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Organic Produce Summit poised for continued expansion

The fourth annual Organic Produce Summit is scheduled for July 10 and 11 in Monterey, CA, with a bigger show, a dynamic educational lineup, more than 200 retailers and an expected crowd of 1,500-1,600 attendees.

“This is our fourth year and we understand what people are looking for,” said Matt Seeley, founder of the show and chief executive officer of the Organic Produce Network, an affiliated organization. “We are focused on providing information and education.”Matt-SeeleyMatt Seeley

The format will be similar to the previous shows as it will take place over two days with a field tour and opening reception on day one, followed by a trade show at the Monterey Conference Center the following day. “We added 18 booth spaces and have sold out the exhibit hall,” he said. “We are expanding to 148 exhibitors, while maintaining the intimacy and energy that has been evident at our previous shows.”

As of April 1, Seeley said 220 retailers have signed up to attend and the pace of total attendee signups points to the more than 1,500 number, which could represent as much as a 20 percent increase in convention-goers.

The educational sessions, which will take place on July 11 from 8 a.m. until the exhibit hall opens at 1 p.m., will feature two main speakers, a diverse retail roundtable and a handful of breakout sessions. Chef and celebrated author Dan Barber will share the keynote duties with activist Robyn O’Brien, who has been called the food industry’s Erin Brockovich.

The Retailer Roundtable will include a nationwide online seller of fresh produce as well as a bricks and mortar operator from East Coast and another from the West Coast. Greg Corrigan will represent Sacramento, CA-based Raley’s Grocery Stores, while the East Coast will be represented by Vic Savanello of The Fresh Market, which has stores in 22 states in the eastern half of the country. Don Barnett, chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Sun Basket, will give a perspective from an online viewpoint.

The educational sessions will explore such topics as organic wholesaling, meal kits at retail, food waste, the global organic food supply and a deep dive into organic sales data. Featuring candid commentary and thought-provoking discussion, the session will highlight how each retailer incorporates organic fresh produce in their operations, as well as their analysis on the challenges, opportunities and future of the multi-billion-dollar organic fresh produce industry.

“While the grocery industry continues to evolve to meet the growing needs of consumers, we are excited for OPS attendees to hear from three prominent and progressive leaders offering organic fresh produce to consumers across the nation, “ said Susan Canales, president of the Organic Produce Summit. “The Retailer Roundtable will dive into organic produce category strategies, product mix and how technology is changing the game. This promises to be an insightful and informative panel discussion from leaders of major East and West Coast retailers and the leading online organic retailer exclusively focused on organic fresh produce and ingredients.”

Seeley said organic produce is still topping the charts as far as growth items in the produce department are concerned, though the base has risen so dramatically that double-digit year over year increases are difficult to maintain. “Last year for the first time this decade, we did not have a double-digit increase in the produce department,” he said. “According to the Organic Trade Association, overall growth was 8 percent, but we did have double digit increases in several different categories. The berry category is on fire and bananas and avocados are also showing significant increases.”

Seeley said organic produce is now a $15 billion category “and more importantly, it is organic produce that is the gateway to other organic foods for the consumer.”