PMA Foodservice a memorable return for the industry
The Produce Marketing Association welcomed back the produce suppliers and foodservice innovators to Monterey for the 40th anniversary of the Foodservice Conference & Expo. For many, this was one of their first industry events in over a year, making the event a whirlwind of excitement and high energy from the Center for Growing Talent reception on Wednesday, to the show floor.
“This was a memorable return for the produce and foodservice community after a very challenging time apart,” said PMA CEO Cathy Burns. “Real, innovative solutions to foodservice challenges were everywhere — on the expo floor, during roundtable discussions, at the receptions, and in the lobbies/bars! A special note of appreciation to our conference chairs, Evan Nash and Nichole Towell, the committee, exhibitors, sponsors, and guests that brought this PMA conference to life. After this great gathering, I cannot wait to see everyone at Fresh Summit.”
The conference activities kicked off with a number of small group experiences including the volunteer opportunity with Brighter Bites. Volunteers were tasked with packing bags of produce and distributing them to local families. This effort, led by PMA strategic partner, Brighter Bites, also incorporates education and fun by including recipes and ideas for ways to incorporate the ingredients into family meals. This level of engagement leads to long term habits and long term inclusion of fruits and vegetables in participating families’ diets. Volunteers delivered 5600 pounds of produce to over 150 families.
The conference officially kicked off with the Center for Growing Talent Happy Hour and a Half. The event brought the industry together to celebrate and thank contributors to CGT programs. It also served as the perfect reunion for many, and the venue buzzed as guests reconnected with those they have only seen on screens for over a year.
Thursday morning’s General Session was led by PMA’s Lauren M. Scott. Scott teed up a series of peer-to-peer problem solving discussions to address a variety of questions facing the industry today, including how to address labor shortages, how to enhance collaboration and more. Before jumping in, Scott led a packed house (as well as those tuning into the live-broadcast), through a reflection on trends and tips to tackle the foodservice industry future as we see it, challenging leaders in the room to use this time to have courage to change the things needing changing to serve our consumers and all partners along the supply chain.
“To say that Monterey was hopping with energy and ideas is an understatement,” said Scott. “I cannot thank the foodservice member leaders who generously shared their experiences and insights with me over the last 18 months and the dedicated foodservice conference committee. Their ideas helped shape our program and will continue to guide this community’s promising path forward.”
The general session also featured some well deserved recognition of Foodservice Committee co-chairs Nash and Towell. Also recognized were the United Fresh Excellence in Foodservice winners, many of whom were in person to receive recognition. See a full list of winners here.
Also on hand to provide recognition of the best of this year’s expo was Chef Shaun O’Neale, who chose the Best of Show Winner – Driscoll’s ; Best of Show Runner Up – The Salad Farm; and the Best Product Promo winner – Rijk Zwaan for its Tender Stem Kale. Winners were recognized on the show floor.
The expo is always a critical point for the industry. This year, almost 30 percent of registered attendees were from buyer companies. While this year was especially disruptive to the foodservice industry, PMA announced the Hosted Buyers Program, giving industry members the opportunity to contribute to bring buyer companies to Monterey that may not otherwise be able to attend. About a dozen buyer companies were in attendance because of this supportive program.