INDIANAPOLIS -- Wholesalers report self-sponsored educational seminars and mini-trade shows are increasingly in demand, especially among their independent retail customers.
In one recent case, operators had a chance to relearn the basics of effective produce merchandising during Caito Foods Service's annual education seminar. Market-specific merchandising, organics, ethnic items and fresh floral were highlighted this year, according to officials with the 35-year-old company.
"It was the most successful of our seminars" in 15 years of offering the programs, said Matthew Caito, director of marketing. "Information is the key to success and every industry is extremely competitive today."
Most of the 350 attendees represented store managers, produce managers, store owners and operations managers from independents or small retail chains, but a few came from large chains or food service, said Caito.
"The small stores need to learn how to add excitement to the produce section and the bigger ones have the same issues, but at a different level," he added. "They have to know how to motivate store managers to function on a consistent basis.
"It's really one market," he added. "The aim of the show is to simply sell more produce."
Ten hands-on display stations illustrated different segments of the produce industry. Participants were invited to take pictures of all displays for future reference. Break-out sessions allowed retailers to discuss new ideas in depth and learn from each other's experiences, as well.
"People said they really liked the progressive nature of the program," said Caito. "The people from smaller stores wanted to know how to compete with the large chains and their national buying power."
Some other segments of the program included Meatless Alternatives, Category Management, Fresh Floral Marketing, Fresh-Cut Produce and others.
"The large stores have the advantage of economies of scale, but they have a problem with delivering consistent quality," said Caito. "At our seminar, people can ask really personal questions about their business and get personal, pertinent answers."
Not all participants at the workshop at the Indianapolis Marriott Conference Center were customers of Caito, provider of FreshLine packaged produce and fruit, and a full-service produce distributor and logistics provider. Caito -- which will exhibit examples of their original produce displays in booth 2854 in the South Hall of the FMI Show in Chicago -- supplies produce and floral to customers in 15 states, and also processes fresh-cut fruit and vegetables.