ST. PAUL, Minn. — Boasting 1,450 retailers, 1,500 vender representatives and 850 Supervalu employees, the first Supervalu National Selling Expo put produce front and center.
Fresh produce vendors took center stage on the first level of the main expo hall at the St. Paul Rivercentre for the Aug. 12-14 show, and most attendees said that was a great thing. In previous years, when the expo was a Midwest regional show, produce booths were mixed in with bakery and other departments.
“From a produce standpoint, bringing everybody together with a position on the main floor is a real boost,” said Steve Hanson, produce field specialist for Supervalu’s Northern Region. “Foot traffic has been outstanding. What an opportunity this is — to physically get together, west and east, to share merchandising ideas.”
Others agreed the Eden Prairie, Minn., retailer’s decision to go national with the show and increase the fresh produce presence were wise moves.
“I’ve been coming to the Supervalu show for more than a decade, and this turnout is phenomenal,” said Ralph Schwartz, vice president of marketing, sales and innovation for Potandon Produce, Idaho Falls, Idaho. “These are really large crowds and people are here to buy. Retailers are well-represented and are asking good questions. They are here to order and get ready for fall.”
Numerous fresh produce companies used the show as a platform to launch new products, although many of them were splitting time between the Supervalu show and The Packer’s Midwest Produce Expo running the same week in Chicago. Others said they are gearing up new products for a launch at this fall’s annual Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit.
Salinas, Calif.-based Fresh Express showcased a kale blend for juicing at the Supervalu show. Chris Lambert, representing Fresh Express, used a blender to demonstrate the blend, which includes baby kale and spinach, can be used in smoothies.
Fresh Express last year opened a 350,000-square-foot processing facility in Streamwood, Ill., and increased its business with Supervalu.
Kale smoothies are also new at Guadalupe, Calif.-based Apio Inc. Julianne Hill, customer services manager, touted the company’s new Superlicious Smoothie Blend, launching now.
“We did a lot of research with recipe development on this,” Hill said.
The product includes shredded carrots, red chard, Italian kale, broccoli stalk and beet greens.