MONTEREY, CA -- The Produce Marketing Association's Foodservice
Conference & Exposition, held here July 30-Aug. 1, set a record for
attendance with registrations "approaching 1,700," according to PMA
President Bryan Silbermann. One hundred and fifty-three exhibitors
participated in the expo, which is also a record.
The three-day event kicked off Friday, July 30, with a PMA Foundation for
Industry Talent golf tournament benefiting the Nucci Scholarship for Culinary
Innovation. An opening reception that evening and a women's networking
event Saturday evening were among the social highlights of the event.
Saturday morning prior to the opening general session, PMA FIT, which has a
mission to attract, develop and retain talent for the fresh produce industry,
held a 5K run-walk. Entrants from Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, CA, finished
in the top three in both the men's and women's divisions.
Speakers and panelists at a general session and workshops on Saturday and
Sunday covered a range of topics such as sustainability, food safety and
traceability, and the locally grown trend, as well as other industry trends that
influence the profitability of foodservice operations, the need for agriculture
to do a better job of telling its story, and what can be done to achieve the
announced at the 2009 PMA foodservice conference of doubling produce
consumption in foodservice by 2020.
As in recent years, attendees came out in droves to hear well-known chefs
discuss their careers and the role produce plays in their operations. This
year's lineup featured Rick Bayless, chef-owner at Frontera Grill and
Topolobampo in Chicago, a successful cookbook author and host of the PBS
series Mexico - One Plate at a Time; Bill Bloxsom-Carter, executive chef and
food and beverage director at the Playboy Mansion; and Eric Justice, director
of culinary operations at Pei Wei. The session was moderated by Robert
consulting chef for PMA.
Following the chefs' panel discussion, attendees adjourned to the next room
to watch the chefs at work using blueberries, avocados and kiwifruit in
various savory and sweet dishes, which were made available for all to sample,
courtesy of culinary students from the Culinary Institute of America and
Johnson & Wales, who assisted the chefs.
The expo, where many produce companies unveil new items and products
designed to attract the attention of foodservice operators and buyers, was
held Sunday following the chef demonstrations. With uniformly sized booths,
the one-day expo had an intimate feel but with high energy -- and this year
did not disappoint. Both new and veteran exhibitors said that traffic was
strong and that the buyers and operators in attendance were eager to make
Jim Provost of I Love Produce in Kelton, PA, said that the show is a "good
forum for people to learn about products and try new things."
Margaret Wigfield of the Yerington, NV-based onion shipper Peri & Sons,
which was a first-time exhibitor, said that she found it to be a "great show
that is a lot more intimate" than PMA's Fresh Summit.
At the Gourmet Gardens booth, where Peter Currey was promoting the
company's line of squeezable herb tubes, attendees were "showing a lot of
interest in our products, especially buyers from major chain restaurants,
because we offer a product that has good food safety and convenience," he
Louis Hymel of Spice World, which was promoting its new 20-ounce
squeezable garlic, said that he received "a lot of great feedback" from buyers
who stopped at the booth. The squeezable garlic "is geared for a foodservice
operator to put on the table. It takes garlic from an ingredient to a
At the Melissa's/World Variety Produce booth, Marketing Director Bill
Schneider said that people showed a lot of interest in the company's tropical
products. While he admitted that white tablecloth restaurants are the
company's typical foodservice customers, he said that buyers from Sysco and
U.S. Foodservice had expressed interest in his line of products at the show.
Mastronardi Produce, which is based in Kingsville, ON, and has a division,
Mastronardi West, in Salinas, CA, used the expo -- its first -- as a way to
introduce its new foodservice division and make some contacts. The division
is headed by Dean Taylor, who said that attendees showed strong interest in
the firm's cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes and peppers as well as its Kumato
brown tomato variety and its tomato medley pack.
Lindsey Martinez of Boskovich Farms said that "traffic has been great
throughout the day, with good quality attendees. The return on investment
for the show was outstanding."