PMA Fresh Summit a success for Village Farms

Things were hopping at booth No. 1160 at this year’s Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit, as Village Farms constructed a large booth shaped as a greenhouse to welcome attendees to talk about its new offerings and exciting developments.

“Our booth was consumer-centric,” said Doug Kling, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Village Farms, based in Heathrow, FL. “We focused on usage of product and consumer benefits.”

During the show, the company introduced a ready-to-eat, five-ounce bag of Heavenly Villagio Marzano tomatoes, which would have a limited rollout over the next few months.

“Innovation was a big deal at the show, and we debuted a prewashed, ready-to-eat snack pack of tomatoes, which is one of innovations we have had,” Kling said. “Several people at the show were highlighting innovation in packaging and production.”

The booth also featured Executive Chef Darren Brown, who prepared delectable recipes using some of Village Farms’ exclusive varieties, such as the Heavenly Villagio Marzano, the Cabernet Estate Reserve and Cherry No. 9.

“Our chef was making all sorts of different recipes using tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, and those were featured in the booth and sampled,” Kling said. “It was definitely a hit for many.”

Kling found many enticing conversations happening around the show, including buzz about robotics for growers, sustainability and immigration issues and how that was going to be resolved in the coming year.

“There was also a lot of talk about the current generations — baby boomers, generation X, millennials — and how people want to know where their food comes from and how we as an industry can be more effective with communicating that,” he said. “I thought the turnout was excellent and there was a lot of great conversations going on.”

One of the highlights of the PMA show was the Village Farms invitation-only reception that featured the legendary Don Felder of the Eagles giving a performance in what was dubbed, “Meet Me at the Hotel California.”

With the show being in Orlando, it also allowed Village Farms to point to its current alliance with the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot, where it’s a signature sponsor for the marketplace known as Greenhouse Guru through Nov. 14.

At the marketplace, it offers an eco-friendly kiosk that consists of greenhouse-grown tomato dishes such as chilled tomato gazpacho with lump crabmeat and duck confit with creamy polenta and fire-roasted salsa.

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