PMA's foodservice conference draws a record attendance
July 20, 2006
by Brian Gaylord
MONTEREY, CA -- Citing a figure of "more than 1,500 attendees," the Produce Marketing Association said that its 2006 Foodservice Conference & Exposition drew record attendance. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the show.
Lorna Christie, PMA's senior vice president of industry products and services, told The Produce News July 19 that the conference had been on pace to exceed last year's numbers for exhibitors, wholesalers, distributors and operators on-site in Monterey. With the exception of exhibitors, PMA did not yet have the final tabulations on those numbers, she said.
In 2005, the conference set a record with 140 exhibitors and edged that out this year with 141 exhibitors. Also in 2005, the conference set a record with 87 operators on-site. Ms. Christie said that there were "over 100" operators on-site this year, a figure that has more than doubled from the 2004 show. The show is increasingly attracting menu developers, Ms. Christie told The Produce News, adding that she is most pleased to see an increase in buyers and "those who influence" buying decisions.
Exhibitors with whom The Produce News spoke appeared pleased by both the quality and quantity of foot traffic to their booths. Ms. Christie said that early feedback was unanimously positive.
River Ranch Fresh Foods Vice President of Marketing Bruce Knobeloch said that overall traffic was good. "We had higher-value discussions and contacts," Mr. Knobeloch said. "Overall it was as good or better than in the past. There was a high level of energy on the floor."
Mr. Knobeloch said that the way the week was shortened this year "had everybody more focused." Because foodservice's role in the fresh produce industry is constantly evolving, the show is a good way for people to keep in touch with changes, he said.
Mike Howarth of Meritech Inc. said that he experienced heavy foot traffic to his booth to hear about Meritech's hand- and foot-bath offerings. "We see a lot of customers who we already have [as customers]," Mr. Howarth said. Rory Cornell of Steinbeck Country Produce said that Steinbeck enjoyed good response and that the more intimate foodservice show was "easier" than PMA's annual convention.
Michael Boggiatto of Boggiatto Produce said that he experienced "great traffic and lots of great comments" on his Iceberg Babies, a variety of Iceberg lettuce that is slightly smaller than a softball.
Nathan Stornetta of Produce Careers Inc. said of Sunday's exhibition floor, "for a five-hour gig, the level of clients is exceptional."
Andrew Cumming, a managing partner in Metz Fresh LLC, said that he was pleased with the level and quality of foot traffic by the Metz Fresh booth. Dennis Donohue of European Vegetable Specialties said that he was impressed with the foot traffic. "I sit on a perch and watch the world go by," Mr. Donohue said. "This is my 18th year exhibiting at this show."
IN THE TRENCHES: Innovative companies have leading edge
July 19, 2006
by Ron Pelger
A salesperson was just completing a long-winded presentation to a retailer. After it ended, the retailer asked, "So what's new about your item?"
Not expecting that question, the representative hemmed and hawed, "Well, umm, I mean, umm, well & nothing. But the package is neat anyway."
What company can afford to throw away valuable revenue dollars by not being inventive? Today, companies have to be "sly as a fox" in creating something new and of value for consumers. And if they're not, they're sunk.
The word is "innovation." This is the pivotal requirement in moving a company forward by making it exceptional rather than just common.
Many companies often make innovation an afterthought. Months and years go by in companies only to find them producing the same items in the same packages that the founders developed 40 or 50 years ago. Although still around, these same companies will eventually fail because they become fixated on the past and lack the desire to be creative.
On the other hand, many organizations have great vision and make innovation a standard commitment. They are energized with a hands-on dedication to be inventive.
What motivates a company to innovate? I contacted some very enthusiastic people in the produce industry and asked them for their perspective on innovation.
Matt Seeley, marketing director of The Nunes Co. Inc. (Foxy Fresh Vegetables) in Salinas, CA: "Insight comes from observations. Listening to consumers, networking with retailers and monitoring lifestyle trends play an enormous role in helping us develop new products or new initiatives with customers. Innovation, in its simplest form, comes two ways: developing something completely new or taking an existing item and making it better or different."
Ed Kershaw, chief executive officer of Domex Marketing in Yakima, WA: "Innovation is the driver of our industry. The best practices, quality and taste are all becoming commodities by their continual barrage of babble. Innovation is the 'how to' vehicle for separating the 'Great' from the 'Good.' But innovation, like software, is a fleeting moment, as competitors benefit from our innovations. Therefore, in today's 'play-to-win' environment, innovation is a total, never-ending commitment. Innovation raises the bar. Commitment to innovation raises the bar higher."
Mike Aiton, senior vice president of Sun World International in Coachella, CA: "Sun World was built on innovation and has become synonymous with this concept throughout the [1990s]. Items which were launched as specialties have become mainstream and a big part of today's produce department. Elongated sweet red peppers, seedless watermelon, Superior seedless grapes, DiVine ripe tomatoes, which was the precursor to the vine-ripened tomatoes of today, and even Flame seedless grapes are all part of our heritage. Today, we operate the largest private grape and stone fruit breeding facility in the U.S. and continue to release new varieties with special flavor attributes. We see there being two ways to survive: Be the low-cost provider or have unique differentiated products, which can get us on the supplier short list for today's retail and wholesale community. We have selected this option and continue to work to maintain the position we have developed."
Derrell Kelso, owner of Onions Etc. in Stockton, CA: "You can be as innovative a person or company as there is in the industry, but if you are not adaptive, it means nothing. To be innovative in the produce industry, you must visualize something that has never been seen before. For innovative people, that is not the difficult part. The difficult part is having the patience for people to finally visualize it themselves and finally adapt. The time between innovation and adaptation is the determining factor of success and failure. In the past 100 years, our society has made more strides than it did in the past 2,000 years. Technology will not slow down. Competition will eat up companies that don't have the ability to innovate and adapt as fast as others. The big will fail because of their lack of adaptation to new innovation and the small will grow due to their adaptation to innovation. This is how it has been from the beginning of time in nations, civilizations and organizations."
K. Steve Phipps, principal owner and sales and marketing director of Market Fresh Services in Lee's Summit, MO: "We study the industry and develop solutions. We rarely have a retailer tell us to do this or that, but we always have great reception when we take our show on the road. It is called proactive marketing versus reactive marketing. We create new items and packaging that offer value exchange to the entire supply chain and consumers."
In order to get just one sale today, organizations have to excite people with something new and different beyond the ordinary. Changing lifestyles demand it. Consumers like and accept change today more than ever before.
Some companies may be enjoying a fair business in the produce industry today, but if innovation is nonexistent, a negative message develops. But the companies with aggressive leaders in creativity are usually those at the top of the heap.
Successful innovators spend time with customers and learn from them. They ask questions and seek suggestions. They create long, boring survey reports. Besides, most people never read them anyway. They simply venture out into the trenches and meet directly with customers inquiring about their needs. Senior management is the key element of innovation. When company leaders encourage their people to share ideas and suggestions, it's amazing how many become marketable successes.