PMA Foodservice Asks How We Can Grow Appetites for Bold Ideas at 2018 Conference & Expo
MONTEREY, CA - My first trade show is now behind me, and it was a whirlwind. With over 1,800 attendees looking through the 191 exhibitors, PMA Foodservice showed me what the produce industry is all about: community. Across the show floor, the energy from retailers and exhibitors was infectious. Squeezing down aisles, stopping to say hello and sample outrageously creative offerings—sweet corn ice cream, anyone?—I was blown away by the sense of community permeating the Monterey Conference Center.
To highlight this, the event kicked off on Wednesday, starting with the Center for Growing Talent’s Bocce for Talent Tournament, its Joe Nucci Memorial Golf Tournament, and then its 5K Race for Talent. The Strolling Brunch—a first for PMA—was a chance for buyers and sellers to try out new flavors while meeting new folks, before heading in to see Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, talk about company momentum and growth—an event Cathy Burns tells me was so full there was only room left for people to stand.
“We had a great panel session moderated by our friend Chef Jet, with thoughtful conversations with leaders from Brinker, Sizzler, and Markon that dug into issues the industry is facing," Cathy tells me when I ask her what the highlights of the show have been. "The expo was a great opportunity to see buyers and sellers connecting and business happening. The innovation that I’m seeing around the show floor has been absolutely unbelievable, and the spirit and energy that I sense and feel from everyone here is palpable. There’s still a lot of optimism, and a lot of work to do to move our industry forward, and ultimately grow a healthier world.”
The expo was a flurrry of activity. Stopping to see and hear all about the latest releases was incredibly exciting. One such new release was from Ocean Mist Farms, whose new value-added broccoli florets and Brussels sprouts were a must see for everyone walking the floor.
“What PMA Foodservice means for Ocean Mist Farms is additional face time with our valuable customers, an opportunity to bring people into our backyard and to our facility in Castroville, and making new friends and building on relationships,” Diana McClean, Director of Marketing, tells me. “The highlight of this show has been customer interaction and bigger, better friendships.”
Mission Produce's Denise Junquiero clued me in to how PMA Foodservice offers unique opportunities for its exhibitors.
“Foodservice is a big part of what we do,” Denise shares with me. “This year, we actually launched our Mission Foodservice division and we’re very excited about it. We’ve just seen our business grow so much in this sector and we really wanted to enhance our capabilities and also enhance our resources that we’re giving to this specific customer base, so they know what’s out there around avocados. The show’s been really amazing. Being able to have those touch points with our customers and discuss what’s going on with the avocado has been a really, really great opportunity for us—especially having launched Mission Foodservice and our Emeralds in the Rough box. It gives us a platform to showcase our capabilities in a different way and get our message out there.”
Grimmway Farm’s Lisa McNeece, Vice President of Foodservice and Industrial Sales, shared what PMA Foodservice has meant to her and the company.
“The show has once again been a great success,” she begins. “We’ve had a lot of traffic and great conversation at our booth. We’re introducing our Rainbow Organic Fingerling potatoes in a 25 lb bulk pack, which has received an enormous amount of interest. Foodservice has become a large part of our business; this show provides us with a great opportunity to meet one on one with many of our customers and showcase many of our products all in one place. I love that everybody has the same-sized booth. We’re all 8x10, which makes it more intimate. We are so fortunate to be part of an industry that provides bountiful, healthy, flavorful products to all.”
From the buy-side, I talked to Plated’s Felipe Alexander, who let me know that this year's PMA has been one for the books.
“I really like the new format this year. It’s a great experience, especially for a first-timer. It’s very accessible,” he tells me. “For Plated, it’s always good to see our brand. We work with a lot of distributors so we don’t often go straight to the brand. So it’s nice to see new brands and the new stuff that’s going on.”
As I wandered through the myriad of offerings, I stopped to sample Monterey Mushroom’s Let’s Blend™ Finely Diced Mushrooms, a fortuitous moment, given its win for Best Product Promo Award.
“It’s critical,” Mike O’Brien, Vice President of Marketing, shares with me about the importance of the win to Monterey Mushrooms. “It’s so exciting to look to the future when you’re looking for menu innovation, so it’s not just about what we’re doing today, it’s about where we’re going to take the category tomorrow, and what’s going to excite the consumer, and that’s why the blend is such an important part of our portfolio.”
Congratulations also go out to Avocados From Mexico and Famous Software for winning first and second place at Best of Show, respectively. Other PMA winners are listed below.
2018 Joe Nucci Golf Tournament Awards
First Place Foursome
- Tom Koster, Mann Packing Company
- John DeSantis, Mann Packing Company
- Rich Bouwman, Mann Packing Company
- Bill Engleke, Mann Packing Company
Second Place Foursome
- Brent Hofmann, Famous Software
- Jordan Long, Famous Software
- Ernie Baltierra, Green Herbs International
- Robert Culhane, Coosemans Worldwide
Fruit Salad Putt Winner
- Andy Lessem, Concord Foods
- Brad Wham, Virtus, LLC
- Patrick Bolin, Virtus LLC
- Grant Longstreet, Sun Rich Fresh Foods, Inc.
Longest Drive Winners
- John DeSantis, Mann Packing Company
- Gina Nucci, Mann Packing Company
Chip and Putt Contest Winners
- Chip: Brent Hofmann, Famous Software
- Putt: Maryam Nikkhah, Pete's Living Greens
Guess the Number of Tees
- Brian Rogers, San Miguel Produce
Marshmallow Drive Winner
- Brad Marshall, Robinson Fresh
Keg in the Fairway Winner
- Maryam Nikkhah, Pete's Living Greens
2018 Bocce Tournament Results
Coveted Trophy Winners:
Growers Express: Cynthia Davis, Darilyn Jaurequi, Sara Plymale, Bob Thorp
- Steinbeck Country Produce: Phil Balestreri, Matt Huntington, Chris Whitlow, Cesar Rodriguez
Best Dressed Team:
- Steinbeck Country Produce: Shelly Hefferman, Mariella Hernadez, George Mosqueda, Barbara Rosas
- Growers Express: Natalie Macedonia, Alexis Nashihara, Andrew Ratto
2018 5K Race Results
Team Competition Awards
- Best Team Spirit: The Incredible Destiny Packaging
- Best Team Attire: Earthbound Farm
- Largest Team to Register: Team Ippolito
Top Overall Men
- Nathan Rossi | 16:41
- Suresh DeCosta | Lipman |17:54
- Jeff Martin | Kroger | 18:26
Top Overall Women
- Stacy Ward | Coastal Sunbelt Produce | 19:17
- Cassidy Taylor | Produce Marketing Association | 20:44
- Julia Gionet-Gonzales | 20:59
Thanks to everyone for making this PMA Foodservice Expo a success!