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Dean_Holmquist
Dean Holmquist

Dean Holmquist, president of the Eastern Produce Council, told The Produce News that the responses he received from people in the industry about the first New York Produce Show in 2010 were all extremely positive. Mr. Holmquist is also the director of produce and floral for Allegiance Retail Services, which was formed by Foodtown Inc. in Iselin, NJ, in July 2011.

“During the course of the past year, people have been asking me about this year’s show,” said Mr. Holmquist. “People on all sides of the industry — brokers, vendors, exhibitors and retailers, including our Foodtown members — all said they thought the show was outstanding. It certainly exceeded our expectations.”

Mr. Holmquist acknowledged that this year’s show, being held Nov. 7-9 again at the Hilton New York hotel, has grown in size. Last year’s show hosted 212 exhibitors, and this year’s event will have over 300. The conference and tour schedules have also been expanded this year.

“There has been some discussion within the show committee members and others about the space needed for this show going forward,” said Mr. Holmquist. “If it gets much larger, we will have to consider changing the venue. But it’s agreed that it is important to keep it in New York City.

“Space was somewhat tight last year, but we like the more intimate setting,” he continued. “Rubbing shoulders is what it’s all about. We see value in that. We would use extreme caution and consideration in deciding if the show should be moved to a different location.”

Mr. Holmquist has not received negative feedback about the timing of the show. He said that he has been told it is scheduled during a nice time of year to be in New York City. He also noted that something is always going on in the produce industry that keeps people busy, regardless of the time of year.

“There really isn’t a month of the year that is void of activity,” said Mr. Holmquist. “There are regional shows, retailer’s shows and supplier shows virtually every month. We strategically studied the timing and made our decision of what we felt were the most important factors.”

He added that the committee also considered the cost involved in accommodations, travel and other expenses for professionals exhibiting or attending the show. “Our booth cost is the best bang for anyone’s money in the industry,” he said. “It is a great value. All of the booths are the same size. One does not outshine the other and everyone pays the same booth fee. We feel this compensates for the high cost of staying in New York City. Unlike most shows, everyone is on an equal playing field at the New York Produce Show. People don’t blow by the booths but instead take their time. This gives the exhibitors a real chance to shake hands and make connections. This is a regional show that will introduce you to new customers, and that’s how we grow our businesses.”

Mr. Holmquist added that everyone involved in planning the first New York Produce Show agreed from the beginning that the show had to make sense to professionals in every regard.

The show schedule is similar to last year’s, but it too has been expanded. “We know that it’s sometimes hard to leave the exhibition floor to attend a workshop, but we feel they are an important part of the event,” he said. “The student program is a great opportunity for college and university students who are aspiring to have careers in the produce or related industries. This year, professors from universities will be joined with students for a mentoring program. Directors from the [Eastern Produce Council] will also be assigned a couple of students to walk the show with to help them understand how the industry functions.”

Representing Allegiance Retail Services, Mr. Holmquist had the opportunity to spend time with students from St. Joseph’s University at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit. The students were even invited to sit in on some corporate meetings. “These experiences are great opportunities for students,” he added.

Mr. Holmquist said that a great deal of the excitement that comes from planning the New York Produce Show & Conference is reaching out for more attendees. “We want people who support the show by exhibiting to meet and connect with new customers,” he said. “To me, this is the most important aspect. From the EPC’s point of view, we want to remain a source for our industry to make connections. That’s where the value of the New York Produce Show & Conference lies.”