Fresh Produce Association of the Americas Wraps Up Southwest International Produce Expo With Several Firsts

Fresh Produce Association of the Americas Wraps Up Southwest International Produce Expo With Several Firsts

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TUCSON, AZ - Bellies full of food and laughter, we all left the Fresh Produce Association of the America’s 54th annual event with new connections to the region.

With a new location, along with attaching its first trade show to the event, there were a few surprises around the corners of the inaugural SouthWest International Produce Expo (SWIPE).

Lance Jungmeyer, President, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas"We were very pleased with the comments from attendees and exhibitors alike. It is a good sign for next year that every exhibitor except for one has signed up for next year. And that one only has to ask corporate for approval," Lance Jungmeyer, President of FPAA, shared.

The Opening Fiesta kicked off with a delicious buffet-style spread that had some canceling planned dinners to instead stay with their parties at the beautiful setting provided by the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. Warm and clear in the Arizona desert, it was a welcoming start to the three-day event.

Diversifying to Deal With Disruptions Panel left to right: Patrick Mills, Julie Olivarria, Jeremy Smith, Caitlin Tierney, Ron Lemaire, and Moderator Melissa De Leon Chavez introduced by SunFed's Craig Slate

Early risers on Friday joined a morning retail tour at the local AJ's Fine Foods before we gathered for a succession of educational panels.

Amid the SWIPE educational sessions, no challenging choices needed to be made. Attendees all made themselves comfy with their lunches at circular tables in an intimate setup with the trio of panels, settling in for back-to-back topics ranging from diversify to deal with disruptions and delivering value across customer tiers to SWIPE’s first Women Leaders in the Produce Industry.

I love seeing women in the industry, it is very rewarding for me…our boss is a woman which is great to see, and there have been a lot of men too who have been open to and supported more women and I think that is what we need to do,” Dania Guzman, Walmart - Mexico, shared in a memorable comment from the stage.

Women Leaders in Produce Panel left to right: Dania Guzman, Katie Calligaro, Caitlin Tierney, and Moderator Raquel Espinoza, Director of Sales Marketing for Produce House

As we headed off to SWIPE’s first show floor, my head was certainly brimming with the wisdom of Dania, as well as Patrick Mills, Director of Produce and Floral at Bashas’; Julie Olivarria, Vice President of Produce for Sysco; Jeremy Smith, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Charlie’s Produce; Caitlin Tierney, retail veteran of several brands, most recently Sprouts Farmers Market; Ron Lemaire, President of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association; Tony Mitchell, Chief Revenue Officer of Indianapolis Fruit Company; Daniel Bell, Director of Produce and Floral for Grocery Outlet; Zack Jones, Vice President of Fresh and Innovation at Save-On-Foods; Andy Hamilton, Chief Executive Officer of Markon Cooperative; Katie Calligaro, Director of Marketing and Communications; and Raquel Espinoza, Director of Sales Marketing for Produce House.

Delivering Value Across Customer Tiers Panel left to right: Tony Mitchell, Daniel Bell, Zack Jones, and Andy Hamilton

An intimate setup of exhibitors awaited attendees, with many simultaneous conversations and connections taking place between the aisles for the four-hour expo.

Matt Mandel, Vice President of Finance and Legal, SunFed"The FPAA’a inaugural SWIPE convention was a huge success," Matt Mandel, Vice President of Finance and Legal at SunFed, relayed. "No one knew what to expect with the new format, but the staff and board members went out of their way and knocked it out of the park. The networking, education sessions, expo, and golf tourney were all exceptional and if you didn’t attend, you missed out on a truly great experience."

A warm reception concluded the busy day, with yet another delicious and filling spread of food—where FPAA is concerned, it seems there is too much flavor to indulge in from the Mexican-American intersection not to offer complete feasts! Meanwhile, live music ensured we all finished the day by dancing the night away.

Left to right: Dania Guzman of Walmart - Mexico, Emmis Yubeta of FPAA, Hassel Meza and Antonio Verdin of RCF Distributors, Maykel Lopez of Producinf Inc, and Carlos Zaragoza of RCF Distributors enjoy a lively reception after the trade show

Yet what is a produce gathering without some healthy competition? Saturday provided a fun bonus for attendees in the form of two separate tournaments: tennis and golf. After some freindly games in the Arizona sun, the event was crowned and completed with a Tournament Awards Luncheon.

It was clear both by several firsts and by the open welcome from FPAA team members at every turn this event is transforming, with many on its debut show floor curious to see what is on the horizon. Especially as everything out of the gate landed well with growers and buyers alike!

So, I will definitely be keeping on the look out for the milestone 55th annual event as we get ready to bid farewell to 2023.

Fresh Produce Association of the Americas

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