BOSTON — Companies reported strong traffic at their booths during the 2018 New England Produce Council’s Produce, Floral and Foodservice Expo.
“It’s been excellent,” Eric Fultz, director of sales for Boston-based Incredible Foods, said on the show floor Aug. 23. “So far we’ve met a lot of customers and a lot of good people.”
John Iannacci, production manager and account executive for Sanford, Maine-based J.P. Sullivan & Co., gave a similarly positive account.
“There’s been a lot of traffic this year,” Iannacci said. “I think the show is well attended, and we’ve talked with a lot of our key customers already.”
DJ Grandmaison, sales and marketing manager for Loudon, N.H.-based Lēf Farms, also complimented the event.
“It’s been very, very busy,” Grandmaison said. “This venue’s really nice. It’s very intimate, seems like there’s a lot more booths here this year, and the flow’s been great.
“It’s been very steady, not slow or super busy,” Grandmaison said. “Last year it was super busy and then dead. This year it’s been a trickle — every minute we have someone new, someone new, someone new. I like the flow of this year’s show better. It’s been great.”
Laura Sullivan, executive director of the New England Produce Council, said the organization received good feedback from retail attendees, with store-level personnel and executives.
“They were able to see a lot of new products ... and connect with a lot of their vendors in one day,” Sullivan said Aug. 29.
The expo had about 150 booths, and roughly 1,000 people came to the event.
A presentation by Kimberly Gomer, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center, preceded the start of the show Aug. 23.
Gomer spoke at length about the concept of food as medicine and how retailers could use that kind of content in their stores.
She explained that she has seen the effect of fruits and vegetables firsthand in her work. People who come to Pritikin are forced to change their eating habits immediately — including consuming lots of produce — and many see reductions in their blood pressure within days, with other measurable health changes following in short order.
“It is amazing how quick the transformation happens,” Gomer said.
She explained that by connecting health benefits to specific produce items, retailers can positively affect public health and increase produce purchases along the way as people realize the quality-of-life attributes of various fruits and vegetables.
Gomer suggested retailers work with dietitians to create content that explains how eating more produce can help people with high cholesterol, diabetes and other conditions.
Gomer gave several examples of how to grab the attention of consumers and direct them to more information. Prompts on a website like “Want to reduce your risk of heart attack? Eat these vegetables” and “Eat this fruit if you have diabetes” allow people to see how fruits and vegetables can help them with specific challenges.
Gomer explained making the information accessible via multiple channels — the website, email blasts, social media platforms and in-store material — is also key.
“Drive this message of health home as much as (you) can,” Gomer said.
A presentation the previous day by Susan Battista, partner in branding agency Visual Dialogue, covered what retailers need to know about how millennials shop for produce.