New England Organic Produce Conference Showcases For the First Time
- by Alexis Schreiber
NEW ENGLAND - The New England Organic Produce Conference showcased for the first time at Gillette Stadium where more than 200 produce industry members from the greater New England area gathered last week. The day-long event featured a series of educational sessions focused exclusively on organic fresh produce and culminated in a featured keynote presentation from Shannon Allen.
“Great presentation and very informative,” said Mike Maguire, Director of Produce, Market Basket Supermarkets. “It was nice to focus specifically on all aspects of organics. We highly recommend a repeat performance next year!”
According to a press release, the educational sessions started off with a data dive into the growth of organic fresh produce. Organics fresh produce sales could easily grow to 15 prevent of all fresh produce sold—and result in more than $10 billion within the next few years, as stated by presenter Matt Lally, Associate Director for Nielson.
Noted by Lally, organic fresh produce sales in the greater New England area are near or above the national category in many products. He said an opportunity exists to significantly grow the overall organic fresh produce category by capitalizing on some key items. Specifically, Lally said kiwifruit, herbs, and both blueberries and blackberries have strong growth opportunities in the region for retailers.
Further, Lally’s presentation was followed by an Organics 101 session featuring Tonya Antle, Co-founder of the Organic Produce Network, and Johanna Miranda of the Organic Trade Association. The pair provided an overview of what constitutes an organically grown item and discussed the rules and regulations to be followed throughout the supply chain.
“It was a power-packed day with lots of great information on the trend of organics and, as a retailer, how important it is to stay on top of this growing segment,” said Jodie Reardon, Produce Procurement Manager for Shaw’s. “Shannon Allen was amazing and so inspiring with her story; it brought tears to my eyes.”
Antle talked about the importance of protecting the integrity of the organic brand and the role of the brand in the eyes of the consumer. Miranda also discussed some protocols that go into the rules and regulations of developing organic standards—and opportunities for the fresh produce industry to have their voices heard.
The Retailer Roundtable was the final educational session. Co-moderated by Matt Seeley, Co-Founder of the Organic Produce Network, and Mark DeMichaelis, Founder and Owner of State Garden, the panelists included Brian Fleming, Director of Produce for Stop & Shop; Mark Jewell, Category Manager for Produce, Hannaford Brothers; and Kevin Barry, Director of Produce for Big Y. The session featured engaging discussions on the role of organics in each of the retailers operations—in both the produce department, and its impact on the rest of the store as stated in the press release.
Each panelist noted the double digit growth of organic fresh produce this decade and how it has provided a gateway for consumers to try other organic items. Moreover, the organic shopper produces a larger basket for each retailer, enhancing the bottom line. Each of the retail panelists’ believes organic fresh produce will be between 25-30 percent of their total sales within 10 years.
“I was excited to see the great attendance from retailers and suppliers,” expressed Jewell. “For our first Organic Produce Network event, we have built a base to build on.”
Conference attendees were treated to a keynote presentation, following lunch, from Shannon Allen, Founder of Grown, a 100 percent USDA-certified organic fast food restaurant.
For updates on the first ever conference and anything fresh produce, keep reading AndNowUKnow.