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Kurt Zuhlke seeks virtual success at the New York Produce Show

By
Keith Loria

Kurt Zuhlke has participated in the New York Produce Show every year since the event began, and while the 2020 virtual edition of the show is certain to be different, he is still aiming to make the experience productive.

“We probably will make some new contacts, but this is all new, we haven’t had any real experience with it, so we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” said Zuhlke, president of Kurt Zuhlke & Associates Inc., also known as ProducePackaging.com. “We’re going to participate in it, but we can’t make a determination if it’s going to be successful or not until it’s over.”

He said the company is preparing a video to present during the show and will also promote its website so that participants learn more about the packaging products Kurt Zuhlke & Associates offers. Organizing online chats about items is another consideration.

“We’re going to discuss the plastic industry and how it’s being affected,” Zuhlke said, adding that when the COVID-19 pandemic first broke, the people at Kurt Zuhlke & Associates Inc. were very busy, but that business has dropped off to a pretty typical level.

“At the beginning, everybody was just buying everything in the store and not going out to restaurants — that also affected our business and our packaging for the restaurant trade,” he said. “When the New York market and New Jersey and Pennsylvania closed up all restaurants, it affected us as well.”

Zuhlke is also preparing for what is expected to be a very active, if quite different holiday season. As the number of COVID-19 cases increased dramatically in November, many state governments advised people not to celebrate Thanksgiving with extended family members, which will likely result in a large number of smaller dinners being cooked to celebrate the holiday.

“We should be busier than normal, but you can’t have more than 10 people in a house for Thanksgiving,” Zuhlke said. “Some families aren’t going to get together no matter what — if it’s five or six, they’re just going to stay in their house. There isn’t going to be any restaurant trade, most of the major retailers like Target are closed on Thanksgiving, so there won’t be any business from that.”

Zuhlke has seen the New York Produce show grow over the years, and says it’s gotten bigger and better. He was an early proponent of the event, which was successful from the get-go.

“We knew that there were a lot of people in the United States who wanted to come to New York and see shows and everything else, and that the area was a perfect draw to bring them in,” he said. “And we were able to then make personal contacts with distributors and growers and manufacturers all over. It’s really been a success.”

It remains a crucial part of the New York produce industry.

“It’s vitally important,” Zuhlke said. “The foot-traffic out of the New York Metropolitan area is really good, and the shows have always had a good turnout. There’s no doubt about it that we won’t get the same turnout as we’ve had as the past and therefore sales will probably be affected by it. It will have to be a wait-and-see thing — I’m feeling positive about it, but I want to wait and see what happens.”

 

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