Viva Fresh Expo 2019 Highlights
SAN ANTONIO, TX - A resonating takeaway from this year’s Viva Fresh Expo: food is the grease for conversation, as we were reminded by Chef Seamus Mullen, keynote speaker, author, and believer in the healing power of food. It is a message that continued to weave itself in and out of every moment of the show. From tee-off to closing down, there was never a moment that didn’t serve as a chance to network, have fun, and discover new business opportunities.
“Viva Fresh provides an opportunity to network with the produce industry members located in Mexico and Texas that is unique to this show and continues to exceed expectations every year! Thanks TIPA!” Frank Swanson, Category Manager, Fresh Produce for US Foods, shared.
Frank is far from alone. While it's early to know exact numbers, TIPA reports that as many as 2,300 were in attendance overall, the most ever at the region-specific show. Among them was also a record in retail attendance for the five-year history of the show.
San Antonio turned on the charm weather-wise as the industry hit the course for the Annual Golf Tournament, with players being welcomed back in by the 19th Hole Celebration to tie off the night and kick of what is Viva Fresh.
Friday gave way to a slew of educational sessions, awards, dialogue, and food. Earlier risers attended Steps to Prevent a Food Safety Crisis and What do Game of Thrones & Digital Engagement have to do with Online Food Purchases?
“Not a group to rely on simply repeating what has worked in previous years, TIPA continues to strive for better each year. As one of the most culturally diverse trade shows of the year, there was significant effort made towards expanded experiences for attendees, improved aesthetics, and an inspiring keynote that will have us thinking about smarter food choices each and every day,” Dan'l Mackey Almy, President and CEO of DMA Solutions, assured.
After lunch there was more to learn and hear, including the much-anticipated discussion of the Tomato Suspension Agreement. This session’s representation of this hot button topic was summarized best, I think, by Texas International Produce Association’s President and CEO, Dante Galeazzi.
“On February 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced their intent to withdraw from the current agreement. Since the withdrawal would dramatically change the landscape of the supply scenario for tomatoes in the North American marketplace, we thought it would be a topic worth discussing here at Viva Fresh and, judging by the amount of folks in this room, I’d say we’re pretty well in thinking that was a great idea,” Dante commented as he kicked off the hour-long panel discussion and Q&A.
Lance Jungmeyer, President of the FPAA, walked the audience through public letters, linked below, that further detailed the pieces of the agreement’s termination and where it stands on being replaced, while Jason Klinowski of Wallace, Jordan, Ratli & Brandt LLC, gave insights on possible legal avenues, issues, and options, and J.O. Alvarez of U.S. customs house broker J.O. Alvarez, Incorporated, discussed what he has seen firsthand and what he anticipates to take place after the May 7th deadline of the agreement’s coming to an end.
Though nothing has yet happened and there seems to be many more questions than answers, recent fluxtation in the market as a result of tensions regarding the U.S.-Mexico border have made clear that volatility and insecurity around commerce between the two nations have made it clear how pressing issues related to international commerce truly are.
"Even if nothing happens, something happens," Luis Ribera, Director for the Center for North American Studies, Texas A&M, shared with trade media, pointing to avocado prices as the market reacted to President Trump's possible closing of the border without having actually done so.
As the insights and discussions went deeper than I can in this wrap up, stay tuned for coverage that does the discussion more justice.
Later that evening the industry re-gathered for the welcome reception, a beautiful outdoor setup on the grounds of the JW Marriott, where the top comments I heard were the food was delicious, how nice the weather was, and how lucky we all were about the minimal-to-no mosquitos!
“As we end the 2019 Viva Fresh, I am humbled by the networking, the friendship, and the relationships that come out of such an event,” Tommy Wilkins, Director of Sales for Grow Farms, Texas, shared of Viva Fresh, commenting that the Opening Night was a highlight that stood out for him, personally.
After all this, yes there was an expo! Saturday brought the ribbon-cutting ceremony and five hours to navigate the show floor. Luckily, one of the trademarks of Viva Fresh is it’s easy-to-manage setting with a clear go-to guide for all attendees.
“Viva Fresh allowed me to connect not only with my key partners, but introduced me to vendors I would have probably never been able to connect with if it wasn’t for this show! From the golf tournament, to the amazing reception, to the show floor, this show is truly an experience worth attending,” Director of Produce for 99 Cents Only Caitlin Tierney shared after the show floor closed down.
Awards and Recognitions
Innovations Showcase Award Winners and Recognition
- 1st Place: Triple H - Triple H Grower's App
- 2nd Place: Frontera Produce - Sostena ProducePlan.com & GroundSight technology in collaboration with Crescent Fruit & Veg
- 3rd Place: National Mango Board - In-store Mango Display
Lifetime Achievement Award
- Dr. Leonard Maxwell Pike
Healthy Living Award
- Michelle Ann Passaretti, MSN RN CCM, Senior Director of Innovations, Geisinger’s Steele Institute of Health
Mimmo Franzone, Director of Produce and Floral for Longo’s, shared a message that, to me, couldn’t put a finer point on the experience.
“It’s been a great week in San Antonio for Viva Fresh. The networking events are some of the best in the business and the trade show was just the right size. The pace of the show makes it very easy to build connections and find potential partners. Thank you Viva Fresh—see you next year!” he shared.
Echoing this sentiment, Tommy concluded, “As generations evolve, these events are very important to continue the relationships needed to move our crops. I applaud the retail and foodservice industry who give us their time and the sponsors who helped facilitate an event of this size. Thank you, everyone.”
I can’t believe that another Viva Fresh has passed, and I am already looking forward to next year. With 2020 marking the last in San Antonio before it moves venues once more, I can only imagine what it will hold for us.