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Key buyers to attend PMA Fresh Connections: Retail

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More than 30 produce buyers from 24 companies are scheduled to attend Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Connections: Retail event April 10-11 in Philadelphia, including first timers Coburn’s Inc., Gerrity’s Supermarkets, Longo’s Brothers Markets, Sprouts Farmers Market, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. and Whole Foods Market.

Registration is limited to 200 for the networking and education event that connects produce suppliers and business solution providers with U.S. retailers and wholesalers. Fresh Connections: Retail typically sells out in advance each year. Prices increase after April 1. PMA members receive registration discounts.

Additional buyers slated to attend include Acme Markets Inc., Allegiance Retail Services, Associated Wholesale Grocers, C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc., Giant Martins, HelloFresh, Wakefern Food Corp. and Wegmans Food Markets Inc.

In addition to growers, processors, retailers, wholesalers and distributors, Fresh Connections: Retail participants typically include business solution providers offering services such as packaging, labeling, transportation, machinery, financing and accounting.     

The event will include an evening reception April 10 at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott, and two keynotes, interactive educations sessions, a networking break and lunch on April 11.

PMA Chief Executive Officer Cathy Burns is scheduled to open the conference with insights on retail and food industry trends that have the potential to increase consumer demand for fresh produce. Kevin Coupe, author, video producer and content guy for MorningNewsBeat.com, will deliver an afternoon keynote that synthesizes themes from the day’s education sessions.

"PMA's Fresh Connections: Retail event provides great networking. I have time to meet new people and learn about their products, as well as reconnect with existing supply partners," said Chris Keetch, director of produce and floral for Giant Food Stores. "This industry is full of dynamic people, and nothing beats meeting face to face. I'm also looking forward to hearing both keynote presenters and participating in the small group discussions."

For the third consecutive year, PMA will crowdsource education session topics for Fresh Connections: Retail. The process, however, has been changed up this year. Registrants will receive an email invitation with instructions for submitting topic ideas in advance, rather than on site. They can also vote and comment on topics suggested by others.

Guidelines call for ideas related to category management and retail trends. Up to 12 unique sessions are possible, with six sessions running concurrently during each of two 50-minute blocks. A networking break is scheduled between blocks. Final topics will be announced as the event date nears, and attendees can pick which sessions to attend on site.

“Fresh Connections: Retail is about networking and starting relevant, engaging conversations to tackle real-world challenges and opportunities,” said Burns. “We look forward to the productive dialogue and thought partnership we’ve come to expect from this event and our attendees.”

Burns has extensive experience in retail. Prior to joining PMA, she was president of Food Lion, Harvey’s and Reid’s, and served previously in leadership positions at Food Lion and Hannaford Supermarkets.

Coupe’s book “Retail Rules! 52 Ways to Achieve Retail Success,” provides advice on management, marketing, customers, and operations from his unique view of the world of retail. Coupe is also co-author of “The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies,” which uses film narratives to teach about leadership, marketing and surviving the workplace. He’s provided “business news in context, and analysis with attitude” for 17 years through his MorningNewsBeat.com website/blog, which boasts about 35,000 subscribers worldwide. Coupe also teaches marketing at Portland State University’s Center for Retail Leadership.

Service Project, PMA thinkTANK & Opening Reception
For the second year, a limited number of Fresh Connections: Retail attendees can participate in an optional volunteer community service project through Philabundance and the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.

Up to 20 conference attendees can serve on PMA's Produce Market Rescue glean team. The PMA team will work a shift sorting through produce at the wholesale market from about 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on April 10. Volunteers will glean produce that otherwise would be thrown out because it’s not cosmetically pleasing, and the gleaned produce will be redirected to food-insecure neighbors in the Philadelphia area.

Those interested should register early for Fresh Connections: Retail at pma.com and select the Rescue Glean with Philabundance event on the registration form to maximize chances to participate.

“Many PMA members throughout the fresh produce supply chain work to reduce food waste in their own operations. The Rescue Glean is an opportunity to work with local organizations to further reduce food waste and make a difference in the Philadelphia community,” said Joe Watson, PMA vice president of membership Eastern U.S. & Canada.

In conjunction with the Fresh Connections: Retail event, PMA will also host an invitation-only PMA thinkTANK with industry leaders on April 10. Discussions will focus on topics relevant to produce retail. The session is one of a series PMA has planned at different events this year where invited thought partners will engage in vibrant dialogue around a variety of topics and pressing issues facing the fresh produce and/or floral industry. Participation in any PMA thinkTANK session is by invitation; however, interested members are encouraged to contact Michelle Hill at mhill@pma.com to be considered for future opportunities.

The Fresh Connections: Retail Opening Reception is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 10.