As the show floor doors opened this past Sunday, a flood of foot traffic filled the expo hall and the large outdoor tent behind the Portola Hotel & Spa in Monterey, CA. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Marissa stepped onto the show floor with me ready to experience her very first tradeshow. PMA Foodservice is my favorite show of the year and certainly one of the best shows for first-timers, and the 2017 expo did not disappoint. We take it the exhibitors agree, as attendees packed into the expo halls like sardines eager to experience each company’s fresh take on foodservice solutions.
Not only was the foot traffic at an all-time high, but the educational sessions that took place prior to the show were top-notch. Overall, PMA Foodservice in its entirety blew us away this year, and here are just a few reasons why:
Top-Notch Education Session Takeaways
Emphasis on Creating Experiences and Storytelling
Speaker David Nour of the Nour Group stated something that we hope made an impact on every marketer in the room:
“You need to create deep, meaningful relationships with your customers and consumers that are more than transactional if you are to survive and grow with the next generation of shoppers.”
We’ve mentioned the importance of digital storytelling and experiential marketing in the past, so to hear this echoed in front of the produce marketers in the room felt validating. Nour is spot on in his push for companies to evolve to be more than just transactional. His presentation was filled with examples of how brands like Amazon and Under Armor have been successful with this strategy. On the flipside, we learned how iteration in the hotel industry allowed AirBnB to swoop in and blindside them. This is a great reminder that getting caught up in the “if it aint broke…” mentality is a slippery slope for produce companies. We have to invent and evolve for the future or we may not see the next “AirBnB of produce” coming.
Encouraging Disruption, not Just Innovation; Customization, not Standardization
AirBnB disrupted the hotel industry. Netflix disrupted and ultimately destroyed Blockbuster’s business when Blockbuster dismissed Netflix as a fad and passed on purchasing the company in 2000. Overtime, being simply innovative isn’t going to be enough; it’s the disruptors that are making impacts and the brands that are reaching for more customized content and personalized experiences, vs. standardizing what they have to offer that are going to succeed.
During the PMAFSC education sessions, we learned about disruptive trends that fresh produce companies need to lean into and evolve with, rather than ignore. The delivery wave, with apps like Postmates, GrubHub, AmazonFresh and UberEats, is an example of a disruptive trend produce brands should be working toward complementing sooner rather than later.
Understanding your shopper’s preferences and WHY they buy your products, not just when or what they buy, will be key to offering personalization on a deeper level. As we talked about the latest trends, we learned that consumers are looking for clean labeling with shorter ingredient lists and more information about where their food was grown. How are you gathering data that will help you understand why people buy your products?
Disruptive First-Time Exhibitors
First-time exhibitor Oregon Fruit Products presented their Fruit in Hand Pourable Fruit as one product with 3 uses: a juice, a cocktail base, and a topping for cheesecakes, breakfasts, and savory dishes. With the demand for variety facing foodservice professionals today, presenting their product with cross-functional applications it provides a smart, cost-effective solution to the demand for variety facing foodservice professionals today.
Jackfruit as a Meat-Substitute
Exciting newcomers The Jackfruit Company presented savory tacos and meatless appetizers made from their (incredibly popular and SUPER on-trend) jackfruit. As the demand for meatless options increases, Jackfruit is quickly becoming a major solution and stole the show at this foodie-focused expo. Foodservice professionals are dying to get their hands on this meat-substitute that offers variety for sweet and savory meals.
Green Herbs International Innovating the Meal Kit
The folks at E.D. Produce/Green Herbs International are innovating the way consumers receive options in their meal kits by packing herbs in portions specifically designed for your meal. By rethinking the way they packaged their herbs, this company is responding to the growing meal kit market and providing the industry with more options for consuming their product.
Shanley Farms’ Citriburst Pearls
At Shanley Farms, we experienced finger limes for the first time. These movers and shakers are bringing a new flavor option to consumers with “citrus caviar” that brightens the plate in both flavor and color. From the lime-green logo to the cute canning jars, this brand is bringing fun and freshness to this space. We can think of hundreds of ways for consumers to take these finger lime pearls into their homes, whether it be muddled in a summery cocktail, topped on a street taco, or sprinkled atop a cheesecake.
Food Trends to Follow: Global Cuisines
Lucky Foods’ Burst of Flavor with Kimchi
During Saturday’s Let’s Talk About Trends panel, we learned that young people index higher in trying different global cuisines. The folks at Lucky Foods responded by bringing authentic Asian flavor with cauliflower Kimchi. This natural probiotic is sure to resonate with young people who value a gluten-free, raw and healthy diet. As produce moves to the center of the plate, look for condiments and flavorings like Lucky’s Kimchi sauce to resonate with consumers adding flavor to their veggies.
Zespri’s SunGold Kiwi from New Zealand
At Saturday’s Chef Talk strolling lunch, we were introduced to a different pickled produce: pickled SunGold Kiwi! Zespri’s Pork Sliders took home the (sun) gold by offering a savory approach to a traditionally sweet snacking fruit. We saw several brands bring their interpretations of the pickled trend to the show, but Chef Domenica Catelli’s sliders brought creativity and innovation that got us thinking about using kiwi in new ways.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods’ Poke Bowl
Chef Todd Fisher brought Hawaiian flair to the show floor with Spicy Tuna Poke Bowls. Forbidden Jasmine rice, edamame, and crisp radish Ministicks added texture and exotic flavor to this popular dish. Duda presented their product in a new, trendy application, enabling foodservice professionals to see radishes as more than just a salad topping.
Stand Out Booths
Hampton Farms’ Nut Butter Mill Discount Sale
Hampton Farms brought along their heavy-duty equipment at a special show-only discount price! Foodservice professionals could see how simple creating in-house nut butter could be and with a discount of $700, who could resist a show-floor purchase? Plus by selling their nut butter mill at the end of the show, Hampton Farms didn’t have to worry about getting it home- a win-win!
California Endive Farms’ Rooted Produce
California Endive presented their produce still attached to its roots, playing on the “living herbs” trend growing with consumers and foodservice operators alike. If the beautiful, earthy display didn’t catch your attention, their tagline: “Quite Possibly the World’s Newest Vegetable,” did! We were excited to learn about the 22-year long journey that brought Coraline to the market, and we were blown away by the brand’s ability to market the assets that made them unique.
Sun Orchards’ Think Pink Booth
Bright colors and a philanthropic tie-in caught our attention at the Sun Orchards booth. This crew hosted an in-booth promotion in which a portion of sales benefitted breast cancer awareness. This kind of philanthropy and company culture stood out to us as social responsibility grows in importance to consumers.
One INCREDIBLE Booth
Owyhee Produce was a best in show winner for a reason. You couldn’t walk by the booth without stopping by to take note of all the detail put into this stunning display. The Owyhee booth spoke volumes about the company’s story and focus on family and clearly demonstrates their commitment to marketing and storytelling. From the barn-style booth to the onion peel floor, the booth stood out as a branding behemoth. We even received a booklet that walked us through the history of this family farm. The last page of this “storybook” gave us information on how to start our order, breaking away from the traditional business card.
The 2017 PMA Foodservice Expo was certainly the best Foodservice expo we’ve attended in years. From education, to excited and engaged exhibitors to a high level of foot traffic and sales meetings, this show knocked it out of the park. We can only envision how much more exciting things will become as the Portola completes the new convention center between the hotel and the Marriott hotel. Things can only get bigger and better!