A Look Inside the International Fresh Produce Association's Seventh Annual BrandStorm

Thu. May 19th, 2022 - by Melissa De Leon Chavez

SAN DIEGO, CA - When the chips are down is when it is crucial to be creative. So, while the challenges stacking up around our industry are unprecedented, marketers gathered at the seventh BrandStorm to spur solutions and inspire each other in the next steps for fresh produce.

Frances Dillard, Vice President of Brand and Product Marketing, Driscoll's“The energy and excitement at BrandStorm was powerful. While we were frank about the upcoming business challenges we may be facing—like inflation and supply chain bottlenecks—the marketing community remains optimistic that the produce industry offers consumers fresh and delicious options that will remain core to their purchases,” Frances Dillard, Vice President of Brand and Product Marketing for Driscoll’s, shared with me.

As Frances shared in her session “Are You Data Rich and Insights Poor?” (How is that for a title?) shared to a full house, we are only as strong as those we link arms with. While she was specifically talking about marketers teaming up and learning with sales and category managers, this was also an undercurrent of the entire event getting together those that tell the stories of our industry. Those who, as Chris Veillon says, defend our brands.

Chris Veillon, Chief Marketing Officer, Pure Flavor®“It was great to be back at BrandStorm and connect with everyone face to face after so many LinkedIn chats, tags, and likes over the last 2 years,” the Chief Marketing Officer for Pure Flavor® commented. “From remembering your why to knowing your audience and connecting authentically, the common theme throughout the event was that we are indeed all storytellers. We have a very unique opportunity to support the consumer decision journey; we strive to build brand loyalty through consistency in product availability but, more importantly, flavor. As #BrandDefenders, we need to create more emotional connections with consumers and continue to champion our value propositions."

Truly, surrounding me at this event were the ones usually managing the presentation, running to set up a booth, or MacGyvering a solution to the latest mishap. At BrandStorm, they have the opportunity to listen, engage, and focus on the next milestone of marketing for the companies they represent individually and for our industry as a whole—something the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) sought to ensure for its inaugural year as the steward of the event.

Patrick Kuhlen, Vice President of Marketing, IFPA"When we began planning this year's BrandStorm Conference, it was important for us to build upon the legacy of the six previous shows to create an engaging experience for the industry. We are grateful for the dedication of our IFPA Marketing Council and the volunteer produce and floral marketing leaders who helped make this such a success,” Patrick Kuhlen, Vice President of Marketing for IFPA, said.

This was a year of firsts for more than just who hosted BrandStorm: IFPA reported 65 percent of the attendees attended for the first time, ranging from grower, shipper, packers, and packaging companies to services providers, even students from Hartnell University, bringing minds from all over and all levels for a true storm of marketing.

Marketers chat at the Welcoming Reception at the seventh BrandStorm as they prepare to spur solutions and inspire each other in the next steps for fresh produce

The agenda offered sessions for experts to share their learnings on relevant topics like “Building Margins With Branded Produce” and “Sustainability: Packaging, Agriculture, and Global Influences” and everything in between, but also new XChange sessions that lived up to their title by providing opportunities for attendees to discuss a topic pre-picked and assigned to each track. These echoed session topics in a more detailed way, split into several rooms to encourage a discussion on the item at hand. With 22 speakers made up of industry and non-industry experts in creativity, marketing, social media, storytelling, sustainability data analysis, consumer trends, retail operations, and team management, there was much to toss around and absorb.

Many gathered to listen to Artist Scott Shellstrom, one of many fascinating talks during BrandStorm

From recapturing our childlike enthusiasm with award-winning Creative Director, Speaker, and talented artist Scott Shellstrom to discussing brands and fresh produce at retail with Kroger’s Molly Tholen, Sprouts Farmers Market’s Caitlin Tierney, Albertsons Companies’ JoAnne Anderson, and IFPA’s Joe Watson, it was 48 hours of pivoting perspectives.

Lindsay Martinez, Corporate Marketing Manager, Calavo"I was particularly inspired by some of the new consumer research that was presented, and reinforced by the retailer panel. As produce marketers we need to understand changing consumer burdens and anxieties such as increasing food prices and supply chain disruptions which currently are overshadowing other concerns, and we need to adapt our messaging accordingly," Lindsay Martinez, Corporate Marketing Manager for Calavo, reflected.

Amid it all were those pieces that made it a social event, like a selfie photo booth, a professional headshot station, and, for Mental Health Awareness Month, morning Yoga with a beautiful seaside view.

For Mental Health Awareness Month, BrandStorm hosted a morning Yoga session with a beautiful seaside view

I couldn’t sum it up better than Abby Prior, Chief Commercial Officer for BrightFarms.

Abby Prior, Chief Commercial Officer, BrightFarms“I am grateful for the opportunity to come together with industry leaders at BrandStorm,” she shared. “This conference, designed and intended for produce and floral marketing leaders, brings together the best marketing minds in our industry. Investment in marketing (and the skills of our marketing teams) will be critical to driving consumption and usage of fresh produce and floral.”

As we strive to find solutions not just for our own companies but for our industry as a whole, I look forward to many more opportunities for the storytellers of our industry to gather and BrandStorm.

International Fresh Produce Association