Highlights from United Fresh 2018: Tom Stenzel, Greg Corrigan, Cindy Jewell, and More Comment
CHICAGO, IL - The Windy City became the Produce City this past week as members from around our industry descended on Chicago for this year’s United Fresh Expo. While it was my first United Fresh, it was one for the books and a show I’ll never forget!
The event kicked off with luncheons and panel discussions, followed by two action-packed days full of networking with old and new friends and opportunities to get up close and personal with some of the latest products changing our industry, and I have to say, there wasn’t a dull moment.
“This has really been a fantastic show. There’s so many new products and innovations out now and it’s just amazing what our industry keeps coming up with,” United Fresh President Tom Stenzel told ANUK. “Across fruits, veggies, and convenience items, there are a lot of new things coming to our business and United Fresh is a great show to showcase them.”
On par with last year, over 7,500 attendees made it to the show floor, mingling and mixing with fellow growers/shippers, foodservice operators, and retailers like Walmart, Albertsons, Whole Foods Market, and more.
“It was another great trade show. One of my favorite parts of this show is the recognition of the top 25 produce managers in the nation. United and Dole do a great job of recognizing the produce managers that are out there on the front lines. All the winners are awarded a trip to the show where they have the opportunity to experience the new innovation and speak with suppliers firsthand,” Raley’s Senior Director of Produce and Floral Greg Corrigan said.
For the full list of produce managers recognized at the 2018 United Fresh, click here. Congratulations to the winners!
"US Foods is once again taking full advantage of the United Fresh show that is being held this week in our backyard in Chicago!" Frank Swanson, Senior Sourcing Manager, US Foods, said. "We are able to have a wide cross section of our produce team participating in the scheduled events that United has put together and are also able to hold meetings with suppliers in both large and smaller venues. We get great value from the show and are looking forward to attending again next year."
One place where innovation really shone was this year’s Innovation Awards. Featuring products fresh out of companies’ think tanks and marketing rooms, the Innovation Awards were the place to be to check out how the industry is continuing to evolve with consumer trends and demands.
“We’ve been holding the Innovation Awards for over a decade now,” John Toner, Vice President, Convention & Industry Collaboration for United Fresh, shared with me. “The excitement and commitment to driving new products makes our industry better. This year, we added a couple of new categories, Best New Indoor Growing Technology and Best Field Technology, because those systems are rapidly expanding our industry. It’s been another great show, and we’re showing signs of really positive growth.”
This year, the Innovation Awards went to:
- Best New Food Safety Solution: Natures Natural Solutions LLC, Industrial Size Food Freshness Card
- Best New Fruit Product: Apeel Sciences, Apeel
- Best New Packaging: Mucci Farms, CuteCumber Poppers
- Best New Packing/Processing Equipment: Volm Companies, Inc., Volmpack Pouch Bagger
- Best New Vegetable Product: Mastronardi Produce / SUNSET, SUNSET ® Aloha™ Peppers
- Best New Indoor Growing Technology: IUNU, Luna
- Best New Field Technology: Food-Origins, Food Origins Data Collection Platform
“We’re excited about our latest launch, CuteCumber™ Poppers, smaller than a cocktail, a one-bite kind of cucumber— just “pop em” in your mouth, now comes in a custom-formed tray with the dip inside. The convenience factor is something we were trying to target and this package makes this healthy snack easy to peel and serve,” Emily Murracas, Mucci Farms’ Director of Marketing, told me. “It just won People’s Choice Overall Best Cucumber in the 11th Annual Greenhouse Competition in Leamington, and we are excited that we won again at United Fresh for Best New Package. Anytime we’re able to get in front of our key retailers is a great opportunity and United Fresh is no exception.”
Off the show floor, attendees gathered to listen to Sonny Perdue, United States Secretary of Agriculture, speak about some of the key issues the industry is currently facing.
“I want to commend you all for a great event. When we talk about what we’re trying to achieve with the USDA’s eight mission areas...I think [United Fresh] has accomplished that with five different expos in one,” Perdue said during his keynote speech at the United Fresh breakfast event. “I think it’s a great example of [being] customer-focused, and it sounds like [the produce industry] does that pretty well with United Fresh by collaborating and bringing people together.”
Incoming Chairman of the Board for United Fresh and Vice President of Marketing for California Giant Berry Farms Cindy Jewell also spoke at the breakfast and was honored at the Reception Honoring Women in Produce.
“I feel blessed to be chosen as the United Fresh Chairman this year. We’re all at this convention because we chose to be here—because we’re passionate about this industry and its future. I believe so strongly in what United Fresh Produce Association does every day that year’s ago I chose to be a volunteer leader,” Jewell remarked in her speech at the breakfast.
Like the shows before it, this year’s United Fresh Expo was a hit and I know we all can’t wait to return to Chicago next year for another great produce-centric experience.