Despite the 4th Annual Viva Fresh Expo’s intimate setting, this regional show continues to offer Texas-sized results and a friendly southern charm that you can’t find at any other produce event throughout the year. The food offerings were top-notch, conference sessions were extremely well-attended and the tradeshow floor was packed immediately following the ribbon cutting on Saturday morning at the JW Marriott in San Antonio.
While on the show floor, we were impressed to see so many booths showcasing vibrant colors, offering creative giveaways, sampling on-trend tastes and displaying consistent branding and brand stories compared to previous years. Here are a few of the things that blew us away during this year’s expo:
Even before the show kicked off on Saturday, attendees had the opportunity to immerse themselves in educational sessions and glean inspiration from a great speaker lineup. In particular, we wanted to see if we can get an “Amen!” for Phil Gowke’s keynote speech! Informative and entertaining, learning about generations was an engaging conversation to have over lunch. As marketers, his insights on generational differences and how we should adjust our efforts accordingly was music to our ears. We have already signed up for the BridgeWorks newsletter and can’t wait to learn more about reaching different generations.
We’d also like to mention that we were excited to see a packed room for the session on Amazon and Technology on Friday morning. This session was the perfect precursor to the keynote session on generations as it focused on the technology Gen Z is going to come to expect from brands in the next 10 - 20 years. The speaker challenged companies in the room to really think about what their role can be with voice technology, like Amazon Alexa, which will be a primary tool for Gen Z to make buying decisions in the future.
Premium Guava’s Fun Swag
Premium Guava captured our attention with their creative (and numerous) giveaways in their vibrant booth. No matter what your style or preference, these guys had something fun for you to leave with - shot glasses (our favorite), bottle openers, fancy pens, and more. Most creative, however, was the brand’s sampling box, which included one fresh guava fruit and included the company’s messaging, social media handles, and guava benefits - a very creative way to continue engaging with people even after they’ve left the booth.
The National Watermelon Board’s Toolkits
We love when a brand, or in this case a Board, is able to showcase how they’re communicating with consumers, influencers, and trade communities. The National Watermelon Board’s use of bright, easy to understand, and helpful resources for different communications caught our eye. When we spoke with the team, they walked us through their tailored approach to getting the right information to the right audiences - ultimately to increase watermelon consumption. Whether you’re a registered dietician and need materials for your clients, or a retail buyer and need education and POS materials, The Watermelon Board is ready!
Rio Fresh’s Bento Boxes
Rio Fresh brought the latest in snacking and school lunch sensations, giving away bento boxes as booth swag. By doing so, the brand showed they are in-the-know about consumption trends and that their produce is perfect for inspiring healthy lunches. The brand pushed beyond standard booth swag, giving show visitors something they will actually use, reminding them of the brand each use.
Montero Farms’ Handmade Pens
So pens aren’t exactly a unique tradeshow giveaway, but when they’re handmade in your family’s home town in Mexico, that’s another story! Along with their signature hot pink labels, Montero farms offered colorful, handmade pens that you couldn’t help but admire as you passed by their booth. We loved hearing about the Montero Family’s culture and history and applaud them for displaying this in a unique way through their booth and branding.
Trending Food Samples
Food trends are basically a hobby of ours at DMA, and we’re constantly following the latest food trends so that we can implement them into our clients’ marketing strategies. This year’s Viva Fresh exhibitors showed they’ve also kept an eye on food trends with some trendy samples in their booths.
Wholly Guacamole’s Avocado Toast
We all know now that the real reason millennials aren’t buying houses is because they can’t get enough avocado toast (sarcasm), so of course Wholly Guacamole kept visitors coming back to snack on this trendy treat! Their Simply Avocado Dip & Spread is hot in stores, bringing convenience to consumers looking to make breakfast simpler, and this booth highlighted just how easy the convenient spread really is. The brand also prepared their digital assets for post-show traffic, showcasing this avocado toast recipe on their website homepage.
Bolthouse’s Snacks with a Southwestern Flair
San Antonio is the Tex-Mex capital of the world, so Bolthouse Farms spiced things up by staying true to the city’s flavors. The brand brought the heat with their Veggie Snackers, offering chili and lime seasoning in their carrot snacks. This snacking innovation stood out on the show floor, attracting visitors who wanted to try the unique spicy combination. This snack pairing makes strategic sense for southern retailers, since retail sales for herbs and spices have grown by more than $223 million over the past four years.
Montero’s Chamoy and Jicama Sticks
Montero Farms kept the spicy flavor flowing with a fountain of chamoy, giving booth visitors a sample of their fresh jicama as a dipping utensil. This creative display was a show stopper - literally stopping attendees on the floor to taste the pairing and chat with the sales team. The brand succeeded in making their samples an experience for booth visitors, keeping them engaged beyond the cups of product.
Cabefruit’s Dried Jackfruit Snacks
Jackfruit is on of the hottest food trends out there, so we were excited to check out this new dried snacking product from Cabefruit and Cabello Group. This tasty treat serves as a fresher, healthier substitute for beef jerky! Packed with protein, we can’t wait until we can buy this new product in stores because we simply can’t get enough of it!
Brand Stories and Beautiful Rebrands on Display
Wilson Produce’s Painted Mural
Wilson Produce brought more southwestern vibes to the show with a booth backdrop that told their brand story. The backdrop featured a mural the team had painted in their office, showing the brand’s facilities and communicating the company’s value of responsible family farming. Chris Martin, CEO, told us about the search for the artist and the time she spent working with the Wilson team to ensure a comprehensive understanding and depiction of what Wilson produce stands for. The booth was certainly a conversation piece, and the south Texas art style made a big impact on the San Antonio show floor.
North Shore Living’s Excellent Brand Consistency
North Shore Living launched their beautifully re-branded packaging and products late last year, but what caught our attention at Viva Fresh is not just that their brand was reflected in the booth and on package. Everything from display cases to business cards and even to the attire that the team wore was reflective of the new branding. The adaptation of the re-brand to all marketing materials, as well as the story that the new branding told made us jump for joy as marketers.
Bushman’s Casual Branding Approach
A trade show booth that attracts an audience is a trade show booth that understands its audience - and Bushman’s deserve a shout out for doing just that. While the branding in the booth display itself was subtle, the booth featured a large screen for visitors to watch the Masters and a keg that enabled the brand to welcome casual, friendly interactions that will inevitably lead to sales conversations. Instead of leading with a buttoned up branding display, Bushman’s centered the booth around the visitor experience, enabling them to tell their story about what it’s like to work with them on the show floor.
Fyffes’ Bright Collateral
Fyffes went through a rich rebrand a few years ago and is making its presence known in the United States! With a travel themed booth, we learned that this brand has traditionally had a bigger presence in Europe, but following their rebrand they’re putting additional focus Stateside. We loved seeing their brand consistently use their signature gold and navy colors throughout their collateral, perfectly complementing tropical offerings like pineapples and bananas.
Covilli’s Creative Storytelling
With beautiful photography and packaging on display, Covilli caught our eye with their “truly organic, truly fair” messaging. Dedicated to offering only fair trade certified products and spreading their message, Covilli had an iPad in their booth to showcase the fair trade premium contributions and what that means as a consumer. The transparency that this brand is offering by educating the consumer on its practices is truly remarkable and we loved learning more about this brand’s story!
Aggies for Fresh Spotlight
Of course we can’t talk about what blew us away at Viva Fresh without mentioning Aggies for Fresh and the continued support that blows us away each year!
Through the invaluable partnership between Texas International Produce Association and DMA Solutions, nine Texas A&M students attended the Viva Fresh Expo as a part of an experiential scholarship. With a focus on networking, education and building relationships, the show is a perfect opportunity to welcome talented students to a career in the fresh produce industry. This year, the nine students varied in majors such as agribusiness, horticulture, agricultural leadership and business, but all were eager to learn more about fresh produce. As soon as the students arrived to San Antonio, they were welcomed with passionate handshakes that continued to meaningful conversations throughout the weekend.
Following an enlightening luncheon and educational sessions, the Aggies for Fresh reception offered industry members an opportunity to mingle and learn more about each student’s unique interest to the industry. We’d like to give a HUGE thank you to Azzule, Tex-Mex Sales, Pharr International Bridge, Triple H, Wonderful Citrus, and Fresh Kampo for sponsoring the reception along with the DMA Solutions.. With the support of industry leaders who introduced themselves to the students during the reception, the students’ eyes were opened to all of the potential this industry is offering them.
As the students walked the tradeshow floor, many companies took the time to meet with each student and for that we are grateful. The mission of the Aggies for Fresh campaign is to inspire students to consider a career in a purpose-driven industry, and that’s what we as an industry offer! We hope to continue this movement to other schools, but cannot do it alone. Thank you to the multitude of industry leaders that met with each students, listened to each student’s story, and offered a piece of advice to these nine Aggies – your contributions will no doubt help to shape careers!
If you did not have a chance to meet with the Aggies at the show or want to learn more about hosting successful internships, we’d like to offer a few helpful resources.
- 2018 Aggies for Fresh Scholarship Recipient Bios
- Internship Guide for Fresh Produce Companies
- Get involved with Aggies for Fresh
We cannot wait to revisit the amazing JW Marriott Hill Country Resort and Spa next year for another Viva Fresh. Hope to see you all in our home state April 25 - 27.