Organic Produce Summit 2023 Wraps; Susan Canales, Scott Dray, Peppe Bonfiglio, and More Comment
MONTEREY, CA - Strolling down Alvarado Street in Old Monterey, you’ll see industry members chatting on the sidewalk, stopping outside of restaurants to say hello to those eating outside, and folks rushing to snag a coffee. The magic of Monterey lies in the closeness, both in terms of location and feel—you’re rubbing shoulders with colleagues no matter where you go, and it’s a welcome sight for Organic Produce Summit (OPS) attendees.
“With 1,800 attendees, including over 300 retailers, this year’s Organic Produce Summit has exceeded our expectations!" said Susan Canales, President, Organic Produce Summit. "From interactive retailer field tours to thought-provoking ed sessions to a packed trade show floor, OPS delivered a show to remember. We are happy to provide a space for our attendees to discuss the hottest topics in the organic fresh produce industry, as well as an energetic environment to network and showcase the latest trends in innovation and packaging. We hope to see everyone back in 2024—July 10–11!”
Field tours took retailers to the operations of Braga Fresh, Earthbound Farm, and Driscoll’s, which were followed by an opening reception packed with produce folks.
“We’re always inspired by this event to celebrate the power of organic produce. Mastronardi loves to bring innovation and flavor to organics, and we’re excited to share the latest and greatest products with our customers at OPS,” shared Peppe Bonfiglio, Vice President of Sales for Mastronardi Produce®.
Being armed with knowledge is the best way to tackle challenges, and Organic Produce Summit ensured that attendees left with minds hungry for more. Education sessions covered everything from CEA to organics at retail and what athletes eat to fuel their performance.
“It’s a great business to be in,” Scott Dray, Global Buyer for Walmart, noted as the education session on Shifting Organic Assortment at Retail kicked off. He then asked an important question of the buying community, addressing the room as he said, “How do we get [consumers] better access to organics from the growers in this room?”
He and fellow panelist Greg Veneziano, Vice President of Perishables for Bozzutos, remarked that one of the opportunities they saw for organics is to establish a year-round supply chain to better establish consistency for consumers.
“Organics are here to stay,” Scott assured the audience. “It’s an important component, and there are a lot of factors of why it’s still around, such as sustainability for the environment and health benefits. We [the industry] might be taking a little bit of a pause to figure out what’s next, but it’s not going anywhere.”
Keynote presentations followed, with Ryan Begin, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Divert, addressing food waste and then several retailers from Misfits Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Grocery Outlet leading the Retailer Roundtable on What Lies Ahead for Fresh Produce and Grocery Marketing.
“It all leads back to communication and having open minds with the grower/packer/shippers,” Daniel Bell, Director of Produce, Grocery Outlet, shared with the packed house during the keynote sessions when asked where he saw opportunities to work better with suppliers. “Trying to get out ahead of the curve, and being aggressive on the organic side.”
This aggression for organics, as Daniel explained, is an opportunity for organic-led ads, which was echoed earlier in another education session. It is a key element of Sprouts’ business model that Sonya Constable, Vice President of Produce for Sprouts Farmers Market, talked to attendees about.
“We lead with organic because our consumer is heavy on the organic side of things,” shared Sonya, before sharing a strategic vision for retailers and suppliers working together. “What is Sprouts thinking about in three to five years? Where are we growing and developing and opening—I need to have those conversations with my growers now so that they can make sure we have the right amount of supply, and we can fulfill the needs. I need to understand what my growers are doing from an innovation standpoint—where are they going to be focusing their time and energy, whether it’s conventional or organic. We need to be in lock-step so that we can grow this business together.”
After a brief lunch to recharge, we took to the show floor. As the largest OPS to date, the floor was figuratively bumper to bumper as people reconnected and shared details about their organic programs.
"We are always so happy to be an exhibitor and sponsor of OPS! This show is wonderful for meeting with new and existing customers and continuing to build our relationships," shared Jackie Nakashian, Brand Manager at Trinity Fruit Company.
As the show progressed, our very own Jordan Okumura-Wright shared the spotlight with SunFed’s Craig Slate and IFCO’s Ed Bertaud for a live session of The Fresh CrEd, talking about everything from the beginning of her career with AndNowUKnow to her passion for writing.
The Organic Innovations Showcase spotlighted innovations and new products across the organic sector, and many of us were drawn to the hall to see what’s next for the industry.
All in all, it was an event that solidified the strength and resilience of the organic industry and highlighted the passion and growth of what’s to come. Thank you to the Organic Produce Summit for another incredible show, and we look forward to next year!