One of the main goals of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association’s annual show, set for June 10-12 in Chicago, is to add new energy and harness the momentum of innovation in the fresh produce industry, says Tom Stenzel, the association’s president and CEO.
“We are creating new community gathering opportunities to allow different groups of attendees to come together and share common experiences, ideas and solutions, as well as build new relationships most relevant to their sector of the industry,” Stenzel says.
United Fresh has “elevated” a number of its traditional experiences, Stenzel says, which will allow attendees more of the value they return year-to-year to experience. And the association has built in new opportunities across the show floor to allow more attendees to celebrate the future leaders of our industry and the winners of its annual Retail Produce Manager Awards and Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards.
“These are folks who are making a difference on the front lines each day who deserve our accolades,” he says. “Anyone attending the expo will be able to stay and celebrate these winners with us at the Retail-Foodservice Celebration on Wednesday at the conclusion of the expo.”
United Fresh ’19 will engage attendees in many of the top-of-mind discussions that are relevant to the industry right now, says John Toner, the association’s vice president of convention and industry collaboration.
“Top trends are omnipresent across our show floor,” he says. “More than 200 exhibitors will display their innovative new products, services and logistics to advance our industry and increase consumption of fresh produce.”
United Fresh’s Innovation Awards, for example, recognize winners in seven categories. Attendees are able to vote for their favorites in each category during the show on Tuesday and Wednesday with winners announced from the new Main Stage Wednesday afternoon to a larger audience, Toner says, than the show has ever seen.
For the third year, at the 2019 show United Fresh will host the FutureTEC Zone where start-up tech companies or early-stage small businesses will showcase their new solutions and concepts to the global fresh produce industry. A number of these companies also will present their concepts during the TEC Talks taking place on the new Stage Next on the trade show floor.
“This year’s enhancements have been strategically positioned to ensure all attendees see added value in their participation at United Fresh,” says Greg Corrigan, senior director of produce and floral for West Sacramento, California-based Raley’s and chairman of United Fresh’s board of directors.
At this year’s United Fresh, expect to hear a lot about sustainability, flavor, food safety and a host of other hot trends, Toner says — not just on the Main Stage and Stage Next, but throughout the show floor.
Education and networking front and center
As at all United Fresh shows, educational programming and networking events will be a priority in this year’s edition, Stenzel says.
“We’re really looking forward to our annual Opening Party at Navy Pier this year on Monday night,” he says. “And we’ve added more energy to our networking by inviting attendees with an All Access Package to join us for United Fresh Late Night at House of Blues Tuesday evening from 9 p.m. to midnight after their vendor/client dinners.”
In addition, United Fresh is looking forward to the new opportunity for buyers and vendors to engage in one-on-one meetings through our new Partner X-Change program, Stenzel says. This year, 20 buyer companies and 20 vendors will meet on Monday afternoon to share new ideas, review new products and services and make new connections. They will then arrive in style to the United Fresh Opening Party on the Mystic Blue, where invited guests will cruise from McCormick Place to the Navy Pier along Lake Michigan.
Nelia Alamo, a member of the 2019 show’s convention committee and the vice president of communications for Rancho Cordova, California-based Renaissance Food Group, says the educational and networking sessions at the United Fresh shows provide the greatest value to her personally.
“I look forward to new ideas and personal growth through education sessions and powerful speakers,” she says. “It’s also one of my favorite shows to network with friends old and new. It draws a great audience and its size allows for you to spend quality time and have meaningful conversations.”
Another highlight of United Fresh ’19, Alamo says, will be the annual Women in Produce Breakfast. Women in Produce has always been a strong draw and crowd-pleaser. Putting this year’s event at the beginning of the day could make it even better.
“Moving to a breakfast shines a brighter light on the recipient,” Alamo says. “I think it also enables more attendees to participate, allowing for proper recognition of the honoree.”
Retailers and suppliers, one-on-one
Also new at this year’s United Fresh show is the Partner X-Change program, which matches retailers and foodservice companies with suppliers for one-on-one meetings. Meetings will be held on June 10. The program sold out in its first year.
“We’re excited to see such a strong turnout from retail and foodservice buyers,” says Greg Corrigan, senior director of produce and floral for West Sacramento, California-based Raley’s and chairman of United Fresh’s board of directors. “And our suppliers have recognized the great opportunity to make one-on-one connections at the convention, too.”
Retail participants in Partner X-Change include:
• Albertsons Companies
• Associated Wholesale Grocers
• Baldor Specialty Foods
• Big Y
• Danaco Solutions
• Giant Eagle Markets
• Raley's Family of Fine Stores
• Sam's Club
• Target Corporation
• The Fresh Market
• Tops Friendly Market
• US Foods
• Walmart Stores