While the two groups are duplicating each other in some roles, I do not think a merger is the solution.
Instead, I would suggest that the two organizations could potentially better serve our industry by rediscovering their original roots, having PMA help fund policy development and government relations efforts by United, and merging the United trade show into a division of the PMA show.
The Produce Prepackaging Association started in 1949 and changed its name to PMA in 1958, the year Bob Carey became the PMA executive secretary.
During the three decades of Carey’s leadership, the PMA seemed sharply focused on service to produce retailers, helping improve handling and increase sales:
- In the 1960s, PMA helped develop produce packaging and convince consumers to accept prepackaged produce.
- As I entered the industry some 35 years ago, PMA was continuing to directly serve produce retailers, promoting increased consumption through initiatives like its Nutrition Task Force.
- Through the 1990s, PMA continued promotion efforts to improve retail sales, administered Price Look-Up codes, trained the industry in proper produce handling and founded the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
After Bob Carey retired in 1996, Bryan Silbermann became chief executive officer of PMA.
According to the PMA website, “In the 21st century, PMA continues its focus to build and enhance a strong global produce and floral supply chain by expanding the services offered to members in the areas of government and public affairs, food safety and security, improving the application of technology, and increasing training and networking resources for industry professionals.”
I think the PMA could better serve the industry by refocusing its efforts on increasing produce consumption and serving the retailer. That means PMA’s efforts should focus in the produce aisles and packinghouses, not in legislative hallways.
But we do need a voice speaking for the industry in policy discussions. Public policy has had a greater and greater effect upon food merchandising during my time in the industry.
For policy, United has long served as the voice of the produce industry, beginning in 1904.
The first goal that United lists on its website is “leadership in government relations, issues management and media advocacy.”