Joe Don Zetzsche, director of floral and blooms floral shops for H-E-B and PMA Demand Creation Steering Committee chairman; and Lauren M. Scott, PMA’s chief marketing officer. ( Photos courtesy PMA )

Traveling to Austin, Texas, on our way to South by Southwest, we understood we were in for an experience unlike any other industry outing. 

We expected to learn a lot from the 25-plus seminars we scheduled across our team of PMA members and staff. We agreed on obvious topics like brand marketing, food, startup and technology, and intriguing ones like social impact, style, design, and “intelligent future.” We knew we’d be impressed connecting with attendees and panelists leading their industries from around the world and shaping culture.

We didn’t expect to be blown away by throngs of people drawn to the lush oasis of vibrant fruits, vegetables and flowers we established in the middle of the city as our home base. 

If any doubt existed before, there’s none now: Fruits, vegetables and flowers play inextricably important parts of cultural expression and well-being.

“Thank you” was something we heard often from SXSW festival-goers who wandered off Rainey Street and into our Global Street Farm for a bite to eat. 

“This is the first nourishing food I’ve had all week,” they’d say. “Delicious!” soon followed.

Our belief that the fresh produce and floral industry has a rightful position at places like SXSW where culture is expressed and discussed cemented itself as we watched people patiently wait their turn to take a selfie holding a jackfruit or stand happily in long lines to get their hair arranged with fresh flowers. 

To grow demand our industry must become a bigger voice in global cultural conversations that shape the well-being of our lives, society and businesses. 

Emotional connection isn’t a barrier; clearly, we already have people’s hearts. It’s our industry’s connection to the world, and therefore minds, that needs strengthening. 

Demand creation requires employing the totality of our products’ appeal — from the nutritional that’s been essential since the beginnings of humankind, to its promise for attracting top students to exciting careers, to its opportunities as an incubator of leading-edge food technology, and to its expression of individual identity, creativity and sense of design. 

More than the sum of their parts, fresh produce and floral are an inextricable connection to the modern world’s cultural currents. SXSW — an annual festival, conference and cultural hotbed attracting more than 400,000 attendees — served as both launch pad and reflection point for engaging new people from new sectors in new ways to grow a healthier world. 

What’s your SXSW? Where else can our industry shape cultural influences? How can we bring it to life in experiential ways? We want to hear from you, because we can attest that nothing delights like savory produce street food and nothing triggers smiles quicker than floral crowns. 

At their core, fruits, vegetables and flowers are important parts of cultural expression and essential to a healthier, happier world.

Joe Don Zetzsche is director of floral and blooms floral shops for H-E-B and PMA Demand Creation Steering Committee chairman. Lauren M. Scott is PMA’s chief marketing officer.