United Fresh 2015 Behind-the-Scenes and Highlights
- by Jessica Donnel
CHICAGO, IL - Another year has rolled around, and once again, produce industry members came to fill the streets and convention centers of beautiful Chicago. This was my first time in the city of Chicago and at a United Fresh show, and I have to say both made quite a big impression on me.
With over 4,000 attendees registered and 284 exhibitors, this was easily the biggest convention I’ve attended and an excellent place to meet friends, new and old. The large booths, the great products, and not to mention the awesome food samples made for an invigorating atmosphere.
A highlight of the show for me was the opening session address from industry veteran and Roundy’s CEO Bob Mariano, who shared his insights on the future trends of the produce industry. In the opening session, Mariano shared about what he referred to as the “great convergence of fun and health.”
“Today’s shopper has unprecedented knowledge and sophistication about their health and the importance of good nutrition, terms like super foods are now part of the lexicon,” Mariano said. “We don’t know just what these foods are, but we know what foods are healthy for what parts of our body. The customer is demanding food that is both good for our bodies and interesting to our health.”
Legendary Coach Iron Mike Ditka also brought down the house with a passionate speech as this year’s keynote speaker with stories of his time working with powerful figures in the NFL.
Most powerfully for me, though, was probably the Women in Produce ceremony honoring Frieda’s CEO Karen Caplan. Men and women from all sectors of the industry came together to share stories of Karen’s achievements and honor the produce powerhouse. Introduced by past winners Teri Miller of Food Lion and Tonya Antle of Earthbound Farms and surrounded by family and friends, Karen and her emotional speech gave us all a sense of the passion and drive that has earned her the success she enjoys today. As both a woman and someone fairly new to the industry, it was inspiring to collect some advice from a figure has influential as Karen.
Thanks for the great atmosphere, the exciting innovations, and a venue for sharing ideas and fresh produce, United Fresh, and stay tuned to AndNowUKnow for more from the show.