ANAHEIM, CA—There’s a lot of noise at a trade show as big as Fresh Summit. As a professional fresh produce trade show floor walker, I’ve seen a few booths.
In fact, this year’s event was my 12th in 14 years covering the fresh produce industry. I missed one in 2005, when I’d been on the job for only about two weeks, and one in 2008 while on maternity leave.
As the show gets bigger, the crowds get bigger. I feel like we’re trending more toward a consumer-style exposition than a strict meeting of buyers and sellers and the mythical trade show POs — but is this a bad thing?
Fresh produce has to be experienced. It has to be “cool.” We have to find a way to excite consumers into buying—and consuming—more fruits and vegetables if we’re going to win a bigger share of food dollars. So I welcome marketers bringing their A game to a big event like this to really show us how much fun this business can be.
Here are seven standout experiences I found at this year’s Fresh Summit:
1. Fun and games: From Zespri’s BB #:141270 Skee-Ball to the multitude of Pop-A-Shots and cornhole boards at booths, I love that we’re encouraging people to play around. But, is it ONLY fun and games for the casual passer-by? Did you know that the Idaho Potato Commission BB #:162339 had a VIP money booth exclusively for buyers? That’s one way to encourage more high-value traffic to your booth.
2. This mural guy: I heard he’s been at a few industry events lately, but I was fascinated by his note-taking during one of the Experience Extension – What’s Hot and What’s Not in Produce Science & Technology. Seriously, this guy artsy-doodled better notes than I was taking, real-time.
3. The Booze Cruise: I joke about the Fresh Summit Booze Cruise, but it’s more than just cracking open a few bottles of wine at Happy Hour these days. Last year we saw a couple of companies work with local brewers to create custom beers. This year, it went even farther. I saw custom liquors for cocktails at Naturipe, unique flavor combinations at Wholesum Harvest BB #:135847, berry sangria at California Giant BB #:121061, Berry Spritz at Krissy Farms spruced up with edible flowers from Fresh Origins BB #:349027, and don’t let me forget the ultra-trendy mocktails (cocktails without the alcohol) I saw at Duda BB #:189666 and Pacific Trellis Fruit BB #:164166. Those are just a few. You could spend QUITE an afternoon sipping your way through all of the samples.
4. Carrots – JUST CARROTS: I wanted to start my own standing ovation when they played the video from the upcoming Crunchout campaign from the California Carrot Advisory Board. I’m pretty sure “decomplicated” isn’t really a word, but it totally works for me. The accompanying booth in the Freshtival with massage chairs, nifty hats and, of course, LOTS of carrots, was refreshingly…uncomplicated.
5. Everybody needs a head shot: Listen, I’ve been in the media business for a while.
Trust me on this. YOU NEED A NEW HEAD SHOT. You need a head shot not owned by your current employer. Trust me on that one, too. If you didn’t take advantage of the professional portraits (with complimentary hair and makeup!) offered FOR FREE, you missed out. Never mind that my favorite was the one she used to identify me. That’s just my quirk.
6. Selfie opportunities: I was sure the giant hashtag photo thing was done, but man did my social media blow up with people taking pictures of themselves with the big green #FreshSummit letters. Chiquita BB #:127545 had a photo booth set up to make photos with Miss Chiquita, and I just wow’d my five-year-old with a photo of me with Cookie Monster at the PMA booth. Never underestimate the power of a selfie with a mascot or celebrity. I resisted the urge to selfie with Queen Latifah at Women’s Fresh Perspectives when I was kneeling in front of her to shoot a video. I’m proud of my restraint, but still wish I’d gotten a selfie.
7. Merch: I kid you not, I spent $32 on PMA merchandise. I am, as Jan Delyser puts it, a Junkie Joiner. I have to have the shirt, and the socks, and PMA’s socks were so choice! Most of the time people send me this stuff, and I am of course eternally grateful, but who would have thought people would BUY a Fresh Summit t-shirt?! I think it was a fantastic way of making people feel that “you had to be there” and “I want a piece of that” of the excitement of Fresh Summit.