Fresh, fun and in the sun

United Fresh 2013 is gearing up for an event full of education and networking.

“One of the largest shows yet,” is what United Fresh vice president John Toner is calling the upcoming United Fresh 2013 convention and exposition. Set to take place May 14–16 in sunny San Diego, the event will boast a revamped schedule, a couple of new receptions and the introductory meetings of two new councils. The itinerary was designed to open the doors for more networking among attendees, exhibitors and educators.

chelanWith more exhibitors and attendees, there is going to be a lot of opportunity for learning and knowledge-sharing to take place peer-to-peer,” says Toner, who is the vice president of convention and industry relations for the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

Building on the existing Expert Council Workshop series, two new councils are being introduced to the mix and holding their inaugural meetings. The Finance and Business Management Council will look at ways that produce operations can be run more profitably and the regulations that affect them and the general business climate. The Produce Marketing and Merchandising Council will look at how the industry comes to market and evaluate what works and where improvements can be made. Both consist of members from across the supply chain.

Some industry concerns that will be addressed at the council workshops and throughout the General and Super Sessions include Food Safety, the need for labor and immigration reform, new transportation regulations, merchandising strategies and the role of technology, among many others. “We have a fantastic line-up of speakers,” says Toner. “We have all the major people who conduct research to really talk about what people need to be looking for in the future.”

There will also be a lot of celebrating going on. For the first time, United Fresh will host a welcome reception for all new members, attendees and exhibitors, as well as a wholesaler/distributor reception, which will help connect industry members from different regions.

For many though, the highlight remains the Chairman’s Reception and Produce Celebration Dinner where 25 produce managers will be honored with the Retail Produce Manager Awards, and six executive chefs will be recognized with the Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards. “The produce managers are the front line. A produce manger can swing produce sales 20% in either direction. Fresh produce can be 20% to 30% of store sales so that is huge. These awards are a very big deal,” Toner says.

Lisa McNeece, vice president, foodservice and industrial sales of Grimmway Enterprises, will be honored at the Women in Produce reception.

Roaming the show floor
Here is a sampling of what attendees can find on the show floor.

C.H. Robinson
C.H. Robinson (#207), based in Eden Prairie, Minn., is standing up for the environment with its new Eco-crate made from recyclable plastic. Weighing less than current container solutions, company officials say it performs well in extensive post-harvest treatment of fresh sweet corn and, due to overall design and material performance, 30% more crates can be loaded per truckload.

Chelan Fresh Marketing
Mickey Mouse and the rest of the Disney gang will be the stars of Chelan Fresh’s booth (#446). The Chelan, Wash.-based grower will be showing off its Disney-themed cherries. The 2-pound bags of dark, sweet cherries feature characters, such as Phineas and Ferb, the Disney Princesses, Mickey and Friends, Cars and other Disney TV and movie stars.

Church Brothers
After success in the foodservice sector, Church Brothers (#941) is bringing three unique lettuce varieties to retail. Heirloom Spinach, Wasabi Arugula and Italian Greens Baby Kale Blend are available in both clamshell packaging for retail and bagged for foodservice/deli counters. “There has been a lot of interest because they are so unique,” says Ernst Van Eeghan, director of marketing and produce development for the Salina, Calif.-based company. “Retailers want to color up their set a bit with some unique specialty items that might drive some excitement to the category.”

Hollandia Produce
Hollandia Produce (#646) has gone organic. Attendees can check out the Carpinteria, Calif.-based company’s organic Living Butter Lettuce and Living Watercress sold under the Grower Pete’s Organic brand. “It has been well received by the community and people are seeing the value; the demand is bigger than we can fill right now,” says Vince E. Coate, director of marketing. The organic-certified line of hydroponically grown lettuces is a finalist in the New Products Competition.

Naturipe Farms
Naturipe Farms (#512) has something for everything. The Salinas, Calif.-based company will be showcasing its new Bouquet Pack strawberry long-stem clamshell, clamshell-free sustainable organic berry packaging, bulk-pack, ready-to-eat blueberries, fresh cranberry products and a few proprietary berry varieties. Attendees can also check out Naturipe’s Total Berry Solution, which includes not only fresh berries, but value-added, IQF, concentrate and pureed.

WP Rawl
WP Rawl (#816) will be introducing its Roaster Griller Kits designed to take the guesswork out of selecting and cutting up vegetables. The kits come in Green Beans, Carrots, Potatoes; Vegetable Medley; and Kabob Kit. “We strive to offer customers a variety of options as they make their purchasing decisions,” says Ashley Rawl, director of marketing for the Pelion, S.C.-based company.

Wish Farms
Wish Farms (#539) has been growing strawberries for more than 50 years. The Plant City, Fla.-based year-round supplier continues to expand on its offerings with an ever-expanding year-round blueberry program with growers in nine regions, as well as growing bell peppers, grape tomatoes, eggplant and other select vegetables.

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