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Supermarket floral comes of age at PMA Fresh Summit

new orleans — The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, here, was swarming with over 19,500 members of the produce and floral industries Oct. 19-21 at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit. The three-day event was filled with hundreds of brightly colored booths and people dressed in costumes reminiscent of Mardi Gras competing for the attention of buyers and other industry professionals.

In the past, the Fresh Summit’s main focus seemed to be on produce growers, shippers and distributors, while leaving the floral sector in the shadows of its bigger brothers. PMA has been diligently working on changing that, and 2017 seemed to be the year that supermarket floral came into its own.

This year, the Floral Pavilion was the visual center of the show floor, where nearly a hundred exhibitors from different segments of supermarket floral offered buyers a plethora of products and services.

MARKETER-OF-THE-YEAR-1Last year’s PMA Marketer of the Year, Michael Schrader, floral director at Schnuck Markets in St. Louis, MO, with the new 2017 Marketer of the Year Juan Carlos Hannaford, general manager at the Elite Flower Co. in Miami, and Debora Coleman, vice president of floral at Albertsons.Michelle Sutton, president at Sutton Ferneries in Doral, FL, told The Produce News, “It was really well attended from the floral perspective, I think it’s definitely a growing show. From a vendor’s perspective, the attendance of buyers is very strong, and they really spend a lot of time visiting with you and looking for new ideas and opportunities. I see the growth; in fact, I have been going to PMA since 1987.”

One of the many first-time exhibitors at this year’s Fresh Summit, Sebastian Franco from Farm Direct Corp. in Miami, told The Produce News, “This is our first year here and I have met a lot of new accounts and talked with a lot of new people. It is amazing. I will have a lot of work to do when we get back home to follow up on all these new people.”

While exhibitors were busy visiting with buyers, the buyers were eagerly seeking out the latest products and trends to bring to their customers. One unnamed supermarket floral buyer told The Produce News, “As a buyer, this is the place to be, everything I want to see is right here, all in one big place.”

Susan DeMuth, floral category manager at Coborn’s Inc. in St. Could, MN, told The Produce News, “There is so much to cover here, such a great variety of products. I just feel like I need more time to see everything I want to see.”

The Fresh Summit also included well-attended educational sessions on topics such as floral consumer trends and demand creation, ideas and actionable information from color authority Pantone LLC, along with information on how technologies are impacting the industry.

In addition, there were ample opportunities for networking with members of the floral community. This year, over 600 people attended the Floral Reception, which climaxed with the announcement of Juan Carlos Hannaford, general manager at the Elite Flower Co. in Miami, as the PMA 2017 Marketer of the Year.

Next year, Fresh Summit 2018 will be held Oct. 18-20 in Orlando, FL.

The Floral Pavilion’s name will be changed to the Floral Marketplace — with over 50,000 square feet of floral exhibits, it will be the largest contiguous community on the show floor.