(March 4, 4:58 p.m.) Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association’s Produce Solutions Conference “Consumer Trends ‘08,” April 3-5, in Newport Beach, Calif., will focus on ethnic consumer groups and cuisine.

The conference, to be held at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa, is being billed as the “must-attend event for mid- to senior-level executives.” It will feature ethnic experts, live consumer panels, a crash course in public relations and an update on federal food safety developments.

The event begins with a retail tour at 10 a.m. on April 3.

A full day of forums, including the “Eating Patterns in America,” with food choice expert Harry Balzer, of NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based marketing company, highlight the second day of the event.

April 4 and 5 both will feature informative discussions on ethnic consumer groups.

Peter Steinbrick, national sales team leader for World Variety Produce Inc., the Los Angeles-based company that markets under the Melissa’s brand, said the conference represents an informal opportunity to bring the industry’s buyers and sellers together with an educational format touching on consumer buying preferences and segmentation in the Hispanic and Asian communities.

“It’s not just a dump of information, where you sit and listen,” he said. “We go through the topic of the session and break into informal roundtable sessions with key leaders from the retail and foodservice industries, and we openly discuss some of the challenges that are facing our businesses today.”

He said the ultimate goal is to take quantifiable ideas back to their businesses and apply them to everyday business needs.

The conference will feature experts including Saul Gitlin of Kang and Lee Advertising, known for his Asian expertise in marketing; chef Robert Danhi, who has been cooking and writing about Asian cuisine for 20 years; and Hispanic culture and cuisine expert Jim Perkins of Chicago-based Ulatam Retail Solutions Group.

Steve Lutz, executive vice president of The Perishables Group, West Dundee, Ill., will facilitate a panel discussion of consumers who represent multiple ethnic groups to provide first-hand accounts on their preferences.

Attendance will be capped at 300 participants. For more information about the conference and registration options, including details on discounted rates for buyers and multiple registrants, go to www.pma.com/psc.