Inside the Second Annual Viva Fresh Expo with Grow Farms Texas' Tommy Wilkins, J&D Produce's Jimmy Bassetti, and Affiliated Foods, Inc.'s Scott Hahn

Inside the Second Annual Viva Fresh Expo with Grow Farms Texas' Tommy Wilkins, J&D Produce's Jimmy Bassetti, and Affiliated Foods, Inc.'s Scott Hahn

SAN ANTONIO, TX - Coming off of the second annual Viva Fresh Expo, I think it’s safe to say that the produce industry gave San Antonio something to talk about.

About 1,550 produce members and attendees came out, doubling Viva Fresh's 2015 debut.

The regional show took place at the end of last week from March 31st to April 2nd, and while I am sad to report that I have yet to hear of an epic April Fools prank taking place, the hundreds of industry members that came out to get a bite of the Texas/Mexico branch of produce did not appear disappointed.

Tommy Wilkins, Director of Sales, Grow Farms Texas“What a blessing to be part of a team that knocked one out of the park this weekend,” Tommy Wilkins of Grow Farms Texas tells me of the show’s success. “It was a beautiful setting and we saw wonderful participation.”

The fun kicked off with Viva Fresh’s second annual golf tour, which saw beautiful weather as golfers played the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa’s famous TPC golf course, which wrapped up with the SunFed-sponsored 19th Hole Celebration at the TPC San Antonio at JW Marriot Resort.

JW Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa’s famous TPC golf course where the second annual Viva Fresh Golf Tournament took place.

With games, live music, connections to be made, the evening was a warm start to the weekend’s events.

The next morning was filled with technology and educational sessions, including a seminar on imagining the produce department of the future using the new Interprez presentation method and a Virtual Field Tour with Triple H Farms.

Attendees at the Virtual Field Tour, Viva Fresh 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.

Later that evening the well-themed Welcome Reception offered a welcoming bar in the center of fiesta lights and streamers, as well as different bites and samples of both Texas and Mexico for guests to try. This also happened to be a great glimpse into what the show floor would offer the next day.

A glimpse at the Viva Fresh 2016 Welcome Reception

Keynote Speaker Dr. Drew Ramsey launched show day with a presentation on the part produce has in mental health, having played a great part in kale now having a national day in the U.S. and authoring Fifty Shades of Kale.

Jimmy Bassetti, President, J&D Produce“This is what we need more of in the industry,” Jimmy Bassetti, President of J&D Produce, said of Dr. Ramsey’s insights into making other produce items just a popular. “This information to those of us that can make a difference- and we can make a difference.”

The doctor himself put it best when fervently thanking attendees for the necessary part they play in day-to-day life.

Dr. Drew Ramsey, Author, Psychiatrist, Keynote Speaker“You have an industry that responds so quickly to customer need, that is so innovative,” Dr. Ramsey said in his presentation, talking about the constant changes happening to keep the industry top of mind with consumers, saying, “I’m just impressed with you guys.”

And then came time for the main event. The ribbon was cut and the doors were open to “The Gateway to the Americas,” to a warm reception that offered connection and quality between the supply-side and the buy-side.

President & CEO Bret Erickson cutting the ribbon to open the show floor for Viva Fresh 2016 with key TIPA members, including Jimmy Bassetti, Tommy Wilkins, and Dante Galeazzi.

“I believe we have an intimate, friendly show where a conversation between retail and food service can engage in fruitful conversation,” Tommy continues when discussing what distinguishes Viva Fresh.

Scott Hahn, Produce Buyer, Affiliated Foods, Inc.Scott Hahn, Produce Buyer for Affiliated Foods, Inc. agreed. When I ask him what it is he believes differentiates the show he tells me, “There aren’t many shows that come to Texas, even though it is such an active part of the produce industry. Viva Fresh brings together buyers and members that are important to the industry but may not travel  far and shows them what Texas has to offer.”

From the show floor at Viva Fresh 2016.

And wandering the floors myself, this was a recurring sentiment as five hours gave way to good business happening up and down the rows of exhibitors.

For myself, this served not only as a great insight into the region, but also a great introduction to the Lone Star State! I’m looking forward to seeing the show continue to grow as it returns to Austin, Texas for 2017, and from the sound of it I am far from alone.

Viva Fresh Texas International Produce Association