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Spreading the Joy of Fresh in-person, and beyond

AUSTIN, TX—When you start seeing people with flowers, you know you’re getting close to the Global Street Farm.

Flower crowns, braids, and bouquets decorate people walking on the street, scooters zooming by and the noisy pedicabs offering rides throughout Downtown Austin.

Crowds packed the Idle Hands venue on Rainey St. for the two-day activation put on by the International Fresh Produce Association to for the free swag (flower crowns, fruit and vegetable snacks, happy hour drinks, and live music), but also to just hang out.

And that’s the point.

It’s not like a trade show booth or handing out fruit at a marathon. It’s an experience. And from what I’ve experienced as attendee, it’s one of the most sought-after publicly-accessible events of the festival. A lady who had waited two hours in line for the Cheetos experience was jealous of my Global Street Farm flower crown and asked if they’d be available the next day. Imagine being willing to wait for two hours for a Cheetos ad.

IFPA and its sponsors distributed 10,000 bouquets of flowers – a number that seemed outrageous to me on Day 1. The buckets were completely empty when I left just prior to closing time on Day 2. Baskets of fruits and vegetables were refreshed every 30 minutes or so – and were also completely empty by the end of the event.

NatureSweet was handing out clamshells of tomatoes for people to snack on, and people took them gratefully.

There were amazing food trucks with tacos, sandwiches, and donuts all around, but people were genuinely happy to be able to grab an apple or banana for a refreshing snack.

When you layer on the educational session content and quality of speakers, there’s a lot to be said for attending and participating in SXSW.

I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more food-specific content this year, with much of the content devoted to food waste prevention. Certainly, food waste is an issue that affects the full supply chain and needs to be addressed, but there are so many aspects about the future of food would be good fodder for high profile discussion.

The profile for some of these speakers can’t get much higher, from Google to Kroger to Shake Shack, with executives candidly sharing their experiences in areas like the future of food delivery and technology.

I think there is a lot of opportunity, particularly for consumer-facing produce and floral brands to reach an influential audience. SXSW has a reach far broader than just the in-person appeal.

Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.