Whoa! The past ten days have been a whirl. After a three days in Atlanta for the NACS show and a couple days in the office finishing up GHQ’s November issue, it was off to New Orleans for the PMA Fresh Summit.
PMA. It is one of the few work events I am happy to give up my weekend for.
As you know by now, traveling to trade shows is one of my favorite job responsibilities – but not for the reasons that you may think (ahem, food!). Well, maybe a little bit for the reasons that you think (food!), but they do not play as big of a role as you think. Slow down; there is a lot of thinking going on in this paragraph.
What keeps me buzzing at these shows is mostly the people: The people. The passion. The products. This combination is at its finest at PMA.
Now, I know what you are saying. “You are GHQ’s ‘fresh foods editor,’ of course you are partial to the produce category.” And you are right. Sorry other guys; they are my peeps.
But biased aside, these down-to-earth guys and gals (pun intended) know their stuff and love what they do. They love their fruits, their vegetables, their recipes, their packaging, their farms, their companies, their co-workers – which are also often family members. PMA is one of the few places that you can walk up to a booth, start chatting with the person standing in front, and not even realize that they are the owner/founder/CEO of the company.
One of my favorite growers to talk to is George Wooten, owner of Wayne E. Bailey Co., who sells his sweet potatoes under the Green Giant Fresh brand among others. Each and every produce show you can find the grower standing in the aisle in front of his booth with a huge smile on his face as if he had just discovered sweet potatoes that morning.
George was there this weekend. He was smiling. He made me smile.
The guys over at Shuman Produce also put a smile on my face. After three years of emailing and phone calls, I finally met the one and only Adam Brady, who handles their press. There is nothing like putting a face to name… and to a voice… and written voice… and jokes… and family stories. Shuman is one of those booths where, if you get lost, you can head over and put your feet up and have a snack while your team finds you. Ummm, no – ahem – that didn’t, umm, happen to one of us.
Adam was also nice enough to save me a sample of their on-site chef’s skills. Yummm.
I definitely did my fair share of taste-tasting at this year’s PMA. My eating skills were on full display for the team at the California Sun Dry booth, specifically, where I put forth my best effort to rid them of the remainder of their ingredients at the end of the last day by eating as many of their samples as my inner fat child could handle. Have you ever mixed chopped California Sun Dry sun-dried tomatoes into Wholly Guacamole? No? Go do it. Now. I’ll wait….
How genius is that?
That, along with the homemade sun-dried tomato soup recipe and sun-dried tomato salsa and sun-dried tomato/cream cheese/other things dip I devoured.
While I am sure it would have been just as delicious if an anonymous person placed it in front of me, the flavor was definitely enhanced by the care put into it. The company owners were all there sharing their secrets about how they came up with the recipes in their kitchens, playing around with ingredients until they had something that they felt best exhibited the flavor of their product and would win over PMA attendees.
It won me over. And my colleagues, who I will now admit to bringing to the booth just so I could eat more.
Oh, and did I mention they were using Wholly Guacamole? Who was also there. The Wholly Guac team are some of the most energized and fun people in the fresh foods’ department. We had to pull them away from a game of bean bag toss to chat about their new bean dips.
These company’s are just a couple examples – by no means are they the only ones that stood out – of the amazing food, beverages and passion on display. Oh, speaking of beverages, Bolthouse Farms has a whole slew of new things in the pipeline that you should stay tuned for. My favorite, a summertime juice blend, may even include a “hint of…” wait for it… wait for it – no seriously, you’ll have to wait for its debut next summer.
Fresh Summit is definitely my favorite place to visit. Maybe because they are my peeps or maybe just because I feel like I am in a friend’s kitchen.
It was the recipe for a good weekend – good people, lots of passion and delicious products!