Tom Stenzel and Cathy Burns answer questions about new association

The mantra for this merger is ‘better together’

On March 31st, the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association announced that starting January 1st, 2022, the two associations will combine to form one global association. Yesterday April 1, Tom Stenzel and Cathy Burns hosted a call to answer any questions about what this process will look like and what it will mean for the members of the produce industry around the world. They discussed the process so far, timeline goals, the global reach of the new association and what the industry can look forward to in the coming months.
To start off the meeting, board chairs Michael Muzyk and Dwight Ferguson had a few opening remarks. “We have an opportunity here to do something that has been tried several times and I’m proud of it all coming together. Better together will be the new mantra, and this will be a whole new donkey – not just the same donkey with a different saddle. We are going to help and support the industry, drive change and bring greater consumption of fruits and vegetables across America and across the world,” Muzyk says. Ferguson adds: “This is really all about creating more value for the combined members of United and PMA. Both associations have a long rich tradition of doing just that, and by coming together we can do it even better going forward.”

The process so far
While the industry has only known about this for a few days now, Stenzel and Burns have been in discussion about this move for about six months. “Cathy and I have been working together for a long time now, on issues such as food safety and rolling out the Ethical Charter. As that relationship grew, we were able to begin this conversation and ask each other: ‘Can we be better together?’ Very quickly, we found a shared vision,” says Stenzel. Burns adds: “We aligned around our seven core strategies very quickly. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but the key will be to make sure that we deliver what the industry needs and do so in a meaningful way.”
While the pandemic wasn’t a direct factor spurring on this decision, it did come into play. Stenzel shares: “It wasn’t about what was happening to our associations during the pandemic, it was about what was happening to our industry and our members during the pandemic. That is what spurred us on to start considering if there was more we could do for our members and the industry as a whole. There is a lot more work to do to increase fresh produce consumption and to increase profitability for our members, and that is our aim in this move.” Burns agrees, adding: “The pandemic helped spark the conversation, but the relationship Tom and I have between us is what was the driving force of the decision.”
Expanded global reach
PMA currently already has locations across the globe, and the plan is for these locations to remain active and possibly expand even more on a global scale. “We have a strong presence in South Africa, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand and are starting work in China. We will absolutely maintain these country council structures as they are very important to ensuring our global reach. They are especially important because while we are a global association, we need to address the needs of local markets and strengthen local businesses in those markets. So, we will maintain those presences and hopefully expand our presence to new countries as well. I think the new association will only bring improvements to our current global reach,” Burns shares.
Stenzel adds: “From the US perspective, too, it’s important to be closely involved with the international regulatory systems, such as the UN or the WHO. It will be very valuable to have a much broader international view and build harmonized standards that all our members can live by. A third of our board members are located around the globe and they all unanimously received the news of the new association enthusiastically, which shows that this is a move that will only bring positive things for the global community.”
What to expect in the coming months
The new association will be officially launched on January 1st, 2022. Until then, United Fresh and PMA will be working hard on solidifying all the plans for the new association as well as planning and executing multiple events. “If it is at all possible to hold our United Fresh show in Los Angeles in a few months, we will. We are still holding out hope for that and are in constant contact with the LA authorities but as off right now they can’t yet confirm that we will be able to hold a large indoor gathering. There is always the possibility of moving the event away from California; we just saw a successful Viva Fresh show taking place in Texas, so we know that an in-person show can work. We will do our absolute best to get together somewhere, somehow, in June,” says Stenzel.
Meanwhile, the PMA Foodservice Delivered show is set to happen in Monterey at the end of July. “The response we’ve gotten has been overwhelming, quite frankly,” Burns shares. “Fresh Summit is also set to happen in-person in October and the exhibitor levels so far are tracking at 2019 levels. After having to rely on digital methods for so long, the industry wants to be in person, and we are committed to making that happen,” she says.
Stenzel and Burns hope to get up on stage together at Fresh Summit in October and share a concrete plan for the official launch of the new association.

For more information:
Mary Coppola
United Fresh Produce Association
Tel: (+1) 202-303-3425 

Siobhan May
Produce Marketing Association
Tel: +1 (302) 781-5855 

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