PMA Foodservice Celebrates Innovation at its 2017 Conference & Expo

Fri. July 28th, 2017 - by Robert Schaulis

MONTEREY, CA – It’s that time of year again—when produce professionals from the foodservice industry, buyers and suppliers alike, descend on the idyllic climes of California’s central coast for the Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) Foodservice Conference & Expo. With its “Innovate the Plate” theme highlighting the new and groundbreaking, conference goers gathered for educational opportunities, activities, and opportunities to network, give back, and grow the future of fresh produce.

Cathy Burns, CEO, PMA“The feedback we’ve heard throughout the weekend has been fantastic. From our educational sessions, to networking activities, and on the expo floor, participants were highly engaged and appreciative of being back in downtown Monterey,” said Cathy Burns, PMA CEO.  “Exhibitors once again did an excellent job showcasing their ability to innovate the plate through value-added products. A diverse group of over 500 buyers attended, and a recurring, overwhelming theme from comments shared is that people were making the right connections here. I want to personally thank everyone who made our 2017 Foodservice Conference & Expo a success.”

Babé Farms: Best Product Promo Winners of Foodservice 2017

The burgeoning event, now in its fourth year, boasted 1,821 attendees—including more than 500 buyers bringing purchasing power to bear from across the supply chain. Buyer types included meal kit delivery companies, cruise line operators, airline caterers, online grocery delivery services, distributors and foodservice distributors, retailers, and more than 150 operators. Also, 176 exhibitors were on hand to showcase the latest and greatest products and services at the Foodservice Produce Expo—including seven new additions to this rarified group of companies.

Driscoll’s: Best of Show, 1st place winners at PMA Foodservice 2017

The event kicked off Wednesday afternoon with a CTGbyPMA Bocce for Talent Tournament—with the Coveted Trophy being taken home by Steinbeck County Produce. And on Thursday, preliminary activities continued with the CGTbyPMA Joe Nucci Memorial Golf Tournament. First place winners included Ernie Baltierra of Green Herbs International, Gus Anderson of Hello Fresh, and Joe Chan of Morgan Stanley. Other standouts include Mann Packing’s Gina Nucci who won the Fruit Salad Putt competition, Pete Rebiskie of Robinson Fresh and Brian Cook of Hollandia Produce, who were the Chip and Putt Contest Winners, and other deserving winners.

Friday’s itinerary featured Hands-On Fruit & Vegetable Training focusing on menu trends, usage tips, and ways in which fresh produce can help restaurants “innovate the plate” and meet shifting consumer demand.

Chef Michael Banks and Oregon Fruit Products showcasing usage ideas for Marion blackberries

Participants included:

  • Duda Farm Fresh Foods – Showcasing radishes & celery
  • Fresh Origins – Giving the skinny of micro greens
  • National Watermelon Board – Making manifest the merits of mini watermelon
  • Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers – Showing cucumber and tomatoes
  • Oregon Fruit Products, LLC – Exhibiting Marion blackberries. 

A series of educational sessions and panel discussions from innovators in our industry and beyond Saturday closed out the week-proper. Sessions included a “Let’s Talk About Trends, Baby” panel discussion featuring researchers on emerging food trends and a two-part presentation by The Nour Group CEO David Nour on the importance of collaboration with supply chain partners in addressing rapidly-changing consumer demand. Chef Talks followed as did an “Innovate the Plate? Why Stop There?” discussion, and the CGTbyPMA Women’s Fresh Perspectives Reception.

David Nour, CEO, The Nour Group delivering his two-part presentation "No, You are Not the Smartest Person in the Room"

Saturday also brought the Innovate the Plate competition, where this year's winner, Executive Chef & Owner of Catelli's Restaurant Domenica Catelli took home the gold for her mouthwateringly creative dish, Pulled Pork Sliders with SunGold Slaw.

Domenica Catelli's winning Pulled Pork Slider with SunGold Slaw

Sunday, the final day of the show, began with a unique feature: the Buyer Roundtable.

George Szczepanski, Director of Business Development, PMA“We really think that the strength of the association is bringing people together to do business in the produce industry, and...we’re excited to provide that opportunity,” noted George Szczepanski, PMA’s Director of Business Development, in his introduction to the associations’ Buyer Rountables—a “speed dating”-style opportunity for supplier to connect face-to-face with operators and distributors, including Blue Apron, Pro*Act, Denny’s, Wendy’s, Sysco, Fresh Direct, and more.

Owyhee Produce: Best of Show, 2nd place winners at PMA Foodservice 2017

But the final day was largely dedicated to the Foodservice Produce Expo, and the show floor was hopping, with more than 500 members of the buying community crowding to see the latest and greatest products from more than 170 exhibitors.

Gina Nucci, Director of Corporate Marketing, Mann Packing“It was an amazing long weekend connecting with key customers old and new!” said Gina Nucci, Director of Corporate Marketing for Mann Packing.

Award winners from the Expo included:

  • Best Product Promo : Babé Farms 
  • Best of Show, 2nd place: Owyhee Produce 
  • Best of Show, 1st place: Driscoll’s 

The show may be over, but our coverage won’t stop anytime soon as we continue to process the innovations and excellent offerings we witnessed at the show. Stay tuned as we continue to showcase highlights from this year’s PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo 2017.

Produce Marketing Association