NEW YORK — The inaugural Nov. 9-11 New York Produce Show and Conference’s focus was on buyers.

And you couldn’t miss them.

Expo committee chairman Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce and floral for Kings Super Markets Inc., Parsippany, N.J., said most of the market share of the New York metro area was represented among the nearly 2,000 attendees.

A retail panel of 10 gave their perspectives on the region at the Nov. 10 breakfast session before the one-day expo, where buyers were abundant.

“This is where our customers are,” said Jason Hollinger, director of procurement for Four Seasons Produce Inc., Ephrata, Pa. “There were high-quality (buyers) for a regional player like us.”

“We were pleasantly surprised, because this is bigger than we thought,” said Phil Gruszka, vice president of marketing for Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield, Calif. “We’ve seen a lot of buyers. The Northeast is the largest carrot market in the U.S.”

The Eastern Produce Council’s goal for a regional trade show a year ago was to be similar in size to the New England Produce Show, which takes place in Boston every April.

Buyers make the N.Y. Produce Show

Greg Johnson

Ross Wileman and Dave Austin of Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., discuss the company’s avocado promotions with John Vasapoli, director of produce merchandising for D’Agostino Supermarkets, which operates about 20 stores in Manhattan and Westchester County, N.Y.

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  • Kneeland said Nov. 11 that attendance was about 1,850, but the final numbers were not yet available, and 212 companies exhibited.

    For comparison, the New England conference had about 750 attendees and 230 booths this year.

    Next year, Kneeland said the council plans to expand the number of booths by 50% to more than 300, and hold it about the same time of year in the New York Hilton, same as this year.

    If the produce industry suffers from “meeting fatigue” it wasn’t evident in New York.

    Buyers make the N.Y. Produce Show

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    Kurt Zuhlke, president and chief executive officer of Kurt Zuhlke & Associates Inc., Bangor, Pa., shows the company’s new 24-ounce clamshell designed for tomatoes-on-the-vine. The clamshell is made with recycled PETE plastic and recyclable, he said Nov. 10 at the New York Produce Show and Conference in New York.

    “Every new show leads to business for us and becomes worthwhile,” said Paul Mastronardi, executive vice president of Mastronardi Produce, Kingsville, Ontario. “This is a unique area where so many buyers from smaller stores don’t make the PMA or United Fresh (expos).”

    “These regional shows are becoming more and more important,” said Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing and brand management for The Nunes Co. Inc., Salinas.

    Kneeland said the EPC allows qualified buyers to attend the show without paying for registration, which he said it expects to continue for upcoming conferences.

    Dan’l Mackey Almy, president of DMA Solutions, Irving, Texas, said she worked with the council to bring in more than 30 from the consumer media in the New York area. She said the goal was to reach “influencers” in the media and show them how unique the produce industry is.

    She hosted a lunch Nov. 10 and gave tours through the expo.

    “Some of them were blown away” by the people in the industry, Mackey Almy said. “They associated produce with big ag, but then they see who we really are in the industry.”