The Fresh Summit 2014 Convention & Expo, Oct. 17-19, marks the Produce Marketing Association’s return to Anaheim, Calif., in what is expected to be the largest western show on record.

The 2012 expo, which was also in Anaheim, set the attendance record with 21,000 attendees, but PMA officials expect this year to be even bigger.

“We always have record numbers in Anaheim. We’ve already exceeded 2012 substantially,” said Bryan Silbermann, PMA’s CEO. “It’s by far the biggest we’ve had.”

The venue should be easily able to handle incoming attendees. The Anaheim Convention Center, located across Katella Ave. from the world-famous Disneyland Resort, houses 265,300 square feet of exhibition space. And with 1,030 separate organizations exhibiting in 2,650 booth spaces, the expo will need as much space as it can get.

“There’s a lot of energy,” Silbermann said. “We’ve got movers and shakers from top industries from more than 60 countries, with buyer delegations from around the world. It really has become a world show.”

Although the expo highlights products and services available to produce buyers and suppliers, Silbermann noted that Fresh Summit also connects people and ideas.

“What makes Fresh Summit more than just a trade show is the trade of ideas,” he said, “not just in the content of workshops, but also the serendipitous interactions people make.”

The expo’s “Say Hello to the Future” theme focuses on prospective changes in the fresh produce industry. Workshops will cover industry trends in consumer behavior, digital marketing and global consumption, while general sessions begin Friday, Oct. 17, with a state of the industry address by Silbermann and Cathy Burns, PMA’s president. This year marks the first time that the two will do the presentation as a team, and together they plan to address the “Fresh Revolution” and “how to ratchet up the trajectory of produce marketing.”

“We’ve put a lot of emphasis on content,” Silbermann said, noting that in the past people preferred to hear celebrity speakers at workshops and general sessions.

Instead, this year the PMA worked to find speakers who are “edgy and in tune with consumer trends.” Jeremy Gutsche, founder of TrendHunter.com, will speak Saturday, Oct. 18, on the topic of finding success in a recession by successfully predicting developments in the industry. On Sunday, Oct. 19, Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia, will discuss developing high-quality social media marketing that is specifically tailored to certain customer bases. Thirteen education sessions scheduled for Friday cover a variety of topics, organized as “communities” in subject areas that include Global Connections, Science & Technology, Industry Talent and Floral.

“It’s important to expose our members to new ways of thinking, so we’ve focused more and more on people that can make our industry smarter and better meet consumer needs,” Silbermann said. “We’re focused on giving people take-home value.”

Silbermann also plans to focus on the importance of children consumers as a market demographic. To that aim, the PMA is working to encourage a “much better understanding by our industry on getting kids eating more fruits and vegetables.” The show will also host its annual Sensory Experience Contest on Friday. This year, children from the local Boys and Girls Club will join judges like Disney’s John King to taste and rank kid-friendly recipes.

“It goes beyond just fresh produce,” Silbermann said. “More and more products are appearing in dips, soups, purees, and all other forms to keep kids interested in fruits and vegetables.”

Along with workshops and general sessions, the show plans to feature a new product showcase, with more than 140 new products, and the announced winners of the Impact Awards for packaging excellence, which recognizes new packaging designs that stand out in the marketplace while simultaneously addressing consumer needs.

While this is not the first time the expo was held in Anaheim, a rejuvenated city should help provide an exciting backdrop for the convention.

“The city has improved dramatically over the last three or four years with all the development and the vast array of new restaurants and nightlife. Really, it’s the only place in California that can handle this type of convention,” Silbermann said.

Silbermann also plans to kick off the expo by holding an exciting new outdoor party. He would not comment further on the plans, but he stated that it would be like “no party the produce industry has seen before.”

Overall, PMA officials expect to have all the hallmarks of past Fresh Summit expos, but with some new additions as well. For example, Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, will be there for the first time, engaging in discussion with the PMA board and members. In addition, the number of floral exhibits has doubled from last year’s expo, reflecting a resurgence of the floral industry in retail to pre-recession levels. Last year’s Fresh Summit expo was held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.