The Produce Marketing Association sent volunteer leaders and staff to the 2018 South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. ( Photo courtesy Produce Marketing Association )

The Produce Marketing Association sent volunteer leaders and staff to the iconic South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, for a couple days last week.

With the SXSW festival attracting more than 400,000 influencers, innovators and creatives, the association wanted to have a presence to learn about and participate in conversations on emerging trends and cultural influences, according to a news release.

PMA hosted programs and engagement activities to talk about the fresh produce and floral industries’ contribution to culture and self-expression, modern trends, technology and careers, and PMA members and staff also learned about emerging trends and other industries’ perspectives through conference sessions on a range of topics.

“To grow the healthier world PMA envisions, we need to bring the world to our industry and take our industry out into the world demonstrating its relevance,” Jin Ju Wilder, LA & SF Specialty director of marketing and chairwoman of the PMA board of directors, said in the release. “That means being in the right places at the right times to lead global food and floral conversations and learn about cultural trends that can advance our businesses.”

PMA used product donations from produce and floral member companies to hold special events at its base at L’Estelle House restaurant in Austin’s Rainey District, including salsa making; floral giveaways, hairstyling and design; and a Global Street Farm making street food produce style, according to the release.

“Sure, we’re all about a healthier world, but fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers are about fun, too,” Joe Don Zetzsche, H-E-B’s director of floral and blooms floral shops, chairman of the PMA marketing steering committee and former PMA floral council chairman, said in the release. “The foods you eat and the flowers and plants you bring into your life say a lot about your identity, creativity and even your sense of design.”

In addition to the hands-on activities and street food, PMA chief science and technology officer Bob Whitaker led talks during a “The Role of Technology in Today’s Food Supply” chef’s table dinner, and Center for Growing Talent executive director and PMA senior vice president Margi Prueitt led a “Careers in Industry” luncheon, according to the release.

“I have to hand it to Joe Don and our steering committee for wanting to explore demand creation efforts that engage new people in new ways and broaden our industry’s perception beyond agriculture,” said Lauren M. Scott, PMA chief marketing officer. “An event like South by Southwest allows our members to connect directly with innovation, technology, trends and culturally vibrant brands that stand to transform our industry’s approach to growing demand in the same way they’re transforming minds and businesses in popular culture.”