BOSTON — Retailers and exhibitors reported they had great conversations at the annual New England Produce Council expo on Sept. 13.
“I thought that the booths and everybody, all the vendors, have been very engaging,” said Jeff Cady, director of produce for Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Markets. “There’s been a couple new items, things that I’ve been able to talk (about), but even existing vendors, a lot of good communication about the upcoming seasons and things like that and our plans for the next couple of months.
“It’s a very solid show ... great attendance and upbeat, and it’s easy to navigate,” Cady said.
Kevin Barry, director of produce for Springfield, Mass.-based Big Y Foods, also had a positive review.
“It’s been good,” Barry said. “There’s a lot of representation from different vendors ... It looks like a lot of people from all over the country here, so it’s been a good show — a lot of local people too.”
NEPC executive director Laura Sullivan said the expo included more than 150 booths, although a few less than expected because some companies had to miss the event due to Hurricane Irma. Even so, Sullivan said, the show had a record turnout.
Attendees described the move back to Boston as a welcome change from Cape Cod, Mass., which was a swanky but more remote destination.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘The Cape’s too far,’” said Lauren Mordasky, the owner of Florence, Vt.-based Vermont Hydroponic. “I do think that Boston’s better. It’s more centrally located for everyone as well.”
Sullivan noted that the move allowed more store-level personnel to attend, and NEPC president Anthony Sattler also said the location was a hit.
“We had a really good run down on the Cape and also in Newport three years ago, but there’s something about Boston, the excitement of the city, the vibe that it brings,” Sattler said. “The energy level was definitely turned up from where we’ve seen it the past few years.”
Before the expo, about 350 people attended a breakfast session that featured a consumer panel moderated by Brian Numainville, principal of Retail Feedback Group.
The five-person group gave feedback on everything from online shopping to local and organic to brand and store loyalty.
Across the board, the show drew high marks overall.
“I thought the opening night reception was nice last night, and the breakfast was very informative today to learn exactly what the consumer thinks — that’s always good to hear,” said Gary Caloroso, business development director for the eastern region for Los Angeles-based Giumarra. “So far we’ve already seen some really good customers, so that’s good for us as a company. It’s definitely worthwhile for us.”