WASHINGTON, DC - The United Fresh Produce Association, one of the industry’s top trade groups, has canceled plans for a hybrid version of its annual convention and will replace with a new program focused on in-person meetings with members at various spots around the country.

The in-person portion of the initial hybrid concept, which would have given attendees both in-person and virtual options, was to have been held in Los Angeles. But with California’s continued limitation on conventions and expos of United Fresh’s size, the association decided on the alternative, which it has dubbed Reimagine Connections.

The program will bring members together in-person at smaller regional events, and online for education, networking and innovation events.

According to United Fresh, Reimagine Connections will deliver:
  • A series of smaller in-person regional events where members can gather and build those relationships we all value;
  • An online education and networking portfolio that truly serves the business needs of the industry; and
  • A new opportunity for companies to host their own Innovation Spotlight Broadcasts to connect with clients and colleagues about new products, business solutions and services.
“We’re very disappointed California requirements will not allow us to host our trade show in Los Angeles this June. We had looked forward to partnering this year with the Fresh Produce and Floral Council, and appreciate their collaboration and hard work in building what might have been our largest show ever,” said United Fresh’s chairman, Michael Muzyk, president of Baldor Specialty Foods, Inc. “But once again United Fresh is re-inventing the member experience to connect in new ways. Combining a new portfolio of top education, networking and innovation sessions with a series of in-person regional events allows us to Reimagine Connections across our industry.”

As local conditions permit, United Fresh will host safe education and networking events in several cities this summer.

“We know that members are anxious to see each other, so we’re bringing that opportunity to them,” said United Fresh’s president and CEO, Tom Stenzel.

A schedule of dates and locations for United Fresh regional events will be coming soon, together with information about how to register and/or sponsor events.

Online Education/Networking Registration will open May 1 for a series of online education and networking sessions that complement the in-person events. Online education and networking will take a deep dive into five unique tracks throughout the spring and summer, including:
  • Produce 101 – Orientation to the Fresh Produce Supply Chain;
  • Key Issues in Produce Safety;
  • BrandStorm Continued – Marketing as Key to Increasing Sales;
  • Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges to Profitability; and
  • Top-to-Top Retail-Foodservice Dialogues for Success.
Each track will have a minimum of five individual one-hour sessions, for a total of 25 sessions. Registration will be available for each track for $400. Access to all five tracks is $1,500, a $500 savings. Companies can receive three full packages for members of their team for $4,000, an additional $500 savings. And for those companies who want to make this a total team event, a $10,000 package enables a company to have unlimited staff access to these programs.

Looking at the content, associates just starting out in the industry will find great value in United Fresh’s “Orientation” track, learning about each stage of the supply chain and getting to know their peers, according to the association. Staff working in food safety, marketing or supply chain will gain advanced knowledge and skills in those disciplines. And c-suite executives will enjoy exclusive access in top-to-top retail and foodservice strategy sessions on what lies ahead for the produce industry.

Also on tap for Reimagine Connections: Innovation Spotlight Broadcasts.

“We know that everyone is tired of virtual expos, where ‘exhibitors’ have to wait patiently for someone to visit their ‘booth,’” said John Toner, United Fresh’s vice president of convention and industry collaboration. “But we also know that new product development and innovation are the lifeline to the future – and buyers want to see what’s new. So, we’re offering companies the opportunity to host their own live, interactive presentations online.”

Innovation Spotlight Broadcasts are a more creative way, Toner added, for companies to connect personally with buyers who want to see new produce items, what’s new in packaging, or even future technologies to streamline operations. A limited number of Innovation Spotlight Broadcasts will be available at a cost of $4,000 for a 45-minute session.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a nightmare to individuals and families around the world. And, it has disrupted businesses and challenged employees throughout the produce industry,” Stenzel said. “While we’re disappointed that we can’t have thousands of people at our trade show this June, we can still connect our industry to learn together, to build relationships with our colleagues, and to grow our businesses through new products and innovations. That’s an essential job of a trade association, and we’re excited to bring these new opportunities to our members.”