Viva Fresh Expo 2017: Hugh Topper, Joseph Bunting, Keith Durham, Tommy Wilkins, and Brett Erickson Give a Sneak Peek
AUSTIN, TX - From United Supermarkets, Brookshire’s, and H-E-B to Ahold and Whole Foods, the Viva Fresh 2017 program is well underway as the 3rd annual trade show and convention returns to Austin, Texas. Slated for April 20-22, 2017 at the Austin Convention Center and Hilton Hotel, this event cultivates an intimate trade show environment with a buyer to supplier ratio that has lifted the Viva Fresh event to the top of the convention list.
H-E-B’s Group Vice President, Hugh Topper, took a beat and shared with me the his impression of the event’s impact, “With only 2 years under its belt, Viva Fresh has become a great regional show. The mix of Texas and Mexico growers makes this a true international event. The venues have been great and with the event returning to Austin this year, everyone can experience the hospitality of the Capital of Texas.”
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Back by popular demand, the theme for the Viva Fresh Expo is again celebrating the “Gateway to the Americas.” It’s no secret that Texas and the Rio Grande Valley play an important economic role in the distribution of fresh produce. From 2007-2015, fruit and vegetable imports from Mexico through Texas have grown an eye-popping 107%, and in 2015, Texas crossed 210,000 truckloads, with that number expected to grow to as much as 358,000 by 2023, according to analysis by the Texas A&M Center for North American Studies.
Joseph Bunting, Produce Business Director, The United Family®, discussed with me his excitement around 2017’s Viva Fresh; “I am again looking forward to attending the Viva Fresh show in 2017. With the show moving back to Austin, Texas, it should be a great venue right in the heart of Texas. This will be the third year United Supermarkets has attended the Viva Fresh show and we are looking forward to another great show and the opportunity to strengthen our current Texas and Mexico partnerships while developing new ones.”
It is easy to see why Austin is such an ideal locale for the event. Not only is Austin known as the Live Music Capital of the world, but it’s also a great foodie city. In fact, Travel & Leisure named Austin one of America’s Top Cities for Foodies as part of the magazines reader’s survey.
Downtown Austin includes a vibrant shopping, dining, and entertainment scene. The famous 6th Street Entertainment District, Warehouse District, and 2nd Street District are all located within walking distance of the Austin Hilton Hotel and the Austin Convention Center.
Keith Durham, Certified Category Manager, Fresh Foods, Brookshire’s, spoke to me about the draw of the Viva Fresh Expo, noting, “What I like about this regional show is that it is like a mini PMA. Even though it’s getting larger every year, you can still walk the show floor and spend time with companies that can add to your business.”
Durham continued, “The educational sessions are quick and easy to attend, not mention, the content is very good. With our company being based in Texas, Viva Fresh gives us an opportunity to find new vendors to expand our ‘Local Grown’ community.”
Tommy Wilkins, Director of Sales for Grow Farms Texas and member of the Expo Steering Committee added that the return to Austin and the entertainment options the city provides should produce some good times, as we all well remember from 2015.
This year, he notes that Viva Fresh is committed to the education sessions and the speakers to challenge the status quo and excite the participants to drive healthier choices while driving consumption of the crops that are grown or travel through this corridor.
“Produce buyers have lot of choices battling for their time,” Tommy said. “We want to offer retailers an event that will give all involved a wonderful experience that is well-worth the investment. Feedback from both the buy-side and supply-side of the industry tells us that this event is the place to be.”
Here are some of the 2016 stats that detailed the success of the event:
- 27% increase in exhibitors from 140 booths to 179.
- 70% increase in retail/foodservice attendees. In addition, 100% of retail/foodservice respondents to a Viva Fresh survey stated the Expo met all their business needs.
- 65% increase in sponsors.
Bret Erickson, TIPA President & CEO remarked, “We know we’re doing something right when buyer attendance has nearly doubled from year-one to year-two and nearly 100% of those retail and foodservice attendees report they are satisfied or very satisfied with the event with many commenting this is one of the best events they’ve attended. Additionally, over 90% of all attendees report that they plan on coming back to join us again in 2017.”
So, what are some highlights that attendees can look forward to at Viva Fresh 2017?
The Friday Night Welcome Reception on April 21 will be held at Maggie Mae’s. Serving up tunes since 1978, Maggie Mae’s is a local legend in Austin with the largest rooftop view on 6th Street and the entertainment district. This venue is also within walking distance from the Hilton Austin Hotel.
In addition, the Viva Fresh committee is planning several exciting educational seminars on Friday, April 21 with a wide range of relevant industry topics and expert speakers. This will include developing more hands-on experiential learning with actual produce displays, sampling, and showcasing products for review.
Because everything is bigger in Texas, expect more big ideas and big flavors at the 2017 Viva Fresh Expo. Mark you calendars now, as the show is already filling up fast!
See you all in 2017!