Fresh Ideas in Communication at the PMA Fresh Summit
On October 17-19, 2014, I attended the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit Conference in Anaheim, California. With over 20,000 attendees in the produce and floral business, it was a unique opportunity to learn about the produce supply chain from grower to retail outlets. I was part of a team of food bloggers organized by Casey Benedict of KitchenPLAY – a company that specializes in forging business relationships between brands and bloggers.
In conjunction with the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), Casey put together TeamFreshSummit in 2013 and came back even stronger this year with 12 bloggers sponsored by 7 companies to attend the full conference including all sessions and viewing the Expo floor for two full days. Our job? To light up social media channels including Twitter and Instagram with live coverage from the show, with special attention given to our sponsors’ messages and products. To see the results of our efforts, Casey has put together this Twitter summary report.
Key Messages at the Conference/Expo
Embrace Social Media
As it turns out embracing social media was a key message of the conference. It came through loud and clear in the sessions I attended on Friday as well as the keynote speakers on Saturday and Sunday -- Jeremy Gutsche and Gary Vaynerchuck . Whether a grower, packer, shipper, or retail outlet, the message was to tell your authentic story using modern marketing channels. Conversations and connections are happening in social media; take charge of the story and use it to connect and communicate with your customers.
As it happens, to be a successful food blogger, you need to be a storyteller and social media savvy. So TeamFreshSummit was thrilled to be at the show to display our techniques. We became instant groupies for Gary Vaynerchuck, a successful online business owner and social media guru who shared his social media gospel at Sunday’s keynote. Proud TeamFreshSummit groupies crowded around @garyvee (photo courtesy of Carly Morgan)
Team Fresh Summit 2014 from L to R:
- Suki @ Super Duper Fantastic
- Megan @ Stetted
- Heather @ Real: The Kitchen and Beyond
- Lori @ Fake Food Free
- Carly @ Ever Clever Mom
- Gary Vaynerchuck (not part of Team Fresh Summit)
- Jason @ Modernist Cooking Made Easy
- Cathy @ Noble Pig
- Laura @ Hey, What’s For Dinner Mom?
- Rachel @ Trampling Rose
- Our fearless leader, Casey @ Kitchen PLAY
- Cristina @ Teenie Cakes
- Not pictured: Mimi @ Mimi Avocado
Fruits and Vegetables are Snacks too!
Another crucial theme of the show focused on how to put fruits and vegetables into kids' hands before they grab processed junk food. A program and hashtag called #eatbrighter was visible throughout the show. A special event on Friday called Fresh Ideas in Action reception included a recipe contest called The Sensory Experience Contest. where companies entered a recipe using fruits or vegetables that would appeal to kids. We were able to taste the top ten entries and hear the winners announced:
Buyers’ Choice Winner: Wholesum Family Farms, Eggplant Vegetable Balls with Roma Tomato Sauce
Kids’ Choice Winner: Wish Farms, Strawberry Blueberry Hazelnut Chocolate Flatbread
My Favorite: Ball Design, Fresh Fruit Nachos with Honey Yogurt Drizzle
Mickey also made an appearance.
Exploring the Expo, Day 1
Once the expansive show floor opened on Saturday morning, TeamFreshSummit hit the ground running. We prioritized visiting the booths of all of our sponsors, not only to learn about their new offerings but to begin the social media blitz, sharing photos and key marketing messages we garnered during our visit.
My first stop was the Sun-Maid Raisin/Valley Fig booth. The whole team stopped by and we were treated to a quick overview of the growing process, drying process, and health benefits of raisins and figs. I grew up with the Sun-Maid lady and really enjoyed learning that she was a real person named Lorraine Collett Petersen -- below is a replica of the original portrait done in 1915. And the Valley Fig representative shared this bottle of fig balsamic vinegar with us - one of my favorite types of flavored vinegars in the kitchen - can be used to enhance every course from appetizer to dessert.
My next stop was Hurst’s Berries where I learned about the little known Kiwi berry. Yup, that’s right – eats like a berry but tastes like a kiwi.
After that I visited the Watermelon Board and learned that watermelons contain an amino acid called Citrulline that promotes good blood flow and cardiovascular health. And did you know the white part of the watermelon and the outer skin are edible? And watermelons are an excellent carving alternative for Halloween too.
One of the most beautiful products of the day was nutrient rich non-GMO Nutraleaf lettuce with a beautiful purple hue, that my photo does not fully convey. The lettuce boasts far more nutritional value than its romaine and red leaf alternatives. Looking forward to seeing it in a store near me soon.
Last stop of the day was Gourmet Garden to learn about their new lightly dried herbs. I am already such a fan. Most are organic, a nice bonus for me, and especially during a busy week or the colder winter months, having these ready to use herbs available with a taste of fresh is such a convenience. I’ve already used them for pizza, a potato bar, and soup.
Exploring the Expo, Day 2
On Sunday we hit the ground running again – I made my way to two more sponsor’s booths.
Mucci Farms, an innovative greenhouse based grower in Canada had many great tastes and vegetables to show off. Their CuteCumbers™ were a feature at the show and were used in their top 10 entry in the Sensory Experience Contest on Friday. While they might be ideal for kids’ snacks, I love these cucumbers because they are similar to Persian cucumbers and are wonderful for salads or an appetizer platter and don’t require peeling.
Last but definitely not least, I headed over to the Duda Farm Fresh Foods booth where Chef Todd Fisher was cooking up many creative dishes featuring their new line of Ready to Eat Radishes available in matchsticks, sliced, and whole. I tasted his Tuna Taco served with radish and black garlic slaw as well as his Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta topped with Clementine Conserva. Happy that he is a local chef to me in the Carmel area – I intend to head down there soon for a visit. Maybe I can convince him to let me in the kitchen for a lesson or two while I'm there.
More Exciting Finds on the Floor
I visited many many more booths with some fascinating and creative new fruits and vegetables. Here are some of my favorites:
These Mighties by Sun Pacific who also brings us the lunch box perfect Cuties Clementines. They’ve boxed up kiwi with an easy-to-use spoon/knife for cutting and eating, hoping to make kiwi fruit more inviting for kids. Their display of pomegranates with a how-to was also stunning.
The Jack Fruit and other “fear no fruit” samples in the Frieda’s Produce booth were so much fun to explore.
And how could I miss the California Date booth since you know from recent posts that I have a bit of a fetish with date syrup these days! In the booth, I tasted a date shake and this delicious scallop and date creation. Did you know that dates are grown in the Coachella Valley? And did you know that you can make a natural sweetener out of them that you can use just like maple syrup or honey? More on that here and here.
The Litehouse Foods booth was very welcoming and I really appreciated this new yogurt based product – they use the whey from their other salad dressings as the basis for making the yogurt used in these new dressings.
Loved learning about the CAGrown campaign to donate food to food banks - every time somebody posts a picture taken with a California grown fruit or vegetable, they donate one pound of food.
The family story behind Tanimura and Antle – a grower out of the Salinas Valley – was heartwarming. I hope to have a chance to visit their farms in Salinas sometime soon.
Nice to see Naturipe offering mango and berries for a grab and go fruit snack. And it’s all done without preservatives – just ingenious packaging.
Did you know that avocados are not just for guacamole and sandwiches? How about dessert? The California Avocado Commission greeted us warmly and shared many creative uses for avocado with us including this key lime parfait.
And a late but fun stop was a local Bay Area company called Back to the Roots - some fellow UC Berkeley grads (Go Bears!) who figured out how to make it easy for you to grow your own mushrooms in the comfort of your kitchen! Casey from KitchenPLAY and a fellow blogger that I was lucky to meet up with at the Expo, Diane from Created by Diane enjoyed our late day photo session. (photo courtesy of Carly Morgan)
Look for my recipe post using dried figs coming soon and watch my Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google +, and Pinterest feeds for more product information and recipe ideas inspired by everything I learned at the show. I already have my calendar marked for next year's PMA Fresh Summit which will be held in Atlanta, GA from Oct 23- 25, 2015.
More Fresh Summit recaps:
Disclosure: While I received compensation for my participation in Team Fresh Summit at the PMA Fresh Summit Conference and Expo, all thoughts, opinions, and words are my own. Thank you to the following sponsors: Sun-Maid/Valley Fig Growers, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Gourmet Garden Herbs & Spices, HBF International (Hurst’s Berries), Mucci Farms, National Watermelon Promotion Board, Nutraleaf.