Increased buyer presence boosts Midwest showCHICAGO — The second edition of The Packer’s Midwest Produce Conference and Expo found strong reviews and increasing enthusiasm from most exhibitors and attendees.

Cindy Plummer, vice president of domestic marketing for the Fresno-based California Table Grape Commission, said she was pleased with the quality of the retailers who attended the Aug. 19-21 show, at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the turnout we got,” she said. “We looked at the list of retailers ahead of time and got to see everyone one of them we targeted,” she said.

There was a good balance between retailers, wholesalers and brokers on the show floor, said Alan Voll, sales representative with Fresh Farms, Rio Rico, Ariz.

“I think the turnout has been really, really good,” he said.

Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the Hockessin, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation, said she was impressed with how much the show has grown since last year.

Exhibiting for the second time, Keith Mathews, chief executive officer of FirstFruits Marketing, Yakima, Wash., also said he believes the show vastly improved.

Increased buyer presence boosts Midwest show“There is a lot more traffic, a lot more of the kind of folks we need to talk with, that’s why we come,” he said.

“We’ve been able to meet with a lot of our key buyers and customers,” said Heidi Randall, marketing manager for Alsum Farms & Produce, Friesland, Wis. “It has been really a positive show for us.”

“A show like this can really pay if you can just get one key contact, and that’s what I’m here for,” said Roger Niebolt, regional sales manager for Cargo Data, Ventura, Calif.

While overall attendance was well up from 2012, an increase in buyers helped make the show more valuable to exhibitors, said Shannon Shuman, publisher of The Packer.

“It has met the expectations of what I hoped it would be,” Shuman said. “It is a constant evolution on the industry’s expectations.”

Shuman said more than 200 retail buyers and close to 180 wholesale buyers attended the show, up from about 180 total retail and wholesale buyers in 2012. The number of exhibitors totaled 205, up from about 153 last year. Ten of the top twelve Midwest chains were represented among attendees, he said.

Next year’s Midwest Produce Conference & Expo is set for Aug. 11-13 and will again be at the Hyatt. Shuman said the venue can accommodate growth in exhibitors and attendees.