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Leading buyers weigh in on trending topics for Viva Fresh education program

The Viva Fresh Produce Expo's education sessions will focus on proactive ways attendees can grow their business to capitalize on the trends shaping the 2017 produce industry in light of current affairs, and uncertainty around trade policy and labor supply.  

The program’s agenda was guided by the Retail & Foodservice Advisory Board, established earlier this year to give attendees a “behind the curtain” look at what retailers and foodservice companies are looking for from their produce partners.  

“The continued demands on agriculture from supply side economics to consumer perception continue to raise the stakes not only for producers, but for all of us as retail and foodservice buyers,” Gary Campisi, senior director of quality control, fresh grocery division at Walmart, said in a press release. “The need to stay on top of current issues and educate ourselves has never been more important.”

“Looking through the broad lens of current challenges and opportunities in our industry — a range of topics was on the table for consideration including trade policy, consumer issues, food trends and farming technology,” Melinda Goodman of Full Tilt Marketing and chair for the Viva Fresh Produce Expo Educational Committee said in the release. “We have a responsibility to deliver actionable content that helps attendees improve themselves and their businesses with the information we choose to include in the programming and our retail and foodservice advisory committee has played a critical role in aiding the decision making process.”

The program, which begins on Friday, April 21 at the Hilton Austin Hotel in Austin, TX, will feature the following interactive sessions:

  • In “Fresh Produce Rx,” Michel Nischan, chef and leader in the sustainable food movement, will discuss the critical role that produce plays in combating health issues, and how attendees can leverage this trend to not only support the wellbeing of their customers, but their bottom line, too.

  • Rob Saik, professional agrologist, will discuss the perception and reality of GMOs, and help attendees make an informed decision about using genetically engineered crops on their own farms or incorporating those products into their item mix.

  • For this year’s virtual tour, Red Sun Farms will use video footage to share the latest innovations in controlled atmosphere agriculture showcasing hi-tech greenhouses that produce sustainable, high-yield crops with a smaller footprint.

  • The National Mango Board’s Wendy McManus and Dennis Kihlstadius, principal of Produce Technical Service, will provide hands-on advice to understand the value of ripening programs and education in growing consumption and category sales in emerging produce categories.

  • And finally, experts on trade policy in the agricultural sector will examine how potential changes to NAFTA could affect the produce industry overall, impacting issues, including pricing, supply and demand. Panelists for this session include Robert Guenther, director of policy and public affairs at the United Fresh Produce Association; Luis Ribera, associate professor and extension economist at Texas A&M University; Ron Lemaire, president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association; and Raul Urteaga, general coordinator of international affairs at SAGARPA in Mexico.

“I commend the Viva Fresh Education Committee for bringing us so many good ideas and relevant content to choose from and select for the Viva Fresh Expo audience," Frank Pagliaro, vice president of national produce and floral procurement at Loblaw Cos., said in the release. "As a buyer, I know first-hand the responsibility I have to understand not only the mind of the consumer, but the challenges of the producers to bring high-quality, affordable produce to the market in an ever-changing and dynamic marketplace and my continued education is critical to my success as a valuable partner.”

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