PMA Fresh Summit 2019 Recap and Award Winners
- by Jordan Okumura
ANAHIEM, CA - It's a wrap, my friends! How does that deep breath feel? It is hard to believe that another PMA Fresh Summit has just swept through our industry, leaving in its whirlwind wake an abundance of fresh innovations, bold and progressive ideas, new relationships, and a stronger kinship between the like-minded and the ingenious. As a kid born in the 80s and a child of the 90s, if Fresh Summit had only been built around Queen Latifah and Magic Johnson, you could say that the show was a hit for this trade news writer. But, lucky for us all, those superstars were just icing on the cake.
With red badges galore and exciting networking opportunities available to the industry masses, business was conducted around every inch of the show—from the exhibition floor to PMA FRESHTIVAL, dubbed The Freshest Place on Earth.
"This year’s Fresh Summit was an incredible gathering of the global fresh produce and floral industry. More than ever, Fresh Summit has felt like a destination, not just a show. From the education, starting with the experience extensions on Thursday and our star-studded Forums for the Future all weekend, to the opportunities for new innovations and connections on the packed show floor, the lounges throughout the floor, and in the networking receptions, this year took Fresh Summit to a new level,” Cathy Burns, CEO, Produce Marketing Association, shares with me. “I would like to thank Conference Committee Co-Chairs, Garland Perkins of The Oppenheimer Group and Mac Riggan of Chelan Fresh Marketing, and our committee members for their leadership and guidance in continuing to help Fresh Summit grow, as well as our sponsors for their support, the PMA staff members who work so hard to put the show on and of course, all of our members who make this possible."
As the PMA team shared, Fresh Summit 2019 was a transformative year, with a record-breaking nearly 24,000 attendees, and a star-studded education lineup. Much was tradition at this year’s show including a retail produce tour, the annual State of the Industry address by Cathy, and educational forums that inspired passionate and invested dialogue.
The Global Street Festival that amassed thousands of attendees on Thursday night for the opening reception did not disappoint. And if you know our industry, you know that having fun is a requisite. PMA met the crowd with three regional themes: Thailand's Festival of Food, Flowers, and Light, Brazil's Carnival, and USA's Woodstock, just in time for its 50th anniversary.
Friday morning kicked off with the Center for Growing Talent's annual 5K Race for Talent for those spry and wide-eyed enough to hit the pavement before bringing the group back together once again to experience Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises. Adversity is a topic that traverses industries, demographics, and nations. Magic took to the stage to discuss how his vision for business offered inclusion and supports existing communities instead of excluding them.
Moving from wonder to exhilaration, the attendees then entered the belly of the Kraken: the PMA Fresh Summit show floor—and a beast it is. Did I clock my mileage? I should have, but the booths drew me to them through all my senses as sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste carried our team though two days of some of the most amazing products, vision, and passion that we have seen at a PMA Fresh Summit.
To keep us ready and rarin’ to go on day two of the show, the Center for Growing Talent hosted a Womens Fresh Perspectives leadership breakfast providing industry members with an opportunity to hear Queen Latifah speak of her journey to success both in head and in heart—and how family and staying true to herself really impacted her success. One of my favorite takeaways from her talk was when she spoke of confidence.
“Confidence is like fixing a car,” Queen Latifah said, “you have to maintain it.” I am sorry, but did someone say, err, sing U.N.I.T.Y.? Well, I whispered it.
After the second floor day unleashed its wave of inspiration and opportunity, I had the chance to speak with some industry members on how this show continues to reveal the best of the best, and elevate the brightest minds in fresh produce:
Reggie Griffin, Founder of Reggie Griffin Strategies and Former Senior Vice President at Kroger
“Having been in the retail industry for over 40 years, most of it in the produce and floral sector, and now as a consultant for eight years, I'm still amazed at the gathering of all facets of this great produce and floral Industry. The conventions are great but they are just a forum for the people and the companies to come together to meet professionally and personally. Having worked with several of the exhibitor companies, I don't think the buyside of our industry truly understands the time, effort and expense that supplier companies put forth to make these events happen. These teams are tireless performers in the big show of the convention. As I walked the show floor, I was truly amazed at the diversity both in age, gender, and ethnicity and how our industry has truly emerged as a representation of today's dynamic consumer. No one can say it better than Magic Johnson did on Friday during his simply outstanding presentation: You have to know your customers on an individual basis and then over-deliver on what they want—not what you want to sell.”
Nikki Rodoni, Founder of Measure to Improve and the California Central Coast Sustainability Exchange
"Last week was not only monumental for Measure to Improve (MTI), but for sustainability in the fresh produce industry. Starting with California Central Coast Sustainability Exchange (CCSE) and wrapping up with the PMA Fresh Summit Conference and Expo, MTI participated in the Sustainability Committee Meeting on October 16th and the What’s Hot, What’s Not panel session on the 17th. Sustainability was top of mind throughout. In the State of the Industry address by Cathy Burns, sustainability was highlighted as one of the top trends. Additionally, walking the PMA conference floor and speaking with suppliers, it was clear that companies are at varying stages along their sustainability journey—from just starting out looking for support in the area of sustainability to some of our own clients that are very happy to be well on their sustainability journey after hearing he state of the industry address. Being able to see first-hand, the progress that is being made in the area of setting sustainability goals and innovations for sustainable packaging was incredibly exciting."
Caitlin Tierney, Senior Director of Produce, 99 Cents Only Stores
“Impactful, progressive and motivational, PMA once again hit the ball out of the park with a compact, innovative show. The speakers were exceptional and the show floor was packed with networking, diversity, and education. This year I truly think was the best PMA thus far. I can only wait to see what they pull off next year!”
Jonad Galan, Director of Produce and Floral, Balls Food Stores
“This year’s PMA Fresh Summit show was highly successful with lots of great accomplishments. Fresh Summit is always big but the layout felt very manageable this year and allowed for easy flow to move around the booths. In this industry, we do a lot of emails and phone calls, and this show really allows for deeper relationship building and strengthening as vendors and retailers are able to meet face to face. Personally, covering performance and going over planning/strategy with the grower/vendor/shipper partners really aligns the partnership in a way that all benefit and makes us all successful.”
Frank Swanson, Senior Manager Produce Operations, Fresh Produce, US Foods
"Amazing what can get done in one location in a few days!"
As you can already see here, the excitement covered industry sectors and opportunities and we will definitely have more to come for your reading pleasure so stay tuned! But for now, let's move onto a bit more trade show excitement.
Let’s be honest, you cannot talk about hype in our industry without also having a little bit of industry competition. So, who rose to the top? Here are some companies that more than shined!
- Best Product Promo: SUNSET WOW™ Berries
- Best Sustainable Packaging: Mucci Farms
- Best Island Booth in the Solutions Marketplace: Apeel Sciences
- Best Inline Booth in the Solutions Marketplace: CN
But wait, there is more:
- Best Island Booth in the Complementary Items Marketplace: Fresh Cravings, LLC
- Best Inline Booth in the Complementary Items Marketplace: Lightlife Foods & Field Roast Grain Meat Co.
- Best Island Booth in the Produce Marketplace: Starr Ranch
- Best Inline Booth in the produce Marketplace: North Shore Living
- Best First-Time Exhibitor: Joolies
- Best Island Booth in the FLoral Marketplace: Colour Republic
- Best Inline Booth in the Floral Marketplace: van Hoekelen Greenhouses, Inc
In addition, a number of honors were bestowed at this year’s event, including The Center for Growing Talent which honored both Dr. Frieda Rapaport Caplan and Dick Spezzano for the 2019 Women’s Catalyst Award and the Jay Pack Cultivating Our Future Award, respectively. PMA also honored two industry veterans with leadership awards. Rich Dachman, CEO at Brighter Bites and former Vice President of Produce at Sysco, received the 2019 Robert L. Carey Leadership Award and Vic Smith, CEO of JV Smith Companies, received the 2019 Bryan E. Silbermann Collaboration Award.
On top of that, SVG Ventures and PMA announced ProteoSense as the winner of the THRIVE Fresh Summit Challenge and recipient of a coveted spot in the THRIVE VI Accelerator Program focused on accelerating companies with the best emerging technologies to advance the future of food and agriculture. This only names a handful of coveted moments of recognition that graced the show.
PMA also gathered produce for a donation to Second Harvest Food Bank—the PMA effect continues to ripple out.
"I’m looking forward to the feedback we’ll get from our volunteers and to see where next year’s Fresh Summit will take us. This year we took one giant step forward in helping to grow a healthier world," Cathy concluded.
As we ice our feet and take time to distill all that we saw at this year's Fresh Summit 2019, I hope we will all feel that much more confident that what we do in this industry is not just good business but good for all. See you all soon!