Packer Insight - West Coast Expo 2018
( Greg Johnson )

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — The Packer’s 4th Annual West Coast Produce Expo attracted more exhibitors, attendees and buyers to its unique mix of business, networking and fun May 11-12.

The Packer Publisher Shannon Shuman said the event’s growth shows its value to the produce industry.

“This event brings together the Western produce industry in an amazing setting,” he said. “We think we deliver the right amount of business, education and networking opportunities.

He said more than 1,300 people registered for this year’s expo, which was at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert. The expo had 190 exhibitors, and more than 360 retail, wholesale and foodservice buyers registered.

“We’ve had tremendous growth, and we can’t wait to do it again next year,” Shuman said.

The West Coast Expo started May 11 with a sold out golf tournament and sold out field tours to local pepper, herb, grape and date growers.

The expo followed the education sessions on May 12.

Exhibitors said the format allowed them many opportunities to talk with buyers about their products.

Monique McLaws, director of marketing for Veg Fresh Farms, Corona, Calif., said she saw steady traffic, and buyers took the time to talk at the booth.

“We love this show,” she said. “It’s good timing for our growers, and it’s an intimate setting.”

Ricardo Crisantes, chief operating officer for Wholesum Family Farms, Nogales, Ariz., said he saw many existing customers but “I saw people I didn’t expect to meet, so I was pleasantly surprised.”

Jim Richter, president and CEO of Amerifresh, Scottsdale, Ariz., said he and his company have attended the event before, but this year was the first they exhibited.

“We’ve seen many customers and the grower-shippers that pack our Snoboy brand,” he said.

Joshua Ho, CEO of Mushroom King Farms, Manalapan, N.J., said his company exhibited for the first time and had a great experience.

Next year’s West Coast Produce Expo is May 10-11 at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort.