Highlights from the 2016 PMA Fresh Summit

Fri. October 14th, 2016 - by Melissa De Leon Chavez

ORLANDO, FL - The Sunshine State was flooded with the makers of the produce industry this past weekend as the PMA solidified its 67th Annual Fresh Summit, shattering previous East Coast records with 20,889 attendees from 65 countries.

Tommy Wilkins, Director of Sales, Grow Farms Texas“I have been going to the PMA for over 25 years and I am humbled by the evolution of the produce industry,” Tommy Wilkins, Director of Sales for Grow Farms Texas, shares with me from the floor. “To see old friends and make new friends is key to the future being in good hands. Many issues face the industry, but I see the industry taking these issues seriously, and at the same time offering a healthy alternative. I love this business and the people involved.”

More than 1,200 exhibitors showcased what their companies were all about by expressing culture and product via their signature booths.

To acknowledge such festivities, PMA awarded the following titles to those on the floor:

  • Best of Show, in-line booth: Veggie Noodle Co., booth #4344
  • Best of Show, island booth:  Gems Group, Inc., booth #4087
  • Best Produce Promo: SUNSET, booth #3549 for their Dill-it-yourself Pickle Kit
  • Best First-Time Exhibitor: ArizonaEast, booth #4150

Bryan Silbermann, CEO, PMAThe event kicked off honoring 33-year member, veteran, and PMA leader, Bryan Silbermann, who will be retiring later this year. Cathy Burns, current President, will step in officially to fill in the role of CEO in addition to her presidential role.

Cathy Burns, President, PMA“Throughout his career, Bryan brought a collaborative spirit that engaged and motivated industry leaders to work together to create opportunities and solutions to challenges, so much so that collaboration has become a defining characteristic of PMA,” Cathy said in a press release when announcing the new PMA award in Bryan’s honor. “We want to honor Bryan with this award as PMA continues to expand its role as a prominent voice for the fresh produce and floral communities worldwide.”

As one of the must-attend shows of the year, Fresh Summit held its Impact Awards to showcase items pushing positive industry initiatives with innovative launches.

Among twenty industry finalists, the five slots were won by the following companies:

  • Mann Packing Co. Inc.–Nourish Bowls™
  • Mastronardi Produce Ltd./SUNSET®–Dill It Yourself™ Pickle Kit
  • Mucci Farms–CuteCumber Flow Wrap Re-seal
  • Mucci Farms–Smuccies Sweet Strawberries Top Seal Tray
  • Ocean Mist Farms–Season & Steam Sweet Baby Broccoli

Exhibitors and attendees alike enjoyed networking and establishing connections among festive food and drink, as everyone brought their best to meet the best.

Karen Caplan, President and CEO, Frieda's Specialty Produce“It was one of the best PMA conventions in terms of traffic in our 43 years of exhibiting,” Karen Caplan, President and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce, tells me. “Customers were very interested in talking business. And on a side note–people went crazy for our Stokes Purple Sweet potatoes brownies and power bites. The keynote speakers–both Johnny Cupcakes and Josh Linkner–were right on in terms of content and pushing our creativity as an industry.”

With emphasis on marketing strategies, food safety, new industry technologies, and more, while still emphasizing the passion and people of our industry, this is one event that continues to get better with age. I, for one, can not wait for next year’s Friday-Saturday Fresh Summit in New Orleans, Louisiana, already slated for October 19-21, 2017.

Whether you were a part of this year’s show, or learning about it here, be sure to pencil in next year’s Fresh Summit as the PMA continues to look to out-do itself as a key event on the fresh produce calendar.