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NEW YORK — The first New York Produce Show & Conference drew many people and many exhibitors from all parts of the country, and by all accounts the event was a big success.

While attendance numbers were still being compiled during the show, Dean Holmquist of Foodtown Inc., who is president of the Eastern Produce Council (a co-sponsor of the event), told The Produce News Wednesday, Nov. 10, "I believe the attendance" might end up “about 2,000. We're happy with that.” He added, “I think that halfway through, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback. The most positive was seeing the 10 retailers up there [on the panel earlier in the day]. That really sent a message about the importance of the show.”

Mr. Holmquist also noted how important it was to get such broad retail representation at the show, not only from vice presidents of produce and directors of produce but also from store-level produce retailers — the people “who are on the front lines,” as he called them. “They’re walking the floor right now.”

Asked about his early impressions of the show, Mr. Holmquist replied, “To me, it’s exceeded our expectations and what we can expect for next year as well.” And he noted that next year’s New York Produce Show & Conference would in all likelihood be held at the same venue at around the same time — but perhaps in a bigger room.

A jam-packed cocktail party kicked off the event Tuesday evening, Nov. 9, here at the Hilton Hotel, followed the next day by a keynote breakfast, retail panel, trade show, chef demonstrations and educational micro-sessions. Also, Theresa Nolan announced the formation of the James & Theresa Nolan Fund for Ethical Leadership at the breakfast session.

On the last day, Thursday, Nov. 11, attendees could choose from tours to the Hunts Point Terminal Market in the Bronx, NY, the new Philadelphia Regional Produce Market, New York retailers or New Jersey retailers.

The trade show was a key part of the event, and the numbers were big there, too. There were 212 booths at this inaugural show, according to EPC Executive Director John McAleavey. “It’s everything I could hope for,” he said midway through the trade show. “It’s real positive. It’s really good for the city and the industry. It really proves that New York is alive and well.”

He pointed to the diversity of the conference as one of its strengths, including the representation of both produce buyers and store-level produce managers. “It’s well attended by every facet of our produce industry,” he said. “The retail attendance has been glowing.”

EPC Vice President Paul Kneeland of Kings Super Markets was also happy with how the event was turning out. “We were concerned about the timing,” he said, with the show scheduled between the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in mid-October and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. “But it turns out [any fears] were unfounded.”

He added, “We’re pretty pleased with it. We set an expectation, and we exceeded it.” New York City is “definitely an attraction,” he noted. “I love the energy.”

The attendees and exhibitors interviewed by The Produce News were equally enthusiastic about the New York Produce Show & Conference.

“I think it’s going to work, “ said Kurt Zuhlke of Kurt Zuhlke & Associates Inc., an exhibitor. “If they can keep the numbers like this and keep filling up the aisles, I think it’s going to work. I’ll be here next year.”

Hillary Brick, senior vice president of marketing at The Giumarra Cos., also an exhibitor, said, “I think it’s been excellent in terms of numbers of people attending — all across the supply chain, from growers to retailers. And New York is a great venue for the show. We should be back next year.”

Matthew D’Arrigo of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York, who was at the Hunts Point Terminal Market’s booth, stated, “To me, there’s a lot of energy. I believe we have something that’s here to stay for a while.” He added that the produce industry and the city of New York provided the show with “a winning combination.”

Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, said, “I think they did a great job. It’s fun. It shows you the value of local people getting together.”

He added, “The trade show is not [even] the decisive force” in making the event a success. “Getting together is what’s important. The interaction of the people is what gives this show its energy.”