As usual, this year’s Expo was a sellout with 171 booths representing more than 200 companies, said Carissa Mace, council president. More than 1,200 people, mostly store-level produce and floral personnel, attended.
The expo added booths this year and saw a higher preregistration count than normal, said Jeffery MeLellan, office manager for QSI LLC, Los Angeles, and this year’s expo chairman.
A highlight of the event is the Produce 101 competition, in which produce employees try to identify a selection of some rather distinctive produce items.
This year’s first-, second- and third-place winners were Pascal Lui, John Fujii and Apolinar Parra respectively, all from Gelson’s Markets.
Keynote breakfast speaker was Purple Heart recipient J.R. Martinez, who went on to become a popular member of the cast of the TV soap opera “All My Children” and won TV’s “Dancing with the Stars” trophy with partner Karina Smirnoff in 2011.
Martinez recounted how his dream of becoming a professional football player was dashed when the Humvee he was driving ran over a land mine in Iraq and he was burned over 40% of his body.
“Don’t be discouraged,” he urged audience members. “Adapt and overcome.”