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IFE 2017 delivers another ‘rockstar’ show

chicago — The visual impact of the 2017 International Floriculture Expo held here June 13-15 nearly knocked my socks off with its vast display of spectacular floral products. Though usually considered a domestic flower grower exhibition, this year’s edition of the show included farmers from Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, and more. There were 225 exhibitors on the show floor, including 30 new companies.

In addition, several bouquet companies really outdid themselves with their creative floral color combinations, innovative sleeve materials and shapes, along with some new and funky containers.

Another thing I noticed this year was that exhibitors and buyers seemed to be much more deeply engaged with each other. I witnessed many lively and spirited business conversations centered around the products on display and the floral industry in general.

The three-day event kicked off with education day where more than 350 participants heard from over 20 speakers discussing a wide variety of industry topics.

IFE-2017Several bouquet companies at IFE 2017 really outdid themselves with their creative floral color combinations, innovative sleeve materials and shapes, along with some new and funky containers.“The program overwhelmingly drew a good response,” a person involved in planning the education program told The Produce News. “The goal this year was to hit every genre of education. The sessions included creative thinking with technology, cross-merchandising, consumer interactions, problem solving, and the way the government and the floral industry are working together to solve problems such as labor. The ambiance was great, the collaboration was great and it was a very balanced program.”

On day two, the tradeshow floor opened up to a rush of buyers and other visitors. Carmen Perez, senior account manager at Silver Vase in Homestead, FL, said, “That morning at the first opening, it was crazy and we were really busy that day. We had a lot of foot traffic that first day and I had a lot of my customers come through the booth. I thought the traction was good.”

This day also included the famous Iron Designer competition, where 10 competitors from around the country were tasked with creating a design in just 20 minutes using floral foam tiles from Oasis and flowers provided by Ball. There was a lot of enthusiastic crowd support and encouragement and the room seemed filled with upraised smartphone cameras recording the frenzied contest. As they tabulated the judges’ results, I patiently waited to photograph the winning designer. Eventually the announcement was made that Corey Rader from FreshBlooms and DVFlora in Sewell, NJ, was the 2017 IFE Iron Designer but he was nowhere to be seen. Apparently he had accidentally cut himself with his knife during the competition and was being treated at a first aid station. After he got patched up, he was presented with his crystal vase trophy.

Day three continued to draw good attendance to the show. Pamela Travares, chief executive office at AquaBox USA in San Antonio, FL, told The Produce News, “Our booth was busier than any show we have exhibited at. We made great contacts — though fewer than last year — but I feel the contacts we did get are good strong partnerships for us. As a small business owner, going to the IFE pretty much consumes our entire marketing budget. With that being said, the business we will obtain will offset the expenses. We will be back next year.” 

Victoria Bentley, floral category manager at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market in Downer’s Grove, IL, told The Produce News, “I needed another day to be honest — I didn’t get the opportunity to see enough of it. There were a lot of nice things — I focused on the flowers and new packaging. I liked the idea that they had wreaths and Christmas trees and all of that. Such a variety of things, I just wished I had a little more time.”

Bradley Gaines, director of floral at United Supermarkets/Market Street in Lubbock, TX, said, “IFE does everything to make it easy for us to attend. I thought it was a good show. It was the right size for us to do business, to do what we needed to do during those couple of days. It was a great show, even with some of the bigger partners not being there this year; it made it a manageable size for us. It was a rockstar show — they did everything to make it easy for us to do business.”

According to the event’s organizers, the number of visitors reached record heights this year. More than 750 floral attendees and key buyers walked the show floor and there was a combined attendance of over 7,500 including IFE’s show partners, United FreshTEC, United FreshMKT and Global Cold Chain Expo.