At the close of last week’s United Fresh 2017 Convention, an old Dr. Seuss saying came to mind: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I know it might seem a bit dramatic to apply a quote like this to a produce industry event, but there’s a layer of truth in it. As soon as the conference wrapped up, I started reflecting on all of the great conversations, sessions, activities, and insights of the week, and I returned to work with renewed excitement and pride in being part of the produce industry. And that, to me, is worth smiling about.
3 fresh themes at United Fresh 2017
Once again, United Fresh 2017 was a “one ticket, four shows” event, meaning attendees had access to four co-located shows: United FreshMKT Expo, United FreshTEC Expo, Global Cold Chain Expo, and International Floriculture Expo. This structure provided great opportunities for all of us to network and build relationships with our industry peers as we dug into the topics that impact us. This year, I was again reminded of three general themes that continued to resonate throughout the week at United Fresh.
Connections help our industry grow stronger
We are a part of an amazing industry, full of bright, talented people who do incredible things. The more we connect with each other and collaborate together, the stronger we are collectively. United Fresh is a place where leaders grow and develop, and it also provides a platform to celebrate accomplishments. For example, this year’s event again celebrated outstanding retail and foodservice produce managers and leading chefs for their excellence and contributions to increasing sales and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables through their commitment to fresh produce, innovative merchandising, and community service. Events like these can inspire professionals throughout the industry.
Technology is preparing our industry for the future
Technology is playing an increasingly important role in our industry, and embracing it only helps us get better. The FreshTEC opening keynote mentioned the steady decrease of workforce in the farming industry—a gap that’s being filled by enhancements in technology. From seed to shelf, robotics, automation, data analytics, and supply chain technology will all grow in scope and continue to shape the way we all do business in this fast-paced, global marketplace.
Fresh innovations keep pace with consumer demand
Consumer interests are continuously shifting, but there are several areas that continue to evolve and hold their interest. Food waste is one of them—an issue that took root in Europe and has become increasingly important in the U.S. over the last few years. Many companies are focusing on sustainability initiatives and are working to increase consumer awareness, change perceptions and behaviors, and create programs that help reduce food waste. I’m really proud that Robinson Fresh is contributing to the solution through The Misfits®, a food rescue program designed to make imperfect fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable to consumers, while at the same time driving increased profitability to those we work with across the entire supply chain. To learn more about the program, watch the video below, which premiered at the Retail-Foodservice Celebration Dinner at United Fresh 2017.
United Fresh 2017 made me consider the major trends affecting the produce industry today. Produce is a business that changes often as new technologies and consumer demands come into play. By maintaining industry connections, staying informed, and paying attention to consumers, we can successfully navigate the changing landscape of produce. I look forward to next year’s convention!