The Packer’s Midwest Produce Conference & Expo will begin with a consumer panel on at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 13 in Chicago.

This panel will focus on the dynamics taking place these days when consumers are in a store buying fresh produce.

The discussion will be led by Elizabeth Pivonka, chief executive officer of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, and Pamela Riemenschneider, editor of Produce Retailer magazine and retail editor of The Packer.

Pivonka and Riemenschneider will ask average shoppers on the panel what they notice when they shop for produce.

Some of the initial findings of The Packer’s 2013 Fresh Trends survey are also expected to be revealed.

The 2012 Fresh Trends survey revealed several developing trends that could be discussed during this panel session, including the increase in men shopping for fresh produce and a surge in value-added/convenience item produce purchases.

Before becoming president of PBH in 1997, Pivonka served first as the foundation’s director of nutrition and science and then later as deputy executive director.

She serves as steering committee co-chair of the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance, a network of federal and state government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and fruit and vegetable industry members.

Pivonka, is a registered dietitian who earned a PhD in food and nutrition science from Kansas State University.

In 2005 she was a Packer 25 recipient and in 2001 she won the newspaper’s Marketer of the Year award.

Before taking on her current role as editor of Produce Retailer and retail editor of The Packer, Riemenschneider worked as a staff writer and photographer for The Packer. She joined the newspaper in 2005 and has a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in photojournalism.

Riemenschneider also hosts a monthly produce video feature called Pamela’s Kitchen.

While working at the Produce Retailer, Riemenschneider has seen many consumer trends grow recently, many of which could become topics of discussion during the panel discussion.

“Retailers are putting a lot of effort into health and wellness initiatives, such as providing in-store dietitians and nutrition guidance programs like NuVal or Guiding Stars,” Riemenschneider said. “It will be interesting to talk to consumers about their knowledge of these programs and if they’ve used them.”

Riemenschneider wants to include other questions into the discussion too. If there is a disscusion you would like to add, e-mail her at

She said she is looking forward to the panel discussion.

“We can look at the sales data all we want, but the chance to interact with shoppers is priceless,” she said. “I’m one who unabashedly asks people about what they’ve got in their grocery carts when I do my shopping and I relish the opportunity to spend some time talking about it with other members of the industry.”