What is in this article?:
- SN Special Report: Produce Is On the Move
- SN Asks: PMA's Bryan Silbermann Talks Fresh Summit
- SN Asks: Silbermann Talks Produce Traceability Initiative
"Responsibility for food safety doesn’t end at the farm gate or the packing house gate or the distribution center dock at the supply side."
— Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO, Produce Marketing Association
SN Asks: PMA's Bryan Silbermann Talks Fresh Summit
As the industry gets ready for this year’s show, SN spoke with Bryan Silbermann, PMA’s president and CEO, about show highlights, food safety, legislation and PMA’s plan to rethink its social media strategy.
Here are excerpts from SN’s talk with Silbermann (pictured left). Usually SN asks the questions, but Silbermann started the conversation with his own.
Bryan Silbermann: Tell me what you like most about covering the produce section.
Supermarket News: I like how consumers are becoming more involved and interested in where produce comes from, so I think that’s the most interesting aspect for me. What is the most interesting aspect of produce for you?
Silbermann: The people.
SN: The people?
Silbermann: The people, absolutely. First of all, we’re the ones who wear the white hats. We’re the good guys in produce. And the people are very genuine and the people really care and the people have a very deep feeling of providing great food at good prices for the people of America and the rest of the world. So it’s a lot of fun. I’ve been here for 29 years, and I don’t regret a single one of them.
Read more: PMA, United Fresh End Merger Talks
SN: So the Fresh Summit show has a shorter schedule this year. What are the benefits of this new format?
Silbermann: Well, one of the things is really to provide the greatest ROI to our exhibitors and our attendees. To pack as much as we could into two days rather than have two and a half days, which is what the show used to be. So we’ve lengthened the hours on those two days, so that the net effect I believe is just an hour and a half shorter show, but to increase the amount of the time it’s open on those two full days. So we’re really giving people a jam-packed schedule. That means they’re going to have to be better at managing their time.
But we didn’t do this lightly. This took us about 10 years of discussion and debate and research and finally we bit the bullet because we just felt like we had enough clarity to make what is, for us, huge change. … People said that wanted to have it shorter; we’ve shortened it.
SN: One interesting aspect of this year’s show: I saw there’s going to be a new kids’ showcase. What will this look like?
Silbermann: Well, the new kids’ showcase, think of it as a subset of the new product showcase. Eighteen of the slots, rather spaces, in the new product showcase have been devoted to “Just 4 Kids.” And the purpose of that is really to highlight and to bring into focus what innovative companies are doing to market produce, to promote fruit and vegetables to kids.
SN: Last year PMA introduced a new networking site. Have PMA members been taking advantage of the new platform? Are they on there discussing different aspects of the produce industry?
Silbermann: Yes, that’s called PMA Exchange and by the end of this year we expect to have probably 3,000 members who are signed up on that.
But I think what’s really important to understand is that’s just one component of our social media strategy. And in fact, we’re in the process in a couple of weeks of launching a major research project with an expert firm that we’re working with to look at the whole social media online strategy for our marketing and communications platform. So the Exchange is one piece of that.
We want to know what members are looking at, where they are spending more of their time, what they find most valuable and so forth. So Exchange is one part of that. I’m sure it’ll change over the next several years, just like all the social media strategies are changing because people’s habits change.
So whether it’s using Twitter, whether it’s using Facebook, whether it’s using LinkedIn, whether it’s using Exchange, whether it’s using whatever — online marketing through email blasts and so forth — all of those pieces play a role in the overall strategy, and I think what you’re going to see in 2013 is a much more cohesive and targeted strategy that we’re going to use at PMA that’s probably going to put more emphasis on some things than others. But we’re very happy with Exchange. It’s become a very useful platform, especially for us to do business with members. And what I mean by that is the work of committees and so forth is really a great area of value. Having internal conversations, if you like, doing work with groups of members, that’s a very, very valuable part of the platform.