Sessions at this year’s New England Produce Council expo are designed to help attendees learn more about the latest challenges pressing the industry and how social media can help them increase sales.

Scheduled for Sept. 10-12 in Newport, Conn., the fortified NEPC Produce & Floral Expo 2014 includes the additions of sessions.

On the exhibit floor, companies will display their products in two exhibition areas at the Hyatt Regency Newport Hotel & Spa.

Previously, the Burlington, Mass.-based council’s event only included a keynote breakfast followed by the expo.

On Sept. 10, a day before the council’s annual expo, Cathy Burns, president of the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, is scheduled to host a produce industry forum set to tackle issues pressing the industry.

During a Sept. 11 session, Krista Neher plans to show attendees how they can increase their sales through effective social media use.

Burns is a respected industry leader who brings a wealth of industry knowledge to retailers, foodservice purveyors, distributors, grower-shippers, brokers, marketers and others in the New England produce industry, said Robert McGowan, council president and partner with Northeast Produce Sales LLC in Wellesley, Mass.

“She was on the retail side a good part of her career, so her background is fantastic and she will provide a great perspective,” he said. “She will be able to relate to our attendees very well and anytime we can get PMA involved, it’s a good thing.”

For the social media presentation, the council interviewed a number of subject experts and decided Neher’s “Produce Marketing in a Digital Age” talk should provide new and timely information people haven’t likely heard at other conventions, said council second vice president Bill Brophy, New England produce and floral sales manager for Freetown, Mass.-based Stop ‘N Shop.

Up to 180 companies are planning to exhibit at the expo, similar to the number that participated last year, McGowan said.

Because of limited exhibition space at the host hotel, exhibitors are scheduled to display their products inside the hotel as well as in an adjoining outside tent.

The council is offering 20 “premium” booths in the pavilion area that participants must walk through before visiting the tent booths, McGowan said.

A waiting list exists for the premium booths and all booths are the same 10 foot by 10 foot size, he said.

Also at the event, college students considering produce industry careers through the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association’s Foundation for Industry Talent and career pathways program are planning to attend.

Participants in the program that provides training and development opportunities are scheduled to tour an area farm and supermarket.

A VIP reception for that group is scheduled for Sept. 10.

Bruce Klein, director of marketing for Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., in Secaucus N.J., said the revitalized show should offer attendees more options.

The new multiday format provides participants more options, including making a weekend stay, he said.

The event has been moved from April to September and is scheduled ahead of PMA’s Oct. 17-19 Fresh Summit 2014 expo in Anaheim, Calif.

Despite the proximity to that large industry show, Klein said he expects fewer East Coast people to trek to the West Coast event.

“We are excited about the new facility and the way we are setting up this show,” Klein said. “This is something different and is a totally new venue for us. We are hoping people take advantage of the great weather in September in Newport, a beautiful place which is on its own little island.”

Brophy said he expects the show to attract more retailers from the South and other areas of the Northeast and said retailers involved in the East Ellijay, Ga.-based Southeast Produce Council and the Short Hills, N.J.-based Eastern Produce Council are planning to attend.

The Southeast council remains an easy draw and New England council leaders participate in that organization’s Southern Exposure in Orlando, Fla., and Tampa, Fla., and the region’s retailers and wholesalers purchase many Florida fruits and vegetables, he said.

“We would like to see the same thing happen here,” Brophy said. “We would like to see other parts of the country recognize New England as an important and growing region. We are seeing interest from around the country and hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg.”