ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The produce industry will see lots of changes on the show floor and on the education side at the Produce Marketing Association's annual Fresh Summit convention and expo next month.
In the past, PMA presented separate freestanding technology and international trade conferences. This time, for the first time, technology and global trade coverage will be integrated into the general program, which will be held Oct. 15 to 19 at the Anaheim Convention Center here.
The program itself has been restructured completely into a series of 10 tracks addressing key topics, such as consumption, floral, merchandising, food service, packing/transportation, supply chain, professional development, technology, global trade and hot topics.
Show planners hope the new format will make technology and global trade accessible to a wider audience, said Bryan Silbermann, president of the PMA, Newark, Del. International trade and technology are such integral parts of the produce business that it seemed logical to weave them into the main program, rather than segregating them.
"It makes less sense to have them as freestanding events today than it did 10 years ago," Silbermann said. "Then it was a targeted audience."
PMA is placing more emphasis on technological issues affecting its membership, Silbermann said. The organization this year will unveil "TechShare," an informal, roundtable discussion dedicated to technology challenges, on Oct. 18 on the show floor. Attendees are encouraged to drop in at their convenience to ask technology-related questions and share ideas with others at the roundtable, to be led by Gary Fleming, PMA's vice president of industry technology and standards, and Alicia Calhoun, technology standards manager at PMA.
"That's one of the key areas in which the industry needs the most help from PMA," Silbermann said. "Beyond Fresh Summit, you'll see significantly increased allocation [of resources] from PMA to technology."
On the retailing side, managers are taking a closer look at technological issues, particularly areas that can help them improve efficiency, said Peter Goulet, chairman of PMA's retail committee and director of produce merchandising for Hannaford Bros., the Portland, Maine-based chain of 122 stores.
"We've been working diligently to come up with IT solutions to make work more productive," Goulet said. "The name of the game today is do more with less. We don't want to do more with less, but do more with what we've got. The best way to achieve that is through technological solutions. We have a great IT department that builds custom programs for us. It's good to see what else is out there."
The educational seminars will cover issues like country-of-origin labeling, packaging trends, radio frequency identification's impact on the supply chain, and marketing related to health and dieting concerns. The seminars will start a day early, too.
On the exposition side, convention planners have expanded the Fresh Ideas Marketplace to three separate areas: "Floral in Bloom," "Meals on the Move" and "Ethnic Opportunity." The centers will offer interactive displays of PMA members' products, as well as the latest tips on merchandising, Silbermann said. The marketplace concept grew out of a successful test that involved a floral merchandising center that was set up at the 2003 show.
Also new this year is the 5 A Day Sesame Street Program, a children's marketing initiative being rolled out by the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del.
About 800 companies from more than 26 companies will exhibit at Fresh Summit this year. Show planners are expecting at least 15,000 people to attend the show, though the Florida hurricanes may have a negative impact on attendance from that state, Silbermann said.