NEW ORLEANS — Fresh Summit 2013 brought change to the industry that converged in a host city that’s also been transformed as produce industry leaders learned how they can thrive in the future.
Doug OhlemeierTommy Wilkins (from left), director of sales and business development for Grow Farms Texas LLC, talks with Ed Pohlman, produce category manager for St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets Inc., and Grow Farms' Stanley Trout at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2013 expo.In near-record East Coast attendance, produce industry leaders packed the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Oct. 18-20.
The attendance of 18,113 was slightly less than the record of 18,284 at Fresh Summit 2010 in Orlando, Fla., Produce Marketing Association president and chief executive officer Bryan Silbermann said, and more than 3,000 retail, foodservice and wholesale buyers were at the show.
“This show’s going very well,” said Mark Stevenson, director of produce merchandising for Meijer Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich. “This is a great show to see a lot of people and work on relationships.”
New exhibitors, including King Fresh Produce LLC in Dinuba, Calif., found strong buyer interest.
“We have had a lot of traffic and lots of retailers showing interest in our late-season grapes,” said Keith Wilson, president.
The show’s general sessions and workshops encouraged attendees rethink their roles in the industry.
Doug OhlemeierOutgoing PMA chairwoman Jan DeLyser noted the changing role of Fresh Summit and the industry during her Oct. 19 talk.“You may be thinking of yourself as a food producer, but it’s really the desired outcome that’s important,” said consultant Mat Shore, who on Oct. 20 discussed the mistakes many make when trying to introduce innovative products. “We need to turn this around and think of the consumer first. Sell the benefits, not the technology.”
In her Oct. 19 general session speech, outgoing chairwoman Jan DeLyser released details of the organization’s strategic plan, which focuses on global connections, science and technology, industry talent and issues leadership.
DeLyser, vice president of the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission, said the plan is a blueprint to provide members worldwide a support community for better connectivity.
She also noted Fresh Summit’s changing role.
“There was a time when Fresh Summit defined PMA,” DeLyser said. “But given the speed of and complexity of today’s global business environment, I can’t imagine a company in this industry keeping up, let alone preparing for the future, finally checking in with PMA every October.
“The power of consumers worldwide affects every aspect of our industry,” she said. “We face a future of science and technology that will be used to increase production with fewer resources.”