Buyers share goals for GOPEX

Produce buyers are looking to expand their knowledge and customer base for organic fruits and vegetables at The Packer’s Global Organic Produce Expo.

Well over 100 buyers from more than 60 retail, foodservice and wholesale operations have registered for the Jan. 25-27 event in Hollywood, Fla.

“It’s a very strong mix of huge retail and foodservice brands to smaller independent operations,” said Shannon Shuman, vice president of produce for Farm Journal, owner of The Packer.

He said early supporters were Walmart, Kroger, Ahold, Publix and Whole Foods, as well as many Canadian chains.

Buyers contacted in mid-January expressed interest in the Jan. 26 education program and the Jan. 27 expo.

“My primary focus is two fold: network and meet more people in the organic produce space,” said Chris Webb, director of purchasing for Green Chef. “Secondly, to establish a potential list of supplier partners we can stay in supply with quality organic produce to help ensure our continued growth in the meal kit space.”

“My main goal is to network with more organic growers worldwide in order to have more purchasing power,” said Gregory Bass, head buyer for Metro Richelieu Inc., Montreal.

Frank Mascaro, produce buyer at wholesaler Global MJL, Montreal, said he’s “looking to see new avenues as per the organic sales and looking for new partnerships suppliers in organic.”

“We are interested to ... learn and acquire general knowledge about organic produce and new ways to merchandise, develop relationship with local farmers to buy directly from the their farms to supply our stores and restaurants,” said Adonis Delgado, produce manager at Florida-based farm-to-fork company Adena Farms.

Ron Jones, produce director for McKeever’s Price Chopper, Kansas City, Mo., said he’s also “looking to meet with companies and see if we can get a program to source our product.”

Brandon Morris, produce merchandising manager for Cincinnati-based Kroger, said he hopes to see new products and organic trends. 

“I’m looking to see the next great things in the world of fresh produce,” he said.

Many buyers are looking forward to growing their knowledge through the education program, which will feature speakers from partner Organic Trade Association, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and well-known organic produce shippers such as Awe Sum Organic, Wholesum Family Farms and Dole. 

Steve Pratt, produce category manager for Greco and Sons, Phoenix, said he wants to “learn more about what exactly ‘being’ organic means and what is the benefit; what share of the market is organic; and wow accessible is organic products regionally, what’s the seasonality and cost.”

Steve May, sales executive for C&C Produce, Kansas City, Mo., said education was a big part of his staff’s goal. 

“We are bringing our organic buyer and a salesperson who have not had the opportunity to attend an event like this so the learning curve should be very high with all of the workshops and speakers that you have lined up. Putting a face with a name with the organic growers and sales staff is also a priority for us.”

“I am looking forward to attending the many sessions that GOPEX is offering,” said Josh Padilla, produce and floral operations coordinator for Krasdale Foods/Alpha 1 Marketing, White Plains, N.Y.

“This will give my team the opportunity to review recent data on organic trends and the challenges this category faces as it continues to grow at double-digit rates. But most importantly, I hope to strengthen existing relationships and cultivate new ones.”

To see the full schedule or register, visit