With another successful Fresh Summit in the books, we can safely say that this year’s expo was one to remember. Our only regret: in our annual tongue-in-cheek pre-Fresh Summit post (Your Fresh Summit Experience in a Nutshell), we missed a huge opportunity to warn you about the (literally) hair-raising weather in Orlando—talk about humidity!
The Fresh Summit 2018 Experience
During the much-anticipated State of the Industry address, PMA’s Cathy Burns stated that she “would be surprised if you didn’t feel the difference this year.” Needless to say, the Fresh Summit planning committee brought the heat, and the 2018 PMA Expo was hot, hot, hot for exhibitors and attendees alike! And it wasn’t just business development conversations that were fruitful: discussions around how we can contribute to furthering the industry really stood out during this year’s education sessions. We felt encouraged to embrace trends in technology, automation, sustainability, and marketing alike so that our industry can continue advancing to its full potential. Keynote speaker Peyton Manning reminded us all of the importance of having a plan (or 5) and of being prepared to PIVOT at any moment. As produce marketers, we can certainly relate!
While we struggled to connect with some of the changes and discussed topics, by and large, Fresh Summit delivered. Without further ado, here’s what blew us away at PMA Fresh Summit 2018:
“The Produce Industry will win if we are able to innovate, pivot, and meet the demands of society.”
In Cathy Burns’ State of the Industry address, key themes for 2018 and 2019 were clear: embracing technological innovations will be necessary for our industry to meet changing consumer demands. Whether it’s blockchain technology or Sally the Salad Robot, produce companies need to be on top of their game when it comes to embracing available technology that could better their businesses. Education sessions also emphasized the importance of predictive and real-time data, given that transportation shortages will require companies to adapt or get left behind. For produce companies that are on a tight budget and unsure of where to begin, Dr. Andrew Pelling of The Pelling Lab gave great advice: start with just one project, test it, and go from there. Don’t try to adopt too many new technologies at once!
Cathy Burns also presented riveting information for companies seeking to hire and retain valuable talent in the coming years, including the fact that there is a global shortage of talent at all levels, which will force companies to be innovative in order to attract and retain employees. To help produce companies compete with other industries, PMA and the Center for Growing Talent have developed an exciting (and free) new HR tool called HRvest! While this is new, we see tremendous value here and are thrilled to see member dollars at work in this way.
Meanwhile, on the shopper side of life, people are spending more money than ever online, especially when buying food. Online food sales more than tripled from 2013 to 2018 and are expected to quadruple over the next five years. These are statistics we absolutely must keep in mind as we plan ahead to market our products effectively in the face of changing shopping trends.
Outstanding booth displays garner elevated foot traffic and buzz on the show floor
Every year, there is great anticipation surrounding the announcement of the Best in Show contest winners. First, we’d like to further congratulate this year’s winners: way to go Triple H Produce and Snack it Forward/Peatos, who took home the coveted awards for Best Island and Best In-Line Booth at Fresh Summit. In addition to those two stand-outs, we’d like to highlight several of the other outstanding booth attractions that caught our eye (well, and our taste buds...).
From the cobblestone walkway to the strategically organized product placement within the booth, we were delighted to see this level of sophistication brought to the Fresh Summit show floor. This booth not only showcased the company’s heritage and new expansions, its earth-friendly construction also caught our eye!
Ocean Mist’s Fall Flavor Giveaway pairs the company’s fresh artichokes with the on-trend Instant Pot, and the team from Castroville cleverly showcased this trend in-booth. The larger-than-life-size shipper was a talking point for anyone familiar with the popular kitchen appliance, and the creative display allowed Ocean Mist artichokes to shine on the show floor. Our team also loved the organic display—the brightly colored packaging and well-lit display shelf really highlighted the brand’s growing commitment to organics.
Not only did SUNSET do a great job generating buzz around their highly anticipated party (which featured Duran Duran this year), they also did a great job of building excitement around their new Wow™ Berries offering, which had its own special booth—complete with a bright yellow display that was impossible to miss! The brand’s commitment to flavor innovations was clear, as demonstrated by their Aloha™ Peppers and Shazam!™ Shishito Peppers.
Innovative Floral Displays
If you had the opportunity to follow your nose to the floral section of the show floor, you were able to experience merchandising at its best. This year’s innovative, never-before-seen floral displays were simply captivating.
In their home state for the show this year, Duda showcased their deep Florida roots with a stunning booth and an engaging way for visitors to get involved. The booth featured the delicious creations of Chef Todd Fisher (who crafted some of our favorite bites from the entire show!) and a giant “Celtar” that provided legacy cards to show-goers. In exchange for visitors sharing their legacies with the Duda team, the company donated $5 per share toward a new salad bar in a local Ft. Lauderdale school—what a legacy, and what a way to give back to this industry!
Strategic partnerships give attendees more reasons to stop and learn more
The show floor was filled with creative cocktails and delicious small bites, and the California Giant booth stood out among the rest with its branded and creatively canned Strawberry Scary Berry Blonde brew. The beer was created in partnership with neighboring Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and tasted quite clearly of Cal Giant’s organic strawberries. Full of flavor and wrapped in an awesomely spooky branded can, this beer was a huge hit!
Double Diamond Farms’ rock star approach had us running down the aisles (no regrets) seeking a photo op with Gene Simmons of KISS! His presence was the talk of the show, and it’s safe to say he flooded the #FreshSummit streams on social media.
Talk about a match made in heaven! These two powerhouse brands announced prior to the show that Cuties clementines are now the official citrus of Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, a designation that gives Cuties exclusive clementine access to the beloved sprawling entertainment complexes in California and Florida this season. We learned from the Sun-Pacific team that there are several exciting ways these brands will be working to delight theme park visitors as well as shoppers in-store in the year to come.
An experiential booth experience keeps buyers engaged
Michael, the captivating and entertaining mentalist in the Stemilt booth, blew us away with his sleight of hand and clever tricks that kept us—along with three retail buyers—captivated in the booth.
Always a favorite on the show floor, the Avocados from Mexico booth did not disappoint in 2018! From placing a custom avo-dog order to letting the Avo-matic test their knowledge about avocado attributes and import information, attendees had plenty of reason to form long lines down the aisle each day! (For the record, DMA team members not only passed the quiz—meaning we are officially “Avo-Masters”—but we also have quite strong opinions about the exact toppings that make for the perfect avo-dog. We’ll spare you the in-depth details on that topic though—you’re welcome.)
As they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and that is precisely the point of Fowler Farms’ in-booth Whack-a-Health-Risk game. Attendees took a crack at diseases like diabetes and cancer in a fun, interactive method for showcasing how apples and cider can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
This clever machine takes the mess out of slicing a pineapple at home by handling that task in the store! It’s simple: just insert a whole pineapple into the Pina Bar, and 20 seconds later you have perfectly sweet, ready-to-eat pineapple slices. We couldn’t agree more with the Dutch Food Technology philosophy—Fresh is indeed more fun!
Mucci Farms blew us away with the versatility of their snacking lineup. After the success of the company’s Veggies to Go snack packs, Mucci Farms recognized the need to offer a less child-focused version of their product. What really stands out is the level of customization available to retailers, who can customize packaging to create the perfect mix of snacking veggies.
Transparent and Sustainable Packaging Solutions
The team at AirFlo introduced us to their sleek, flexible, almost invisible packaging, which helps put the focus on products without distractions or obstructions. They also showed us the company’s innovative lighting systems that can individually light each product on a shelf, highlighting the packaging and brand name quite prominently. As fresh produce marketers, we understand the common frustration with conventional merchandising shelves—it’s difficult to sell your products when shadowy, dirty shelving panels conceal the packaging. Luckily, AirFlo has presented a viable solution for improving visibility in the produce aisle.
Genuine Coconut’s branding statement is, “Be authentic.” With an innovative product that’s 100% biodegradable and packed inside its original, Mother Nature-given casing, we can say that the brand is staying true to its mission. We loved the crafting of the hole in the top that streamlines accessing the pure, raw coconut water hidden inside—and we especially loved the added convenience of the straw packed on the bottom!
Because Wholesum Harvest is a company that consistently touts its commitment to sustainability, we loved seeing new packaging that was on-trend and oh-so-adorable! Kaleidos are packed in 100% plastic-free, compostable packaging that also will look great merchandised in the produce department. As consumers grow increasingly aware of plastics being used in product packaging, this move is as smart as it is pretty.
In addition to plastic-free packaging, we can say that sleek, resealable plastic lid options were seen across the tradeshow floor and dominated the Fresh Ideas Showcase. Companies like Sonoco Products and Earthcycle touted the sustainability benefits of reseal lidding, including reducing your plastic footprint and providing the added benefit of more artistic and branding freedom.
LGS brought big flavor in a smaller size with its Tiny Tim’s avocados—now shipping in bags! These mini avocados are an on-trend solution to address shopper’s growing concerns about food waste, and the single-serving size is perfect for snacking. These perfectly portioned avocados complement the brand’s entire line of fresh fruits, including their Darling Clementines®, which are in season 365 days a year!
Plant-Based proteins and vegan-friendly products are HOT!
This better-for-you brand showcased five new plant-based dips at their booth, which ended up being the talk of the show floor. Influencers, trade media, and everyone else who sampled the Avocado Pesto zoodles, Buffalo-style dip, or Queso mashed potatoes could not stop talking about how delicious the products were. We’re huge fans, and we have high hopes for these products on the shelf!
Avocado-based treats were popular at this year’s show, but none captured our attention (and taste buds) quite like the Calavo Chocolate Mousse! This creamy, dairy-free creation was a healthy hit on the show floor. Retailers are sure to love the snack-pack-sized packaging, and shoppers will love the healthy alternative to preservative-filled puddings. Way to go, Calavo!
Brands to Watch in 2019
In addition to brilliant marketing and product additions from the industry brands we all know and love, we couldn’t help but notice a few up-and-coming brands we’d be remiss to overlook! Here is our list of brands to watch in 2019:
This New York-based brand has been on our radar for a few years now, but they came to Fresh Summit with new expansions to their growing line of products, including pestos and salad dressings. We’ve can’t wait to see what they display on their home turf during the New York Produce Show in December!
We couldn’t help but stop and take a second look at this tongue-in-cheek brand. It’s true: fresh is often beautiful, but healthy snacks just won’t always be the prettiest, so why not embrace that? This brand is going to resonate well with Gen Z, so we’re keeping our eyes peeled for more from them!
This clever brand caught our eye during United Fresh earlier this year, and with a win for “best in-line booth” at the expo, they sure aren’t slowing down! While we are always advocates for fresh snacks, as busy marketers, we sometimes need a shelf-stable, grab-and-go option to get us through the day. We’re thrilled to see brands like Peatos providing better-for-you options. On that note: are there opportunities for fresh brands or dips to collaborate with Peatos...? Our wheels are turning!
Who says sauerkraut can’t be foodie-centric and—dare we say it—sexy? This first-time exhibitor caught our eye with well-designed packaging and a variety of flavors that will step up anyone’s tailgating (or “home-gating”) spread. What we especially love about this product is that it more likely than other available options to appeal to men, a demographic we’ve mentioned isn’t getting produce marketers' full-attention.
We had to stop and admire this chuckle-inducing product and psychedelic branding. While they may have an interesting road ahead where SEO and keyword-ranking are concerned, we know consumers are going to find humor in the packaging too. We loved learning that the product makes for a great crouton substitute, so we expect to see this mushroom snack brand doing fun things in the years ahead!
Overall, our experience at the show this year was outstanding, and we heard similar sentiments from exhibitors. The only suggestion for PMA that we felt was consistently echoed is that the additional hour on the show floor on Friday wasn’t needed. This is great news for PMA, because at the end of the day, it means that exhibitors felt great about the connections they made with buyers between 10am and 5pm on Friday!
Now that we’ve (almost) caught up on sleep, our overriding show reflection is that we continue to be blown away by the huge strides in marketing excellence our industry makes each year. We continue to see produce companies step away from “commodity-centric” comfort zones and into newly earned roles as dominant trade names and brands. As we result, we know beyond a doubt that this industry will continue to positively impact the world, and that we are well on our way to realizing our larger mission: to inspire more people to eat more FRESH!
If you agree with our shout-outs—or would like to add one that we missed—leave us a comment or tweet us @TheCoreBlog using the hashtag #WBUA!