NEW ORLEANS -- The United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association convention this year is going to give every attendee the chance to be an expert.
At newly scheduled industry forums, participants at the FreshWorld 96 convention will get the opportunity to add their own insights on important produce issues to those of the formal speakers, said Tom Stenzel, president of United, based in Alexandria, Va.
FreshWorld 96 is scheduled for Feb. 24 to 26 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center here. The convention's organizers decided this year to try to foster greater interaction between participants than at previous conventions, according to Stenzel.
"We're going to try to get people talking more on some of the major issues of ongoing discussion in the industry," he told SN.
"It's a little different forum than listening to a speaker for 60 minutes. Participants will be able to ask each other questions," he explained.
The forums will consist of two or three speakers, who will offer brief overviews of particular topics. Then, participants will break into roundtable discussions, according to Sarah Delea, director of public affairs at United.
Six such industry forums will run concurrently on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 24. The topics set for discussion are: "Challenges Facing the Distribution Chain"; "Operating in the Technological Age"; "Trade Agreements in the Americas"; "Dynamics of the Foodservice Distribution Industry"; "Enhancing the Value-Added Category," and "What Is Your Role in Promotion and Marketing?"
FreshWorld 96 will kick off with an opening general session on Saturday morning featuring a keynote address by Herman Cain, president and chief executive officer of Godfather's Pizza, Omaha, Neb. Cain was recently appointed by House Speaker Newt Gingrich to serve on the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform.
Scheduled for Sunday morning, Feb. 25, the Outlook's expert panelists are Mike Julian, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Farm Fresh, Norfolk, Va.; Mike Rempe, vice president of produce at C.H. Robinson, Eden Prairie, Minn.; Lorri Koster, director of trade and media relations at Mann Packing, Salinas, Calif.; Mike Cavallero, vice president of fresh fruit sales and marketing at Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif.; Fred Heptinstall, chief operating officer for the East and West regions at Chiquita Banana N.A., Cincinnati, and Larry Taylor, vice president of supplier development at Taco Bell, Irvine, Calif.
"Mike Julian will offer an interesting perspective, coming more from a management point of view," Stenzel noted. "That's something we'd like to offer. Instead of just looking at a produce buyer, let's look at where everything fits in a store from the management perspective."
On Sunday afternoon, two sets of educational workshops will cover such topics as Family Business I and II: "How Families Work Together" and "Family Succession Planning"; "Keep It Cold!"; "How to Recruit and Keep Top-Notch Employees"; "A New Look at Food Safety," and "What's for Dinner?"