Mike Hornick,
Staff Writer
Mike Hornick, Staff Writer

I’m off the San Diego waterfront. No more five-star hotels, concierges and parties on aircraft carriers.

Fresh avocados on the deck of the USS Midway smelled like victory, to paraphrase a line from “Apocalypse Now.”

Back in Salinas, a breeze perfumes the city with a scent of fertilizer.

Goodbye, United Fresh 2013. See you in Chicago next year, where you’ll share digs with the Food Marketing Institute.

At the San Diego post-show conference on produce marketing and merchandising, it was clear that unhappy memories of FMI conventions linger for some attendees.

Moderator Michael Sansolo even took a moment for an exculpatory remark, reminding them he left FMI six years ago. He was a senior vice president there.

Past FMI shows struck some marketers as clueless to the value of fresh, a truth shoved aside and lost behind enormous booths and promotional budgets for soft drinks, chips and consumer packaged goods.

“We always had a problem at FMI engaging the fresh products and saying, ‘We need you to come front and center,’” Sansolo said, prompting scattered laughs from those who considered it an understatement.

But the onus is on produce marketers to do something about it.

“When you co-locate, think about the language you’re going to use in your booths,” Sansolo said.

“You have to bring them over. Get a CEO or an executive vice president of a supermarket chain to come in and talk about profit impact. If you’re talking agricultural stuff, they will avoid you like the plague.”

“I sense a transition is coming,” United Fresh Produce Association chief executive officer Tom Stenzel said.

“There’s a new commitment from (FMI president) Leslie Sarasin and their board. They’ve embraced going back to an every (other) year show in the partnership they’ve struck with us. They know they have to embrace this. They’re just trying to break out beyond the basic business model they’ve lived with.”

It’s been a model driven by center-store and consumer packaged goods money.

“I won’t ask you to spend what Coke spends,” Stenzel said.

“But we have the advantage of fresh. So be in Chicago.”

And when you arrive, ring the concierge.


What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.