Inside the Fresh Produce and Floral Council's 2018 Northern California Expo
PLEASANTON, CA - Another Northern California Fresh Produce & Floral Expo, another one for the books! It was my first time at FPFC’s Northern California expo, but the welcoming atmosphere made one enough for me to feel like I’ve been going for years. A cozy show full of friends, both old and new, the 2018 Northern California Fresh Produce and Floral Expo was another triumph produce members from across our industry were able to enjoy in Pleasanton, California. Here were some of this year’s highlights…
“Some of my favorite signs of spring: longer days, warmer weather, and the FPFC Expo returns to Nor Cal,” Michael Schutt, Produce Merchant, Raley’s, told me. “This show remains relevant by continuing to provide an intimate setting to preview new and exciting items and make new or renew business connections. I find that I prefer this event to the much larger shows really for the opportunity to have authentic dialogue with the supplier community.”
One thing to notice in the throng of fresh fruit and veg excitement was the sea of red badges—which meant retail representatives galore! Perusing and browsing what grower-shippers, brokers, and merchandizers had brought to their tables this year, the 2018 FPFC Fresh Expo was another great networking opportunity for our industry’s finest.
“I can’t help but feel satisfied with this year’s show,” said Scot Olson, VP of Produce & Flora, Grocery Outlet. “This Expo is a great opportunity for retailers and suppliers to connect and do business with so many folks. Although I typically do not look to this show for innovation and new product launches, I was excited by this year’s turnout. Some highlights and takeaways from this year’s Fresh Expo included seeing an exciting hydroponically-grown strawberry with outstanding color and flavor profile; tasting new salad mixes; getting updates on several commodities straight from growers; making some last-minute Mother’s Day floral buys; and experiencing a beautiful upgraded booth aisle Natalie Junqueiro Machado and her husband designed and built from reclaimed wood.”
And Scot wasn’t the only retail representative blown away by this year’s showing. As the perfect event to get up close and personal with some of the latest produce innovations, including products, packaging, and consumer and in-store promotions, this year’s attendees caught a glimpse of what’s just about to hit the market.
“We’re in the mecca of the California growing region and it’s awesome that we all get to come together to not only network, but to be the first to see new products,” Myisha Nathaniel, Category Merchant – Produce, Raley’s, shared with me. “I hope this expo continues to thrive; I’d like to see it grow for years to come. It gets bigger every year, and I appreciate that suppliers are becoming more and more innovative. As a buyer, it’s sometimes difficult to translate the product in-stores, so it’s great to see it in action when we’re at the expo and be able to take that knowledge and translate it back to our customers.”
In total, over 200 companies came to showcase their oldies-but-goodies and their latest-and-greatest products at their booths. On the buy-side, Raley’s, Grocery Outlet, and many more were amongst this year’s 900 attendees, moving and grooving on the show floor.
“This is a great grass roots event,” Roger Schroeder, former Vice President of Produce for Stater Bros. told me. “Typically shows are for buyers or vice presidents, but this show gets down to the produce managers, clerks, and people who work in-store with customers. I think this Expo does two things: lets the produce managers see what this end of the business is like and lets the vendors get a chance to talk to the people who are in the trenches to find out what the customers are really saying when they walk through the departments. It’s fun to see something like this happen at a local level and continue to grow, too.”
Though winners were announced over the course of the day, there was one award in particular that all of us in attendance were waiting for: Best of Show. And this year, Idaho Potato Commission took home the Best of Show on the produce side, with Rocket Farms nabbing the award on the floral side. Congratulations to both winners!
“For me, I like this because it’s smaller, more manageable, and gives you a better feel for what’s happening in our industry,” Michael Deusebio, Director of West Coast Produce Operations, C&S Wholesale Grocers, said. “You spend more time with people here instead of trying to cover a big show. At this event, a lot of the local growers in the area that we’ve had relationships with for years show up, so it’s really a good event to see people you haven’t seen in a while, not only for growers but for my part of the business as well.”
And, there are already whisperings that next year’s Northern California Fresh Produce & Floral Expo will be grander than this year’s, with a possible new venue and the addition of exciting events like tours.
Thanks to the Fresh Produce & Floral Council for another brilliant show, and here’s to next year!