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Viva Fresh Expo set for April 25-27

The fifth-annual Viva Fresh Expo will take place April 25-27 in San Antonio, TX. The meeting will be held again this year at the J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa. The expo’s very popular annual golf tournament will be held April 25 on the resort’s PGA golf course.

The expo is presented by the Texas International Produce Association. Dante Galeazzi, president and chief executive officer of the association, sat down with The Produce News to answer some questions about the show.Craig-Slate-Dante-Tommy-W In the hallway during the 2018 Viva Fresh Expo were show leaders Craig Slate, Dante Galeazzi and Tommy Wilkins.

The Produce News: What is your attendance and what are your exhibitor expectations for Viva Fresh 2019?

Dante Galeazzi: We’ve got a sold-out show floor with 169 regional exhibitor booths, and we’re expecting somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 attendees will be joining us in San Antonio for the 5th annual Viva Fresh.

TPN: Why do you limit exhibitor numbers?

DG: It was a conscious decision by the Viva Fresh steering committee several years ago to keep the show intimate and about the networking. Our mission is about highlighting the region but doing so in such a way that all of our attendees have ample opportunities to socialize, develop new connections, and enjoy themselves in a relaxed, yet professional atmosphere. By limiting the size of show floor, it gives the buyers time to not only see ALL of the exhibitors, but to actually take time and meet and visit with those folks.

TPN: What is your target audience for exhibitors and why?

DG: Our target for exhibitors is those organizations with physical operations in Texas, one of the four states bordering Texas (NM, OK, AR, LA) or operations in Mexico and crossing through Texas. Viva Fresh is about the TexMex corridor and the importance it offers to the produce industry as a unique fresh fruits and vegetables arena providing a diverse variety of produce items all year long.

TPN: What is your target audience for attendees and why?

DG: Our target attendees are anyone interested in learning more about the region, and ultimately participating in the area. Ideally, we’re wanting to connect the buyer community with the regional grower-shipper-importers so that they can expand their supplier network in the region by seeing a range of companies that meet a very specific niche/need by virtue of operating within the TexMex corridor.

TPN: Why has Viva Fresh been so successful?

DG: I think Viva Fresh has been successful for a lot of reasons.Number one — it’s filling a need in our industry. The Southwest is an ideal location for servicing the fresh fruit and vegetable demand of North America. Shipping from Texas, for example, can get a truckload of really any and all fresh produce items to any point in the U.S. within three and a half days.

Number two — The show size. It’s small enough that someone can visit the entire exhibitor list in four and a half hours, yet diverse enough that every year buyers are able find new suppliers (plus it helps that the show floor is nearly 20 percent new or first-time companies).

Number three — The amount and quality of networking opportunities. Every year, the Viva Fresh steering committee comes together and develops a schedule that allows for plenty of networking, meetings, and developing connections. It not only keeps the show intimate, but it also keeps the show fun and alive with conversation, new relationships and plenty of opportunities. Number four — incredible leadership team. The show really relies on the input and hard work of the various committees, and it’s really because of these folks that we are able to improve the show every year.

TPN: Tell us about your program this year?  What is different than the past?

DG: First is the content. Every year, the content changes to adjust to what’s happening in the world around us — with specific attention to the region. What factors are influencing decision making in fresh fruits and vegetables? What things keep us awake at night? Where do we see the industry going? And most importantly, what can our industry do to address all these things? The Viva Fresh education committees looks to answer so many questions, and they spend months whittling down the list to really hone in and offer the most valuable sessions.

We’ll also be adding more time between events for folks to catch up with old friends, make new friends, and most importantly to do what they came to Viva Fresh to do — and that’s create new business opportunities.

And of course, the food. Every year, we focus on a great menu of regional flavors prepared in unique and creative ways. Always, with fresh, nutritious produce in mind.

TPN: What would you like to share, otherwise, on your thoughts on the show?

DG: Produce is growing. Texas farmers are constantly testing new things. The home of the Rio Star grapefruit and the Texas 1015 sweet onions will continue to provide an incredible assortment of items. We start combining the diversity of fruits and vegetables crossing from Mexico into Texas, and we’ve just added $7 billion of commodities like mangos, limes, tomatoes, avocados and papayas.

But it doesn’t stop there. The TexMex corridor also includes things like fresh potatoes, watermelons, pumpkins, peaches and greenhouse vegetables.

With so much available, so much happening, it makes celebrating the TexMex corridor easy and we hope that’s how our Viva Fresh attendees feel when they attend — they’re part of the fresh fruit and vegetable explosion happening in our region.

In 2020, Viva Fresh will be held again at the J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, TX, April 30-May 2.