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Feedback from the produce industry

How did participants experience PMA’s virtual Fresh Summit?

Last week, PMA organized a virtual Fresh Summit for the first time in seven decades. The event drew more than 360 exhibitors and attendees from 64 countries. The highest representation came from the U.S, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Peru and Colombia. The event featured 31 speakers and 21 hours of educational content with almost 2,000 live viewers for the State of the Industry presentation from PMA’s CEO Cathy Burns.

Although the event platform, including marketplace booths and educational content will be available until November 13, the official part of the event wrapped up October 15. What feelings did participants leave with after three days?

“Fresh Summit is the traditional time of year to interact with our customers and buyers and let them know that we continue to be a dependable source of produce,” said Michael DuPuis with Divine Flavor. “We need to be there for our customers, and we believe participating in this show is part of that,” he added. “It’s hard to go virtual and try to achieve the same things you can achieve in in person, but overall we saw a good turnout and it was a great platform for us to use and take advantage of.” Andy Garcia III with Altar Produce also gave the show a thumbs up. “Given the circumstances, I’m very positive about the opportunity to connect, interact, and engage with others in the industry versus having no show at all.” Oppy felt grateful for the opportunity to be a presenting sponsor. “We believe PMA did their best to foster connectivity and provide a valuable experience for all,” Karin Gardner commented.

Print screen of the platform.


Exhibitors were positive about the platform. “It was so user-friendly,” said Crystal Chavez with Gold Coast Packing. “Being able to see all attendees, the companies we work with, and having insights in their interests, was really useful. At in-person shows people sometimes don’t wear their badge or turn it around, but everything was transparent now, and it was great being able to see it all.” Another perk of the platform were the analytics. “Receiving the daily list of visitors to our booth from PMA enabled us to follow-up quickly and gave insights in who to touch base within the weeks ahead,” said Oppy’s Gardner. “This daily overview of booth visits and page views is very helpful for targeting,” added Shannon Boase with CKF, Inc. “No one wants to waste anyone’s time, so knowing who could be interested in your product, is helpful in targeting a message that’s succinct and on-point.”

Booth traffic and meetings
Feelings about booth traffic and connecting with customers were mixed. “For us, it was good,” said Gardner. “We had a nice blend of customers, media, friends, and friendly competitors popping by. “Although the technology served us well in setting up meetings, we dearly missed seeing the international produce community in person.” Shannon Boase with CKF, Inc. was very complimentary about the meetings the company had with potential customers. “There was definitely a lot of upfront work that was required, from new content creation to sales training. However, we were able to get meetings with retailers that we are not normally about to get at the face-to-face show,” she shared. “That was a big benefit.” Sandra Somford with JASA Packaging Solutions said they had some good first meetings with potential customers but expects most of the conversations will take place after the event.

Not all exhibitors felt the platform was an effective way to connect with customers. Altar’s Garcia said scheduling meetings with (potential) customers was a bit tricky. He had reached out to several people to set up meetings, but only some responded. Quite a few exhibitors mentioned that it was a good platform to reinforce exiting relationships, but it was extremely difficult to do new business. “It’s not the fault of PMA, but it’s just the nature of a fully virtual setup for an industry that relies so heavily on relationships,” one exhibitor commented.

Some products from the Fresh Ideas showcase.

Fresh Ideas showcase
The Fresh Ideas showcase featured 150 products and all exhibitors were positive about the attention for their new products. “Our new fresh organic ginger packs caught the eye of visitors,” said Oppy’s Gardner while Sandra Somford with JASA Packing Solutions added that they received most attention by far for their Exhibitors Highlights and the new Sleever for tomatoes that was featured in the Fresh Ideas showcase. “Our participation in the Fresh Ideas showcase has gained us most new contacts during the three days,” Somford commented. Chavez with Gold Coast Packing said that their two new retail items, Broccoli Slaw and a Garden Blend in 2-lb. format got a lot of attention and interest.

More challenging to engage
Probably the biggest difference for all participants was that daily duties continued during the three-day event. An actual event makes everyone breakaway and engage. “At the in-person show, your activities at the show are your priority. With a virtual show, your normal work continues to be your priority and your presence at the show is mostly secondary,” Altar’s Garcia shared.