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PMA brings produce to South by South West

SXSW ProduceCulture plays a powerful role in personal points of view, trends and innovation. That’s why on March 14-15 volunteer leaders and staff from Produce Marketing Association visited Austin, TX, to attend the South by South West festival — a cultural hotbed attracting more than 400,000 societal influencers, innovators and creatives. The association’s participation marked the first step in giving members a bigger voice in global cultural conversations that affect the well-being of people and member businesses.

Lisa Cork of Fresh Produce Marketing in front of the SXSW logo.

During PMA-hosted programs and engagement activities, PMA lead conversations on the fresh produce and floral industries’ impact on culture, self-expression, modern trends, leading-edge technology and exciting careers. PMA members and staff also learned about emerging trends and shared industries’ perspectives during SXSW conference sessions covering a wide variety of topics influencing civics, food and culture.

“To grow the healthier world PMA envisions, we need to bring the world to our industry and take our industry out into the world demonstrating its relevance,” said Jin Ju Wilder, LA & SF specialty director of marketing and PMA Board of Directors chair. “That means being in the right places at the right times to lead global food and floral conversations and learn about cultural trends that can advance our businesses.”

With support from PMA Board of Directors, PMA Floral Council and product donations from member companies, PMA held special events and exclusive discussions from its home base at L’Estelle House restaurant in Austin’s iconic Rainey District that’s popular with SXSW attendees. Thousands of festival-goers enjoyed salsa making; floral giveaways, hairstyling and design; and the Global Street Farm — delicious street food produce style.

“Sure, we’re all about a healthier world, but fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers are about fun, too,” said Joe Don Zetzsche, HEB’s director of floral and blooms floral shops, PMA Marketing Steering Committee chair and former PMA Floral Council chair. “The foods you eat and the flowers and plants you bring into your life say a lot about your identity, creativity and even your sense of design.”

PMA Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker led talks with cultural influencers and leaders across multiple industries during “The Role of Technology in Today’s Food Supply” chef’s table dinner. The “Careers in Industry” luncheon was led by Margi Prueitt, Center for Growing Talent executive director and PMA senior vice president. Prueitt explained how the fresh produce and floral industry is creative and dynamic, and top university students in non-ag majors are in high demand. The nonprofit CGT provides industry-specific solutions to attract, develop and retain talent.

PMA also hosted Brighter Bites and its co-founder, Texas-native Lisa Helfman, to pack bags of produce for Austin-area kids and families in underserved communities. Helping grow the program to a larger national scale, PMA’s partnership with the nonprofit helps families gain access to fresh produce and reduces food waste.

Zetzsche, other PMA members and staff also attended SXSW sessions in conference tracks such as Brands & Marketing, Cities Summit, Design, Food, Government, Health, Intelligent Future, Social Impact, Startup & Tech Sectors, Style, and Workplace. PMA volunteer leaders leveraged this time to share knowledge with fellow participants, capture key takeaways relevant to the business of produce and floral and associate with a top-tier cultural brands.

“I have to hand it to Joe Don and our steering committee for wanting to explore demand creation efforts that engage new people in new ways and broaden our industry’s perception beyond agriculture,” said Lauren M. Scott, PMA chief marketing officer. “An event like South by Southwest allows our members to connect directly with innovation, technology, trends and culturally vibrant brands that stand to transform our industry’s approach to growing demand in the same way they’re transforming minds and businesses in popular culture.”