PMA's Fresh Summit shone spotlight on produce

Event highlights produce industry's efforts to help families eat healthier

While it’s not totally an altruistic effort, growers and their retail customers are promoting several campaigns to drive better eating habits by consumers.

Many of these were on view at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit this past weekend in Anaheim, California, where a record 22,000 attendees saw the latest and greatest in the world of fruits and vegetables.

During the opening session, PMA’s CEO, Bryan Silbermann, and its president, Kathy Burns, discussed the trade group’s “Eat Brighter” campaign, which allows produce companies free access to Sesame Street characters on their brands and marketing tools.

Burns talked about the obesity epidemic and the opportunities that the produce industry’s great nutritional story presents for marketers. She said without a change in eating habits, today’s children will be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Burns also suggested that multiculturalism is now the mainstream, and that ethnic diversity has created a great opportunity for the produce industry, which can capitalize on the many different items that make up this sector’s product framework.

On the expo floor, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association promoted its “Half Your Plate” marketing program, which was introduced at the group’s annual conference in April. The program is centred on increasing consumption of fresh produce and improving the population’s health. It also ensures industry prosperity, said Ron Lemaire, president of CPMA.

“The message behind 'Half Your Plate' is simple, clean and current. Buy-in from the health community, including the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Canadian Cancer Society has been excellent and we’re expecting a very positive reaction from consumers when we launch it to the public in January,” he said.

The show also included a who’s who in the fresh produce industry, as well as an array of innovative products, ideas and marketing concepts. Joining an increased number of organics and gluten-replacement foods this year were products made from chia, quinoa and flax seed.

There were also several services designed to support retailers in marketing and merchandising fresh produce with a healthy message like signage wraps for shipping containers.

Sam Kass, executive director of Let’s Move! and senior policy advisor for nutrition in the Obama administration, joined a group of industry marketers for an ‘eat brighter!’ town hall. Currently, more than 40 retailers representing more than 30,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada support the ‘eat brighter!’ movement. Several of the suppliers showcased their ‘eat brighter!’ products at the town hall.

The event was moderated by Todd Putman, chief commercial officer of Bolthouse Farms, and featured Derrick Jenkins, vice-president of produce and floral at grocery wholesaler Wakefern; Robert Verloop, executive vice-president of marketing at Naturipe and Donna Bogia, director of information and customer service at PMA.

In addition to promoting healthier eating habits in general, the conference focused on marketing to children throughout the weekend. The Innovations @ Work area also hosted a collection of products designed for children via the popular New Products Showcase special Just 4 Kids section.

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