The global produce industry is headed to New Orleans.
More than 1,000 fresh produce and floral exhibitors from nearly 30 countries will come together for the Produce Marketing Association’s annual Fresh Summit Convention & Expo, Oct. 19-21 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
PMA officials said they couldn’t estimate how many people would attend the event, but they did say they expect attendees from more than 65 countries and noted that last year’s Fresh Summit in Orlando, Fla., drew more than 20,000 guests.
“In terms of early registration, we’re very pleased,” PMA CEO Cathy Burns said. “Early registrations look very strong. It continues to punctuate the connection Fresh Summit continues to make.”
New Orleans, known for its Cajun cuisine and jazz music, always is a popular venue for Fresh Summit, Burns said.
“Generally, people really enjoy the food and music New Orleans has to offer, but if you think about what we need the venue for, it worked out well in the past and will be especially strong this year, and I think that’s a reflection of the industry,” she said.
Participants include multinational retailers looking to source from suppliers, companies wishing to provide products to commercial growers and solution providers with products to make the supply chain more efficient.
Reflecting today’s increasingly global produce and floral marketplace, this year’s convention theme is “Let’s Grow Together.”
“Fresh Summit is the place to see, be seen and make connections if you work in the global fresh produce or mass-market floral business. There’s no other event like it for bringing fresh produce and floral buyers and suppliers together,” said Nick Armano, PMA Fresh Summit committee co-chairman and general manager for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Robinson Fresh.
“The event allows for networking with a globally diverse audience, education sessions that help participants energize and grow their business and an electric atmosphere on the show floor.”
The Oct. 20-21 expo’s more than 1,000 exhibitors will feature 70 first-time exhibitors, up from last year’s 50 first-timers.
Attendees can preview new products in several potentially trend-setting categories with the Fresh Ideas Showcase, which includes more than 200 new products and services in five categories: kid-friendly, on-the-go, organic, floral and general.
The Sensory Experience Contest will include buyers, industry experts and local kids tasting, touching, smelling and sampling dishes made by produce company entrants. Buyers’ Choice and Kids’ Choice winners will be chosen.
Typically, about 20% of Fresh Summit attendees are from countries outside the U.S.
A strong contingent from Mexico and Canada attend each year, as well as participants from Chile, Brazil, Central America, New Zealand and Australia. This year, registrations are up significantly from Argentina, Israel, Korea, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru and Spain, among others.
On average each year, 25% of exhibitors on the event’s trade show floor are from outside the U.S. They include produce and floral growers and shippers, and service providers that offer everything from growing material to packaging, technology, transportation and more.
As of Sept. 14, exhibitors who had booked space were coming from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom, as well as the U.S.
The Global Connections programming includes workshops on topics such as changing governments and trade, innovation in an uncertain retail marketplace, blending of e-commerce with storefronts, dealing with consumer demands for transparency and using influencer marketing to grow business.
In addition, there will be a Global Connections Reception designed to foster business relationships that transcend borders. The reception is scheduled for 5:15-7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20.
All about floral
The floral agenda includes education workshops, a networking reception, announcement of the 2017 Floral Marketer of the Year award recipient, floral buyer roundtables, and the Floral Pavilion, a destination for the floral industry on the Fresh Summit trade show.
“Growth in floral has been incredible,” Burns said.
“Last year, we had about 21,000 square feet dedicated for 83 companies. This year, there’s 27,500 square feet for about 100 exhibitors.”
This year’s Fresh Summit will feature 15 workshops, ranging from consumer trends to talent management to science and technology, Burns said.
The workshops fall under the Global Connections, Industry Talent, Science & Technology and Floral categories.
PMA also will have a change in chairmanship during Fresh Summit, as John Oxford, president and CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based grower-shipper L&M Cos., hands the gavel to Jin Ju Wilder, marketing director for Los Angeles-based distributor LA & SF Specialty.
“I think about John Oxford and what he has built over the last year, and we’re announcing a new strategic plan at Fresh Summit,” Burns said.
“He’s working on building a strong future. And it’s strong for our businesses. He passes the gavel to Jin Ju. She chaired our strategic task force and now she’s going to take it, as the chair, into execution.”
“You don’t want to miss Fresh Summit. It’s something you look forward to every year,” Wilder said. “It’s always important to us on an individual and company level.”
This year’s event will differ from the past, as the event will run Thursday through Saturday instead of the traditional Friday through Sunday.
“We’re changing that and will see how that goes, but gosh — 1,000 exhibitors from 60 countries — it’s going to be amazing,” Wilder said.
“PMA provides a lot of year-round value with events on different topics that provide value. But Fresh Summit, because of the size, for more people and companies, it’s easier to justify the spend and value provided.”
The first Bryan E. Silbermann Award, honoring the now-retired former CEO of PMA, will be presented during a brunch session Oct. 19.
“With Bryan’s retirement, we announced an award focused on collaboration,” Burns said.