What Blew Us Away (#WBUA):  Innovative Concepts and Powerful Personalities at Fresh Summit 2019

The 2019 Fresh Summit experience was refreshing and cleverly orchestrated by the staff at PMA.  We couldn’t feel happier about the value that we received as attendees given the number of take-aways and experiences that we had the pleasure to enjoy during the show, starting Wednesday with the Tour de Fresh finale all the way to the end of the expo on Saturday. 

With so much to write about, this year we are recapping the show in two What Blew Us Away (#WBUA) posts highlighting the experience as well as the overall marketing excellence exhibited at the show. From innovative concepts presented by PMA to the powerful personalities seen and heard during the show sessions, our first post will be highlighting the experiences that most certainly blew us away:

 Innovative Concepts


State of the Industry, with Cathy Burns

Each year, alongside thousands of our industry peers, our team awaits the highly anticipated State of the Industry address by Cathy Burns.  We leave this presentation year after year feeling validated in that our work in marketing truly matters, due to the global nature of our industry.  We continuously hear her implore companies to look toward marketing activations to help meet the growing and changing demands of consumers and to help elevate the work we’re all doing in the fresh produce industry.  Cathy spoke of innovation, giving us a glimpse into the future as well as positioning us all to prepare and adapt.  

Here are some of our team’s major take-aways from this year’s State of the Industry presentation:

  • Our industry should continue to learn about and embrace technological innovations, not just for technology’s sake, but in order to solve specific consumer pain points. 
  • In-home delivery is one example of future service innovations that retailers are looking to offer, and which will require an incredible amount of trust between consumers and retailers. How will produce brands participate more directly in these relationships? Will consumers trust retailer employees to pick their home delivery produce out for them?
  • Consumers continue to align themselves with brands that speak to their personal values. How are you positioning your company’s values to align with these consumers?  Are your messages more focused on you and your needs or on those of the people purchasing your products?
  • The themes of sustainability, transparency and traceability were echoed throughout the show, especially during the State of the Industry. Recent food safety issues have eroded consumers’ trust, and the food industry will need to work to provide more transparency into where food comes from, how it’s grown or processed, and about what practices each company embraces in order to regain and increase consumer trust. 
  • When it comes to sustainability, consumers and the fresh produce industry just might be speaking a different language. For instance, consumers want to know how companies are eliminating waste and saving energy whereas produce companies are often focused on sharing stories about water and soil. To create the desired impact, produce brands should also consider ways to speak to consumers about the sustainable practices they care most about.Health Halo
  • 3 mega trends are reshaping consumers lifestyles and purchasing decisions, namely:
    1. Aging Population
    2. Rapid Urbanization
    3. Accelerating Migration
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption is a key factor in maintaining optimal health, and everyone wants a piece of our health halo! Plant-based food innovations continue to shake up the market and consumer purchases. Case in point: meat substitutes are well on their way to notching $21.2 BILLION in sales by 2025. 
  • On average, adults spend 1 hour and 16 minutes watching videos every day, and video viewing is poised to absorb 80% of all web traffic.

Cathy’s challenge to the produce industry: How will we, as companies and as an industry, make a profound connection and impact on consumers?

You Don’t Have to be a Futurist to Predict What’s Next

What made this session so special and engaging was the format: sparks & honey’s “round table” seating complete with couches for viewing lent this session a relaxed, talk show-esque feel. Featured guest speakers—including our own CEO, Dan’l Mackey Almy—chimed in on the topics posed by sparks & honey in a discussion style format that felt more like a late night news show than the traditional education panel.  What a breath of fresh air!  


Here are some observations we made about this unique session:

  • About the Host:
    • sparks & honey describes itself as “a cultural consultancy.” According to the company’s website, they use “tech-led cultural intelligence to help organizations understand and take advantage of accelerating change.”
  • Themes that resonated with us:
    • Consumer perceptions of sustainability, “going green” and food waste as they relate to produce packaging continued to be a top-of-mind discussion during this session. One panelist raised a valid concern that a world without options such as, say, plastic wrap is actually a world with MORE food waste, which is counter to what shoppers likely think. Following this line of thinking, produce companies have a unique opportunity to educate consumers about how they are pursuing sustainability in a way that doesn’t sacrifice safety OR create more food waste in the process. It’s a tricky problem, and one very much worth the effort to educate consumers about!
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables are the healthiest foods on the planet, and consumers are increasingly looking to “clean up” their diets. So what makes them choose other options over fresh fruits and vegetables? The panel discussed the reality that indulgence is not going to go away. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be celebrated as indulgent too, however, if positioned and prepared in a way that speaks to indulgence versus “health and nutrition,” the things people “should” be eating regardless of whether they enjoy them. Our job as marketers is to help consumers understand that they can “indulge” while making healthier choices, and that healthy really can taste great!
    • During the state of the industry, Cathy mentioned that other food brands want in on our “health halo.” This led to a discussion about whether or not we should join brands that are “stealing fresh.” Should we allow other food items to continue to encroach on fresh? *Or* do we instead adjust our own consumer marketing to facilitate an innovative approach in order to combat these other brands’ historical power?
    • Contributors discussed two unlikely industries that produce can watch and learn from: beer and beauty! The beer industry is making some incredible innovations in the sustainable packaging space, and they continuously find interesting ways to tell stories about their companies that resonate with consumers beyond simply “buy our beer.” In the beauty space, fresh and natural trends are at the forefront, and beauty manufacturers often incorporate the next big “fresh food” trends into products before they hit the culinary scene. Acai masks and scrubs, anyone?
    • It’s undeniable: increased diversity is creating a food “renaissance.” Imagine: where would American cuisine be without the influence of immigrants? The modern family (in its many forms) is an exciting theme for culinary fans to consider, and the panel discussed ways that multi-generational families living under one roof can elevate fresh, innovative fusion cuisines and concepts. In turn, fresh produce brands can (and should!) find new and exciting ways to lean into multicultural recipes and cooking to better meet the needs and interests of a broader range of audiences. 

Solving Industry Issues One Pitch at a Time, with Robert Herjavec

In a Shark Tank-type setting, Robert Herjavec and three additional judges hosted the inaugural Thrive Fresh Summit Challenge, during which four companies competed for a chance to win $100,000 in investment value ($50,000 cash, $50,000 program) from SVG Ventures.  

Robert Herjavec

What resonated for us during this new format was that technology and next-gen solutions in agriculture are on the rise, and now is a great time to take a look at the innovators who will shape our industry tomorrow.


Global Street Festival

Who knew that Fresh Summit would have so much in common with the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival? From flower crowns to live music, the Global Street Festival was a fun place to mix and mingle with industry peers both during the official opening reception and throughout the expo!  

Danl Mackey Almy and Trent Bishop

We found ourselves regularly perusing the broadway of new and innovative offerings from PMA, including massage and hair braiding stations, fresh snacks, food trucks and games, all of which brought a whimsical flair to this year’s show.  This combination offered attendees a great opportunity to get some fresh air and mingle with friends, both on and off the show floor.  


As attendees, we very much appreciated these fun and entertaining additions. As marketers and members of PMA, we also greatly appreciated the effort to elevate the overall experience of the show, which is a clear result of listening to stakeholders of the show—and then taking action!

Powerful Personalities


Challenging Yourself to Victory, featuring Magic Johnson

If you weren’t already a Magic Johnson fan before Fresh Summit, you likely are now if you attended the motivating presentation by the former NBA MVP and businessman extraordinaire. During his speech, Magic worked the room and addressed industry attendees by name, asked them questions that helped him weave a story about leadership, perseverance, health, wealth and happiness.  We were truly inspired by not only this natural leader’s “get-up-and-participate” approach but also his tweetable quotes and lessons, including:

A winner wins

  • “I love it when people say you can’t do something.”
  • “A winner wins. A loser loses.”
  • “Do everything the right way and it will come back to you.”
  • “We can do well and do good at the same time.”

From a business standpoint, and when determining the best partners for his companies, Johnson considers 3 things: 

  1. The other company’s core values: do they align with his? Overall, successful partners must care about their communities.
  2. The CEO’s “DNA.”
  3. Whether the potential partner has built a strong executive team. 


According to Johnson, the “secret sauce” to his business success is the ability to adapt and change, and he encouraged the audience to consider this for their own businesses—which had us raising our hands in agreement!

Women’s Fresh Perspectives Leadership Breakfast, with Queen Latifah

While most of our team is of the millennial generation, Dan’l Mackey Almy and Megan Zweig spent their formative years growing up in the 90s. As a result, these ladies were fan-girling over this year’s Women’s Fresh Perspectives Leadership Breakfast, which featured none other than the magnificent Queen Latifah. A little background: New Jersey-born Dana Owens is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, producer and philanthropist. While her list of on screen accomplishments is long, and perhaps consists of her major claim to fame, for Dan’l and Megan, it is her rap music that hooked them straight out of 1993. 

queen latifah

“Queen Latifah was a feminist before it was widely accepted to speak up about sexism,” said Megan Zweig. “Songs like U.N.I.T.Y. promoted equality and respect for women from men, particularly in the rap community. As a Gen X-er, seeing Queen Latifah, hearing from this incredibly talented artist who really helped shaped a generation, was a high point that I will never forget!” 

Rest assured that Dan’l and Megan weren’t the only women excited to hear from this year’s guest speaker. In fact, the Center for Growing Talent reports that this year’s breakfast attracted more than 800 attendees, a record number (with a wait-list to boot).  Thinking back on the first women’s breakfast, which was hosted during the 2007 Fresh Summit, we were all so proud to see this event become so popular, and with both women and men alike.  Perhaps UNITY is possible after all!

Frieda Caplan Honored by Center for Growing Talent

We also had the extraordinary pleasure of celebrating one of Dan’l Mackey Almy’s heroes, Frieda Caplan, founder of Frieda’s Specialty Produce and recipient of the Women’s Catalyst Award.

The Women’s Catalyst Award recognizes an outstanding individual within the produce and floral industries who cultivates women’s potential by mentoring and fostering a path for leadership, development and participation. 


“There aren’t enough books in the world that could adequately capture the breadth and depth of knowledge that Frieda Caplan has earned as a fearless woman and business owner over the last 96 years, and as a result, I cannot think of anyone better suited to receive this award,”  said Dan’l Mackey Almy. “I have looked up to Frieda and appreciated her guts, grit and stick-to-it-iveness since I entered this industry, and especially when I decided to start my own company in 2004. Since then, she has coached me about being fearless, about having the strength to lead a legacy versus a company. Her inspiring words will last with me throughout my own lifetime, and I am grateful to call her a friend.”

Together, the team at DMA Solutions sends a well-earned congratulations to Frieda, as well as to the team that leads her legacy.

Simply can’t get enough highlights from the 2019 Fresh Summit?  We can’t either!  Stay tuned for Part 2 of our #WBUA series, which will feature standout examples of the marketing excellence we experienced first-hand on the show floor.

Ready for Fresh Summit 2020? We’ll see you in Dallas next year! For more information on how to elevate next year’s Fresh Summit experience in a brand new city, check out our #Dallas2020 initiative, and sign up to receive a year’s worth of exclusive content from our team of fresh produce marketers.