., said this was the first time the company exhibited at United Fresh.

UPDATED: Issues drive success at United Fresh 2013“It’s been a really great show for us,” she said.

Tom Stenzel, president of United Fresh, said the San Diego show convened at a time when many key issues confront the industry.

From immigration reform to food safety regulations, Stenzel said the show offered opportunities to review progress on issues and engage government leaders. The association offered a phone bank for attendees to call their Congressional representatives to urge support of immigration reform legislation.

In 2014, Stenzel said United Fresh will again co-locate its show in Chicago with the Food Marketing Institute’s annual convention the second week of June. Stenzel said the format should be a good opportunity for marketers to draw distinction between fresh produce and processed foods.

“It is all about fresh foods and how we can sell that in Chicago,” he said.

About 275 exhibitors, up from about 250 last year in Dallas, were on the expo floor, Stenzel said. About 1,500 people attended the opening reception on the retired Navy carrier USS Midway, which Stenzel said was about twice as many as attended the 2012 United Fresh opening reception in Dallas.

Awards Showcase

The show featured New Product Awards in five categories, chosen by their peers in the industry through ballots on the show floor. The winners for the categories are:

  • Food Safety Solution — FoodLink Item, from FoodLink
  • New Fruit Product — Lil Snappers, Sunkist Growers Inc.
  • New Packaging Product — Sunset Display Ready Box, Mastronardi Produce
  • New Packing/Processing Equipment — RayFly Optical Sorter, Raytec Vision, SPA
  • New Vegetable Product — Pumpkin Pie Baking Kit, AMF Farms/Bay Baby Produce