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Loss of events is a double hurt

Events are such a vital part of the produce industry.

Not only is it important to see the products and people we trade with on a regular basis, the produce industry is a community.

We miss that. We’re doing our best to replicate the experience during the COVID-19 pandemic through video meetings and virtual trade shows, such as PMA’s first foray into the genre with next week’s PMA Foodservice Delivered

Even if it’s a smash success, it isn’t the same as a real trip to Monterey, CA.

Not only are events a mainstay in so many people’s annual schedules, but the food industry, and specifically, the produce industry, does billions of dollars in business serving the event industry. It’s a food channel that isn’t being served because there’s no demand.

During the Q&A segment of last week’s PMA town hall virtual meeting on working during the pandemic, I asked the panel when they thought we could see a return to previous levels of events, both in our industry and the ones we serve.

“My best guess is mid-2021 at this point,” said Steve Grinstead, CEO of FreshEdge, which owns produce and food distributors, including Piazza Produce BB #:102623, Get Fresh Produce BB #:161388 and Indianapolis Fruit BB #:102610. “Obviously things could change, [but it’s] more likely to be later than earlier.”

“I agree with Steve, not before 2021 for a different kind of normal and a vaccine is produced, early 2022 that we view this as similar to the flu,” said Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, CEO of Seald Sweet LLC, BB #:161579 a Greenyard company, Vero Beach, FL.

“I do feel however that good eating, or healthy eating will certainly take a bigger role, with potential restaurants that cater to this type of healthy eating could potentially win the war,” she said. “People in general will start taking care of themselves and healthy eating has to be part of this new normal.”

“I personally think, things will never get back to the ‘normal’ we relate to as of now, but agree with Mayda, that healthy eating and fresh fruits and vegetables will take center stage in our shopping baskets,” said Nina Patil, director of Fresh Express Logistics in India.

“It’s up to us growers, exporters and food suppliers to adapt to this new normal and be innovative in our deliveries and services, virtual meets, contactless home deliveries and drive through supermarkets may be the new norm, if not already the case,” she said. “Of course, we will all miss the touch and feel factor, but I see technology making breakthroughs here too.”

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services and misses traveling for events