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Fresh Summit 2020 Virtual Format Unlocks New Opportunities   

PMA Fresh Summit 2020

The first week of Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2020 has wrapped on three full days of educational content, virtual community receptions and Marketplace meetings, but it is not over yet. The event platform, including on-demand educational content, attendee list and Marketplace booths, along with all of the communication tools, will be available through Nov. 13.

The PMA Fresh Summit 2020 opened to all registrants on Oct. 7.

Fresh Summit 2020 was the first fully virtual experience in the event’s history, which has spanned seven decades. Despite the change of venue, the event featured the hallmark components of the largest, yearly gathering in the produce and floral industries and even added some new experiences for registered attendees. Registration is still open, as the Marketplaces and on-demand content remain available for the coming weeks.

The virtual format unlocked new opportunities for the event, which included welcoming attendees from across the globe. In total, 64 countries were represented, with the highest representation from the U.S, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Peru and Colombia. With education content both closed captioned and with translation provided in three languages – English, Spanish, and Portuguese – the globally minded and relevant insights from all speakers were more accessible and inclusive than ever before. Additionally, educational content was broadcast twice a day before moving to on-demand to encourage maximum participation from the international audience.

PMA traditionally provides industry education throughout the year at in-person events but pivoted in the face of the pandemic to provide regular and responsive content to help members navigate the changing environment. The event featured 31 speakers and 21 hours of educational content, and Fresh Summit engagement is proof that the industry is still hungry for insights.

General and concurrent sessions like “Understanding the Consumer for Marketplace Success,” which featured discussion of weekly consumer data collected over the past several months, saw audiences of almost 900 viewers. Cathy Burns, PMA CEO, delivered her State of the Industry presentation on Tuesday, pulling in almost 2,000 live viewers, exceeding the number of audience members in past years by several hundred. The content is still available for those who would like to revisit the recording or watch it for the first time.

Each year when the education sessions end, the Fresh Summit crowd migrates to the show floor and this year is no different. There were more than 360 exhibitors spread across four different Marketplaces, including Produce, Complementary Items, Floral and Solutions Providers. The Fresh Ideas Showcase, featuring new and innovative products, had more than 150 products represented.

Reflecting the industry’s interest in building new connections, especially in a year with limited face-to-face opportunities, there was a historically high number of buyers registered to attend the event. The registration processes allowed buyers to identify what Marketplaces they were looking to connect with during the week.

The final evening of an in-person Fresh Summit would find teams of workers breaking down booths and sweeping the show floor, but Fresh Summit 2020 won’t close its Marketplace doors for four more weeks, extending exhibiting company investments and inviting more connections and meetings to take place. PMA is encouraging exhibitors to have at least one member of the team log in daily to check for meeting requests to avoid missing out on new potential business.

Connections were a primary focus for the event, which shows in the buyer to booth ratios. For the Produce and Complementary Items Marketplaces, there were nine buyers to every booth, Floral saw 10 buyers for every booth and the Solutions Marketplace saw 18 buyers for each booth.

Fresh Summit always has been a reunion for the industry, and while no one is looking to replace in-person connections, it was clear from the live chats that accompanied the session broadcasts that people were excited to come together again. While the platform is always active and engagement numbers are growing all the time, as of Friday morning on Oct. 16, there were more than 77,400 messages exchanged and 7,660 meetings requested. Buyers have initiated more than 4,540 of the meeting requests sent.

“Based on feedback from our members and guests, we are beyond pleased with how the first three days of Fresh Summit have met their needs for compelling, differentiated educational content,” said Burns. “While the pandemic prevented us from getting together in person, the Fresh Summit platform extends the event beyond the limits of traditional calendar days to a full month of community and connections. With a high number of retail buyers actively participating on the Marketplace, we will continue to help facilitate connections across the global supply chain in the weeks ahead. Thank you to everyone who trusted in us to bring a virtual Fresh Summit to life.”

While the business connections, education and insights and the new product showcases are about looking toward the future of the industry, Fresh Summit is also a time to celebrate and reflect. While this has been a challenging year, it also has been a year of tremendous leadership, collaboration, innovation and energy. While the industry as a whole has been resilient and creative in rising to each challenge, there were a few exceptional leaders recognized over the first three days of the event. PMA and the Center for Growing Talent are honored to recognize the 2020 award winners recognized for their commitment and dedication to the produce and floral industries.

  • Robert L. Carey Award – Excellence in Leadership: Jin Ju Wilder, director of marketing and business development for Vesta Foodservice
  • Bryan E. Silbermann Award – Excellence in Collaboration: Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, executive director for the Center for Produce Safety
  • Floral Marketer of the Year Award: Debora Steier, VP of floral for Albertsons Cos.;
  • Retail Merchant Innovation Award: Scott Bennett, produce sales manager at Jewel Osco;
  • Mike Tipton, VP of produce and floral for Schnucks Markets Inc.;
  • Bridget Bennett, supervisory category manager (produce) for the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA);
  • Jeff Cady, director of produce and floral for Tops Friendly Markets;
  • CGT’s Jay Pack Cultivating Our Future Award: Dan’l Mackey Almy, president and CEO of DMA Solutions Inc.; and
  • CGT’s Frieda Rapoport Caplan Women’s Catalyst Award: Kristen Reid, EVP of MIXTEC Group.

Fresh Summit 2020 continues for four more weeks with all Marketplaces open and educational content available through Nov. 13. Registration is open.

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