Big Apple expo gets a little biggerNEW YORK — Entering its third year, the New York Produce Show & Conference received praise for its new venue as well as the mix of attendees.

Any concerns about damage from Hurricane Sandy — which brought devastating winds and flooding to parts of the Big Apple about a month ago — proved unfounded.

“There were still some hiccups dealing with the hurricane, but I thought everything went well,” said Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce, seafood and floral for Kings Super Markets Inc., Parsippany, N.J., chairman of the event.

This year’s expo was at Pier 94 at 54th Street and the West Side Highway.

“Having everything on one level was definitely an enhancement,” Kneeland said. “We were 40% larger than last year. We had a lot of good comments about the trade show. The venue felt a little like a terminal market.”

Attendees had the opportunity to visit 350 booths, said John McAleavey Jr. of the Short Hills, N.J.-based Eastern Produce Council, co-sponsor of the expo with Produce Business magazine.

That’s up from about 300 exhibitors who filled three conference halls at the Hilton New York in 2011,

Among this year’s first-time exhibitors was vegetable grower-shipper Ocean Mist Farms.

Exhibiting gave the Salinas, Calif.-based firm the chance to strengthen ties with New York-area retailers, said Kori Tuggle, director of marketing and business development.

Ocean Mist’s 1-pound brussels sprouts in a microwaveable zipper lock bag received a Joe Nucci Award for Product Innovation at the show.

Another exhibitor making a debut was Rio Rico, Ariz.-based Fresh Farms, and director of sales and marketing Jerry Havel praised the event for its more personal feel, saying it was conducive to meeting new clients.

Others agreed.

“You get good, quality time in your booth,” said Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for Rainier Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash.

Wolter said exhibiting allowed Rainier to let its customers in the Northeast get to know the people behind the product.

“They know the label, but they don’t know us,” she said.

Next year’s New York Produce Show is scheduled to return to Pier 94 on Dec. 10-12, McAleavey said.

Retail Editor Pamela Riemenschneider contributed to this report.