NEPC expo packed with business opportunities and fun activities

Take a beautiful Cape Cod setting, accent it with delicious food, great extracurricular activities and spike it with the perfect amount of sunshine and warm temperatures and you have the perfect getaway. But then stir into the mix a trade show that brings major producers and distributors together with retail and foodservice professionals and it doesn’t get much better for a business setting.

This is what the New England Produce Council accomplished at its 16th annual Produce, Floral & Foodservice Expo, held at the Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod, Sept. 16-18.P1040831Keynote speaker Kevin Coupe

Bob McGowan, NEPC president, kicked off the event by introducing Kevin Coupe, keynote speaker, on Wednesday afternoon.

Coupe's message was about strategies designed around retail competition. He pointed out what he calls his four key factors: differentiation, authenticity, relevance and transparency.

He addressed how the millennial generation is bringing new technology with them into adulthood and how they will use that technology to their shopping advantage.

One example Coupe noted was a supermarket mural on subway platform in Japan. Resembling a fully stocked store, each grocery item included a scan bar. While people wait for trains they shop and scan. The train arrives, they jump on and go to their next stop, where they can continue shopping. They place their order on their mobile devices and the groceries are delivered the same day.

The day wrapped up with a traditional Cape Cod lobster bake. Pyramids of whole Maine lobster with all the side trimmings had guests coming back for seconds and thirds.

The expo opened on Thursday morning in an outdoor tent where exhibitors were eager to share product information and other news with visitors.

“We have done a total rejuvenation of our brand,” said Leighanne Thompson, marketing manager of Oxnard, CA-based Mission Produce. “The new logo, website, booth design and more will be ready for its launch at the PMA Fresh Summit in October.”

Jim Allen, president and chief executive officer of the New York Apple Association, was joined by Molly Zingler, director of marketing. Allen said he looks forward to the NEPC Expo each year to meet with key people. On New York’s apple crop this year, Zingler said, “Growers are about one-third into their harvest. We’ve had warm weather and sunshine. The color of the fruit is great and the quality is excellent.”

Dole Fresh Vegetables’ Rob Russo, senior director of sales, was promoting its new protein-packed “TakeAways” salad.

“The salads contain everything needed for a highly nutritious meal,” said Russo. “They include grains, rice, chicken, vegetables and chicken," he said. "Consumers can just grab them in their produce departments for a complete ready to eat dish.”

Dandrea Produce Inc., based in Vineland, NJ, was at the expo with key employees, including Steve Dandrea, third-generation family member and Adam Dandrea, representing the family’s fourth generation.

“We are enthusiastic about this event and we’re warmly received,” said Steve Dandrea. “Our bagged lettuce line creates excitement for retailers. And we’re sending out a teaser about our new clementine label that we’ll be revealing at the PMA Fresh Summit.”

Cece Krumrine represents the National Watermelon Promotion Board, the California Avocado Commission and the National Mango Board. She said, “The expo is magnificently executed, especially the events. I read Kevin Coupe every day, and his message about millennials is extremely important. The message is that about 75 percent of the population will be in the millennial category in about a decade or so.”

And speaking of millennial, the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent Career Pathways Program was represented with top agribusiness, food marketing and horticulture students.

Foxy Fresh may have the next big leafy green. It is promoting its “BroccoLeaf,” which is exactly what it sounds like.

“We launched the washed, chopped organic broccoli leaves in a bag about seven months ago and it was an instant hit,” said David Bailey, marketing representative for Foxy Fresh. “Retailers can’t reorder fast enough. The bag provides a recipe on the back, and now we’ve created a separate recipe pamphlet with other great ways to use the item, including in smoothies.”

A sunset sail completed the day.

Friday morning, Karen Buch presented the Nutritional Marketing Seminar, after which the day's schedule was packed with retail tours, a golf event, a fishing charter, whale watching and spa treatments — perfect endings to a perfect expo.

Viva Fresh to hold 2016 expo in San Antonio

Registration is now open for the second annual Viva Fresh Expo scheduled for March 31 to April 2, 2016, at the JW Marriott Hill Country Hotel & Spa in San Antonio, TX.  

The Gateway to the America’s-themed regional expo event highlights produce grown in Texas, the neighboring southwestern states and Mexico.  VivaFreshLogo 070914

Attendees, exhibitors and sponsors can register online at and review additional information. Registration for retail and foodservice buyers is free and a travel stipend is provided.  

Hosted by the Texas International Produce Association, the inaugural event debuted last year in McAllen, TX, to a sold-out crowd. Bret Erickson, president and chief executive officer of TIPA, said, “Last year’s Viva Fresh Expo proved to be an overwhelming success with triple-digit retail and foodservice buyer attendance, standing-room-only meeting rooms and a busy convention hall. The numbers were impressive, but the feedback from attendees was extremely positive, highlighting the importance of this region and a well-executed show focused on quality produce.”

Nestled in San Antonio Hill Country, the JW Marriott provides a luxurious backdrop for the Viva Fresh Expo that remains focused on networking, quality education, Southwestern style and elevated food experiences.  

In fact, the expo’s focus on education raised the bar in 2015 with the introduction of real-time field tours.

“Being the first to introduce virtual field tours was exciting,” said Dante Galeazzi of Crescent Fruit & Vegetables. “We were able to bring the farm to the comfort of a hotel conference room. We maximized the time and education opportunity for all attendees creating a real-time dialogue and interactive experience that we are excited to continue.”

Event organizers said attendees should expect more big ideas and big flavors at the 2016 Viva Fresh Produce Expo. Along with the education component, the expo will continue to be focused on the health benefits, style and taste of southwestern United State sand Mexico-grown produce, with chef-inspired events and receptions with regional-specific foodie flair.  

Creating a positive networking environment to bring buyers and sellers together was always a top priority of the Viva Fresh Expo. H-E-B’s group vice president, Hugh Topper, summed it up best, saying, “Connecting with suppliers is key to our success and the Viva Fresh Expo brings all of Texas and Mexico to us. It’s the best of both worlds — a regional expo that stretches international boundaries.”

Because of the sold-out status of last year’s event, exhibitors and sponsors are encouraged to register early. Buyers can register online at

Strawberries and raspberries to extend summer in Quebec

Quebec's strawberry and raspberry producers are launching a new event, La Prolongation, to extend the summer. The objective is to celebrate the fall harvest of local berries, which has doubled in the last decade.

For the occasion, 60 renowned chefs from througout Quebec will highlight berries on their menus until Oct. 5 and share their recipes on 

"What's better than our autumn berries, vibrant colours and fresh taste to transcend life's sweetness,” DJ Abeille Gélinas, a spokesperson for the event, said in a press release. “I often see amazing chefs using these delicious berries in their cuisine. Being myself an adept of local flavours, I am thrilled by La Prolongation, an event that will dazzle your eyes and taste buds.

Laurent Godbout, Guillaume Cantin, Patrice Demers, Derek Dammann, Jérome Ferrer, Anne Desjardins, Martin Juneau, Marc-André Royal and Kimberly Lallouz are just some of the many chefs share their favourite recipes. Beyond traditional desserts, some chefs compete with audacity, such as Jean-François Méthot of the bistro Le Coureur des Bois in Beloeil with his fall strawberry soup with white Farnham and white chocolate quenelle. Sébastien Houle of sEb l'Artisan Culinaire in Tremblant will feature his Îles de la Madeleine scallops carpaccio and Quebec strawberries salsa with yuzu and Espelette pepper. 

"Today, thanks to the innovations of Quebec producers, 190 of them grow different varieties of tasty strawberries, such as the Seascape, Albion, Monterrey, San Andreas and the Pathfinder raspberry,” David Lemire, producer of Mauricie strawberries and president of the Association of Quebec Producers of Strawberries and Raspberries, said in the press release. “The quality of these fruits is exceptional and the prices are also very attractive for consumers.

Through the hashtag #laprolongation, foodies and chefs are invited to share their meal photos. Also, to incite more consumers to reproduce the chefs' recipes, grocery stores IGA, Metro and Provigo/Loblaw will offer specials on the strawberries, which will be available until the first frosts in all of their grocery stores. 

Additionally, Les Produits d'érable du Québec, in collaboration with the APFFQ, will offer contests throughout the month.

Canadian produce industry making voice heard this federal election

On Oct. 19, Canadians will elect a new federal government. Newly elected members of parliament will be responsible for making decisions that will have profound effects on the produce industry. That’s why it is essential that the produce industry’s voice is heard. The Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Horticultural Council are working together on a joint advocacy campaign to ensure that happens.

“In a close election campaign, it’s essential that candidates and parties are aware that the produce industry is paying close attention to their actions,” CPMA President Ron Lemaire said in a press release. “Every vote will be critical, and knowing produce industry voters are asking for political support will ensure they take notice.”

CPMA and CHC have identified two key issues for the sector: payment protection for the produce industry and increasing Canadians’ consumption of fruits and vegetables. While the two associations have been actively speaking with the main parties to advance industry interests for some time, they are encouraging industry members to reach out to their local candidates now to help to amplify that message.

“Political parties and candidates know that elections are won on the ground and that local issues matter,” Anne Fowlie, CHC executive vice president, said in the release. “Our industry faces risks that can easily be mitigated by the government of Canada — we need candidates to take notice now so that our voice is heard once Parliament is formed.”

Fact sheets on the two key issues have been prepared with key messages. Industry members are encouraged to share them with their candidates and ask them where they stand. They are also encouraged to write letters to their local newspaper and attend local events or debates to raise their concerns and ask questions.

CPMA and CHC will each be sending a questionnaire on a range of issues to the political parties to ask where they stand. Those answers will be shared with members and available on the associations’ websites. Further information on CPMA and CHC’s election activities and tips to reach out locally can also be found on the CPMA and CHC websites.

First quarter earnings decline for Sobey’s parent

Empire Co. Ltd., the Stellarton, NS-based parent company of Canadian supermarket chain Sobey’s, reported a 14 percent drop in its first quarter earnings. The decline is due to costs related to the integration of its Safeway business.

"Clearly there has been a significant amount of change in our Safeway business as we focus on the integration," Marc Poulin, president and chief executive officer of Empire, said in the company's earnings report. "Although we had identified the various risks associated with integration, including the amount and pace of change required, we underestimated the impact and the time needed for the organization to adapt to those changes.”

Adjusted net earnings were $121.7 million, down 5.7 per cent from $129.1 million. Sales were up $26.5 million or 0.4 per cent to $6.25 billion from $6.22 billion.

Poulin said that management had identified core issues and would use the necessary resources to ensure “we bring our performance back in line with our expectations in the coming quarters.”