MONTEREY, CA — For a show that already is one of the favorites among produce industry members, the PMA Foodservice Conference & Expo managed to set the bar even higher this year, reaching new heights in a number of different categories.
The 33rd year of this popular event, held July 25-27, here, saw a record number of attendees (1,821), foodservice operators in attendance (203), booths (164), participants in the 5k race (389), and attendees of the plant and field tours (60).
“It was truly an incredible year for this show,” said Cathy Burns, who was at the helm of her first foodservice conference after being appointed president of PMA Dec. 1. “Jill Overdorf [of Cooseman’s Shipping of L.A.] and Fritz Stelter [of Field Fresh Foods Inc.], who were co-chairs of the conference committee, really deserve so much of the credit for putting together an outstanding program, and they clearly hit the mark on delivering value to the attendees and exhibitors.”
Known for bringing a deft mix of business and networking opportunities to those in attendance, this year’s conference did not disappoint. The program began July 25 with the annual PMA Foundation Joe Nucci Memorial Golf Tournament, which saw the foursome of Anthony D'Amico, Kevin Delaney, Anthony Valdez, Rick Jordan take top honors with a score of 18-under par. Also that morning, attendees had the opportunity to tour the facilities of Braga Fresh Family Farms, Naturipe Farms and Ocean Mist Farms. The opening reception was held that evening, featuring a farmer’s market-type atmosphere.
The program continued bright and early the next morning, as the PMA Foundation 5k Race for Talent led runners and walkers though the picturesque streets of Monterey. Philip Higgins of Markon Cooperative was the top male finisher with a time of 18:51, while Stephanie Cancellieri of Veg Fresh took top honors for the women with a time of 20:10. Robinson Fresh was recognized for its team spirit, entering an impressive 53 runners in the race. Tanimura & Antle got the nod for best team attire.
A robust lineup of educational sessions was held throughout the day on Saturday, beginning in the morning with a presentation on global flavor trends, followed by a food safety update by PMA’s Bob Whitaker.
A highlight of the day was the Chef’s Demo Lunch, which featured both well-known and up-and-coming chefs preparing dishes with a produce-centric slant.
The educational sessions reconvened after lunch with a presentation about what it means to be socially conscious. A session on using data to better manage your business closed out the afternoon. That evening, the popular PMA Foundation Women’s Fresh Perspectives Reception drew a sold-out crowd.
The final day of the conference opened with a general session titled “Put the Latest Trends to Work for You,” featuring Julie Krivanek of Krivanek Consulting. The expo opened later that morning, and the densely packed exhibit hall lent credence to the record crowd in attendance.
“This is truly an intimate show that brings top-quality buyers to a central location,” said Suzanne Wolter of Rainier Fruit Co. in Selah, WA. “Between the educational sessions and the social events, it offers multiple opportunities to network over the course of three days.”
Kevin Stanger of Wada Farms in Idaho Falls, ID, said, “This show provides a good mix of people and is great for building relationships.”
Chloé Varennes of Redondo Beach, CA-based Gourmet Trading said, “It was nice to see the increased number of foodservice operators this year. It’s great to talk to the operators about their menus and how they can add more produce to them.”
“We got some good solid sales leads as well as the opportunity to meet with many of our existing customers,” said Robert Tominaga of Southwind Farms in Heyburn, ID.
Elizabeth Doerrfield of Capital City Fruit, based in Des Moines, IA, a first-time exhibitor at the PMA Foodservice Expo, said, “I love the intimacy of this show. We have come to this show for a number of years but this is our first time as an exhibitor and it has been a great experience. We definitely plan to be back as an exhibitor next year.”
“A record-breaking show like this highlights the value of the ongoing collaboration between the fresh produce and foodservice industry. The energy and networking that occurred throughout the weekend was palpable,” Burns added. “Bringing to life our ‘Innovate the Plate’ theme, the innovations came in many forms and represented consumer trends across the foodservice industry – ultimately validating the drive to put more fruits and vegetables in the center of the plate.”