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Top five Viva Fresh takeaways

five viva fresh trends

GRAPEVINE, TX—I’m a bit of a homer here with Viva Fresh, as I’ve been involved with the show since its inception. This year’s event boasted record attendance and huge enthusiasm from both organizers and attendees.

Every facet, from the two golf tournaments to the wine tour, and convention before the expo reinforced what I think makes this show unique.

Here are the five things from Viva Fresh that impressed me this year:

The food.

I promise you, this deconstructed beet dessert was wow-worthy.

I was the “Food Czar” for the inaugural Viva Fresh in 2015 and worked with the venue and the steering committee to make sure the menus met exacting specifications: foods from the Tex-Mex corridor used in ways that really “wow.” Every instance that involves food at Viva Fresh is going to push attendees when it comes to flavor, creativity, and use of fresh produce. The epitome, for me, was this deconstructed beet dessert at the keynote luncheon. Who knew beets would be so good, so many different ways, in a dessert?

The “Tex-Mex-ness.”

Viva Fresh Belt Buckle
Melina Leija of Bolthouse Farms flexed her golf skills and took home one of the coveted Viva Fresh Open belt buckles.

Viva Fresh is Texas and Mexico and stays true to its roots. What other show has so many different ways to try a Margarita, get measured for custom boots, has literal belt buckles as the trophies for the golf tournament, and even a paleta cart with spicy papaya paletas (Mexican ice cream pops, if you’ve not had the pleasure).

Tropicals, so many tropicals.

paleta cart Viva Fresh
Papaya paletas? Don’t mind if I do.

Mango shippers are a huge part of the business in the Rio Grande Valley, and there is no shortage of them on the show floor at Viva Fresh. This time of year is a great reminder of when the Mexican mango season really starts rockin’. Guavas, dragonfruit, papayas, coconuts, and more are all over the show floor, being sampled in creative ways.

Business, and busy-ness.

Believe it or not, this photo was taken about 20 minutes before the show closed. The floor was still quite busy.

This expo stays busy until they shut the lights off. This has been true for nearly every Viva Fresh I’ve attended, and was true again this year. The initial crush was nearly impossible to navigate, and stayed busy for several hours. By the last few minutes, the floor was still quite busy.

The store-checking.

tiktok produce with pamela heb plano
John Pandol, of Pandol Bros., and I hit up the H-E-B in Plano.

Grapevine is a great place to see some world-class retail. San Antonio-based H-E-B also has opened several stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in the past year, and they were stunning, especially the Plano store. We ran into several other Viva attendees on a store check adventure, and I’m sure they would all tell you it was worth it to get a car and drive around.

What will next year’s move to Houston bring? It’ll be different than the past few years at the Gaylord in Grapevine, but there are a lot of positives, for sure.

The Mariott Marquis is a fabulous hotel (complete with a Texas-shaped pool on the roof!). Downtown Houston has some amazing and unique restaurants to enjoy, and there’s the Astros, the Rockets, and the Dynamo all close by for entertainment.

I can’t wait to see what they do with the menus. How can you top beet cheesecake?


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.