United Fresh 2013 has a discovery theme, but no ocean lies between points A and B for the aspiring produce industry Columbus.

“There’s always a lot of focus on the business that takes place on the trade show floor, but we’re big into making it so that it’s not just a bunch of walking around,” said Tom Stenzel, president and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

“We’ve got over 20 different business suites that companies have taken where they will be holding their business meetings right on the show floor,” he said.

Topics, turnout

Educational workshops on the Food Safety Modernization Act, labor and immigration reform, and new transportation regulations will also be held near the exhibits.

The May 14-16 show is set for the San Diego Convention Center.

Turnout is running ahead of last year’s event in Dallas, Stenzel said in late March. The trade association estimated more than 5,000 attendees and 250 exhibitors in San Diego, where the theme is Discover Fresh Horizons.

An opening night party will be on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier.


The keynote speaker at the first general session May 15 is Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods, who will discuss how his company grows its customer base.

The Packer’s Produce Person of the Year award winner will be recognized at the opening breakfast.

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” are scheduled to give the May 16 keynote by way of commentary on political trends and their effects on the produce industry.

The chairman’s reception later that day at the Marriott Marquis will honor winners of the annual Produce Excellence in Foodservice and Retail Produce Manager awards.


For the first time at United Fresh, the post-show conference topic on May 17 will be Produce Marketing and Merchandising.

“One reason we’re doing it after the show closes is that a lot of the produce company marketing guys are fully engaged Wednesday and Thursday,” Stenzel said.

“But they’re the ones who will come, along with retail, on Friday when they no longer have to be at their exhibits.”

Representatives of Stemilt Growers, Nielsen Perishables Group, NPD Group, Harold Lloyd Presents, Sansolo Solutions, Hartman Group and other companies will speak.

Previous post-show conference topics included food safety, sustainability and others.

“This is the first time we’ve had it on produce marketing and merchandising,” Stenzel said.

As it did for the Dallas event, United Fresh is running a weekly local restaurant promotion, “A Taste of San Diego,” leading up to the show.

Every Thursday from January to May, the trade group is drawing one winner from among registered attendees, giving each a $100 gift certificate to a San Diego restaurant.

Diversified Restaurant Systems Inc. is sponsoring the promotion.