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IFE draws 1,350 to the Big Easy

NEW ORLEANS — Supermarket floral industry professionals gathered, here, for the 2014 International Floriculture Expo June 10-13. Over 170 exhibitors, 210 buyers and a total of over 1,350 visitors filled the 68,000 square feet of the Morial Convention Center to participate in educational seminars, see new products, learn about the state of the industry and conduct business.

Buyers from 113 high-volume, mass-market retail chains and distribution channels attended the show, including A&P, Albertsons, Bi-Lo, Associated Grocers, H.E.B., Hy-Vee, Roundy’s, SuperValu and United Supermarkets.

Shirley Yu-Madigan, assistant category manager for A&P in Montvale, NJ, told The Produce News that her favorite part of the IFE was the education day.

“It brings different insights to the business and it also reinforces back to basics,” Yu-Madigan said.

She said that moving the event to a different location brought “great energy” to the show and she also appreciated the Buyer Walkabout, saying it was “crucial because it allowed buyers time to look at items without interruption and then decide which exhibits to revisit afterward.”

Bruce Brady, vice president of business, development and marketing for Mellano & Co. in Oceanside, CA, told The Produce News the best part of the IFE for him was highlighting Mellano’s U.S.-grown line of products with some very interested floral buyers.

“The show was good for Mellano & Co. to reinforce existing relationships and meet some quality companies that have some very interesting floral programs. It’s fun to work with customers that are passionate about bringing high quality flowers to the marketplace,” Brady said.

The IFE education day culminated in the opening cocktail reception and the 2014 Merchandising Award of Excellence presented by Borgen Merchandising Systems and SuperFloral and sponsored by burton+BURTON. The winner of the 2014 Borgen Cup, for her 101 Dalmatians Valentine’s Day promotion, was Prea Jones from Stater Bros. Markets No. 174 in Wildomar, CA.

The state of the industry panel focused on where the industry is trending from a grower’s perspective with two presentations. Billy Coulson, director of The Flower Hub in Kenya, discussed the evolution and development of the emerging floral industry in Kenya and its impact on the global floral industry. Coulson described Kenya as a thriving country that has developed its flower industry from nothing 40 years ago to providing jobs for a million Kenyans today, while supplying a major portion of the flowers sold in Europe.

Peter Smith, vice president of national sales for White’s Nursery and Greenhouses in Chesapeake, VA, traced the recent trends in plant and flower sales in the various sectors of the United States floral industry. He stated that in the past five years business has been very weak for retail flower shops with only 0.6 percent growth. However, Smith believes recovery is evident in the supermarket floral sector with 1.6 percent growth — more than double the growth over the retail sector.

John Moore, former Starbucks marketing manager and Whole Foods director of marketing, gave the keynote address and expounded on eight useful strategies to boost your effectiveness in responding to your customers, catching your customers’ attention and attracting their business.

One of the highlights of the IFE was the fifth annual flower-naming event. In the European tradition of honoring royalty and heads of state by naming a flower after them, a pioneering floral industry member was chosen for the honor. Michael Schrader, director of floral for Schnuck Markets in St. Louis, MO, and Cindy Hanauer, founder of Grand Central Floral in Jacksonville, FL, presented the honor to Kathy Hession, vice president of floral and bakery for Roundy’s Supermarkets in Milwaukee, WI. A vibrant red gerbera developed by Florist Holland B.V. was named “Kathy” in her honor.

The Best Booth Award went to World Class Flowers in Egg Harbor City, NJ, a supplier of arrangements, bouquets, roses, consumer bunches and specialty items. And the Best New Product Award was presented to burton+BURTON in Bogart, GA, for its Mossy Oak licensed product.

Another popular feature was the Iron Designer Contest where seven floral designers face off. A panel of AIFD judges chose Ian Prosser from Botanical International Design and Décor Studio in Tampa and Orlando, FL, as the 2014 IFE Iron Designer.

It was announced by Diversified Communications in Portland, ME, the show’s organizers, that the 2015 IFE will co-locate to Chicago, with the United Fresh Produce Association’s United Fresh Show June 9-11. The floral and produce expos will be staged side by side, directly across from the Food Marketing Institute’s FMI Connect. The multiple events will create a huge one-stop shopping and learning center for the floral, fresh food and retail industries, serving the entire supply chain from grower through retailer.