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Fresh Summit 2013 proves a destination for industry connections

Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) 2013 Fresh Summit Convention and Expo returned to New Orleans for the first time in 11 years to rave reviews of its attendance, education and networking. Highlights of this year’s global event included a White House-touted appearance, unveiling of PMA’s new strategic plan, and themes of innovation and a new direction of marketing that infused many new products throughout the exposition.

"Our industry clearly loved returning to New Orleans. This city has a different feel than most convention cities,” said PMA President and CEO Bryan Silbermann. “It's the flavor of the city — its food, its music, this is where old meets new."

By final count, more than 18,000 members of the global fresh produce and floral industry’s supply chain convened Oct. 18-20 for innovation-focused general sessions, 14 educational workshops and two days of expo. Attendees hailed from more than 60 countries and included more than 3,000 buyers.

A consumer-focused call-to-action was clear throughout the convention’s programming. Silbermann’s popular annual State of the Industry address included special guests Bolthouse Farms CEO Jeff Dunn, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative Executive Director Sam Kass and National Restaurant Association President Dawn Sweeney. The quartet urged the industry to focus its marketing efforts on driving consumer demand. In addition, joining Silbemann in an industry call-to-action for more women in leadership roles was Elisa van Dam of Simmons College.

Veteran attendees commented that the lineup of education was among the strongest they’ve ever seen. Attendees gave high marks to keynote speakers Peter Sheahan — whose message of change resonated with Fresh Summit’s global audience — and Mat Shore who posed thought-provoking questions about innovation faux pas.

PMA’s Silbermann also applauded this year’s winner of The Packer’s Marketer of the Year award, Lorri Koster of Mann Packing. “I'm thrilled at The Packer's choice of Lorri Koster as this year's Marketer of the Year awardee. The Nucci family has been so important to the PMA community for so many years." 

Appealing to kids, packaging and digital innovations became a sharp focus in the new Innovations@Work area that included the 100-plus item New Products Showcase with numerous new products designed just for kids. Impact Award: Excellence in Packaging finalists’ products were also on display here.

The Sensory Experience Contest celebrated the importance of flavor; 10 recipe finalists were taste-tested by buyers from across the supply chain — as well as kids from St. Tammany Parish. Winner of the Buyers’ Choice award was Bridges Organic Produce, while Sunkist Growers took home the Kids’ Choice award from the contest’s student judges.

“The buzz around the show floor was palpable,” said PMA Chairman and President of The Giumarra Companies Tim Riley. “People are ready to capitalize on the connections they’re making at Fresh Summit to make smart business decisions throughout the year.”

Four exhibitors were chosen by an anonymous panel of industry experts to be “best of show,” a contest designed to generate attendee excitement and encourage exhibitors to enhance the effectiveness of their exhibition experience:

  • Best of Show, in-line booth: Sun-Maid Growers of California;
  • Best of Show, island booth: Amerlux Lighting;
  • Best New Product Launch: Sambazon;
  • Best First-Time Exhibitor:  It’sFresh!

Next year’s Fresh Summit Convention and Expo will be held Oct.17-19 in Anaheim, Calif. For more information, click here

Originally posted Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013

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