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Viva Fresh promotes Mexico-Texas region

Viva Fresh was born almost five years ago and continues to evolve as an intimate regional produce show. We made the focus on Texas and the products that cross our borders. Our growth is tied to providing specific resources to retail and foodservice so good decisions can be made.tipa

Our original goal was to increase demand for fresh produce and that remains on trend for 2019. Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables will have such a positive impact on the health of our consumers and our communities, especially at a time when health epidemics are rattling our country and its health-care systems.

Changes and demands continue to come at retailers at a rapid pace. Foodborne illness outbreaks will have to be something we as an industry respond to. Traditional storefront retailers will continue to battle for their niche as the expansion of online grocery commerce continues to evolve. The extreme shortage of trucks and farm labor continues to pose issues to our Industry.

This season has brought growers in Mexico multiple hurricanes, and record cold spells are just a few of the challenges that change year-to-year. I certainly remember in ad meetings as a retailer how we had to audible around the weather that seems more active in our region since October. Hurricane Willa devastated crops late October on the Pacific side. Mid-November brought a severe freeze to central Mexico, cutting its season four to six weeks short. Just prior to the new year we saw another freeze in western Mexico, compounding issues for hot peppers, tomatoes and squash.

Relationships built during these Viva Fresh shows help retailers navigate and obtain valuable information to make decisions. I was fortunate enough to travel and have these relationships over the years, but as new buyers enter the industry I feel we have a model where buyers can get good information, fully understand the issues and react quicker and strategically as a retailer or foodservice entity without all of the travel — not to mention under one roof.

Viva Fresh is committed to bringing growers and shippers from Mexico and Texas together to arm retailers with information to combat these issues. Working in retail for more than 20 years, culminating as director of produce procurement for United Supermarkets, I believe we have a show that keeps a retailer educated and abreast of the industry issues. That time networking is nothing short of a blessing. The commitment from our retail-foodservice advisory committee challenging us to stay on point is also beneficial.

Our industry continues to face important changes daily and demands are coming faster than ever. Viva Fresh is a wonderful tool for what is going on in our region and we look forward to the show later this year and sharing our region’s story with the rest of the country.

(Tommy Wilkins is the director of sales and business development for Grow Farms Texas and a member of Texas International Produce Association executive committee)