Enthusiasm is building for The Packer’s inaugural Midwest Produce Conference & Expo, set for Aug. 13-15 in Chicago.

“Our regional show concept is proving to be a very popular format for buyers and sellers to connect in a cost-effective, intimate, and time-sensitive setting,” said Shannon Shuman, The Packer’s publisher. “Midwest Produce Expo has had a very enthusiastic response and The Packer is excited to provide a forum for Midwest buyers and vendors to collaborate on issues specific to this diverse region.”

Exhibitors at the show look forward to meeting with customers (and potential customers) in a more intimate, relaxed environment.

The Midwest show, slated for Aug. 13-15 in Chicago, is a regional trade show on the order of shows put on by the Southeast Produce Council, the New England Produce Council and, most recently, the New York Produce Show and Conference.

Midwest Produce will include a five-hour exposition; programs on consumer trends, nonprofits and locavores; networking receptions; retail tours; and a golf outing.

Selah, Wash.-based Rainier Fruit Co., which is scheduled to be an exhibitor at Midwest Produce, also has exhibited at the New York and New England shows. Contacts made there have generated new leads that generated new business for Rainier, said Suzanne Wolter, marketing director.

One advantage of the regional shows vs. larger industry shows, Wolter said, is the chance to meet with buyers who don’t attend the big shows like the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit.

Also, the quality of those meetings can be much better.

“It’s much more relaxing compared to the really large shows,” Wolter said. “People take the time to talk with you for a little while, and there aren’t as many demands on your time.”

As for Midwest Produce in particular, Wolter is hoping to meet buyers from independent chains in the Upper Midwest who don’t make the trek to Fresh Summit and the United Fresh Expo.

With the devastating freeze in Michigan, and a big crop expected out of Washington, Rainier could find a willing audience in Chicago for Washington apples, Wolter said.

Neil Galone, vice president of sales and marketing for Orange Cove, Calif.-based Booth Ranches LLC, another Midwest Produce exhibitor, began attending the New England, Southeast and New York regional shows about two years ago.

Fresh Summit remains the most important annual show in the industry, Galone said, but the regional shows definitely have their advantages.

“Fresh Summit is so big, it’s hard to accomplish any business,” he said. “And we found that in the more intimate setting, we, as a medium-sized company, don’t get overshadowed.”

Booth Ranches has specific growth plans for the Midwest, and Galone hopes the Midwest Produce Conference & Expo will help expedite those plans.

At larger shows, it’s hard to stop moving, said Mike Angelo, director of national sales for Calavo Growers, Santa Paula, Calif., also exhibiting at The Packer’s expo.

“You’re there, but you spend most of your time just getting around the show,” he said. “The regional shows give us a chance to be more one-on-one with people.”

A show in Chicago is perfect for Calavo, which is looking to expand its presence in the region, Angelo said.

“We’ve always had pretty good relationships there,” he said. “And some of the smaller independents who have grown are now becoming attractive as customers for us.”

Calavo customers in the Upper Midwest have said they’re excited about attending the show, Angelo said.