CHICAGO — If variety is the spice of life, Minneapolis will be the hot sauce for the Midwest Produce Expo in 2015.

Midwest Expo sets sights on MinneapolisThe Aug. 11-13 2014 event was the third straight Chicago show from The Packer, and there are big plans for the future.

“I think we had a very strong show this year,” said Shannon Shuman, publisher of The Packer.

While final numbers had not yet been tallied as of Aug. 12, Shuman said the attendance of the show was similar to previous years.

“We have established the Midwest Produce Expo as a regular and important stop on the event circuit and we are looking forward to moving into Minneapolis (in August 2015) to give the industry another city to interact with,” he said.

Though expo traffic faded later in the day Aug. 12, the quality of the buyers at the Midwest Produce Expo was great, said Tim Edmondson, managing partner at Edmondson Farms, Vardaman, Miss. Edmondson said it is likely the company will exhibit in Minneapolis.

“We have been here every year, so I have a feeling we will be back,” he said.

Beyond connecting with buyers, Keith Mathews, chief executive officer of Yakima, Wash.-based FirstFruits Marketing, said the event offered a good opportunity to connect with more store-level staff and to hear what feedback they get from consumers about fresh produce.

John Pandol, director of special projects for Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros., said buyers who were present made it worthwhile.

“When we come to a show, as long as we see a few good guys, we’re happy,” he said. “That’s what we did here.”

Pandol said Minneapolis has a strong wholesale and retail presence and a lively downtown that should draw strong attendance.

“I’m totally for next August in Minneapolis.”

“We’re really happy with the show,” said Sherise Jones, marketing director for USA Onions, Parma, Idaho. “We have a lot of good business in the Midwest and take this opportunity to come out and see our customers. We’re really pleased because after three years, people know where we are at and they count on stopping by.”

The 2014 show included the presentation by Shuman of the 2014 Jan Fleming Produce Legacy Award to Brendan Comito, chief operating officer of Capital City Fruit.

An Aug. 12 consumer question-and-answer panel moderated by Pamela Riemenschneider, editor of Produce Retailer magazine and retail editor of The Packer. probed consumer attitudes on organic produce, fresh-cut fruits and barriers to greater consumption. A keynote address by Chicago chef Homaro Cantu on Aug. 12, challenged attendees to transform business through technology.