The second edition of The Packer’s Midwest Produce Expo offers a bigger venue for produce exhibitors and buyers to mix.

The inaugural 2012 show drew about 1,000 attendees and 154 exhibitors to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, and the 2013 offers space for more exhibitors and Midwest buyers.

Set for Aug. 19-21 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, this year’s Midwest Produce Expo has nearly 200 exhibitors.

The Packer Editor Greg Johnson said the event offers a good mix of buyers from smaller regional chains but also large chains with a strong presence in the Midwest.

“We want it to have a Midwest feel, so we attract Midwest buyers,” Johnson said.

He said registrants run from large chains such as Target, Costco and Safeway with Midwest locations, to strong chains in the Chicago area, such as Jewel Food Stores and Roundy’s, to smaller, regional chains such as Shop and Save and Chief Supermarkets.

“We’ll also have buyers from U.S. Foods and Sysco and wholesalers who cater to foodservice clients, so it’s not just a retail event,” Johnson said.

Ed Osowski, director of produce and floral for Martin’s Supermarkets, South Bend, Ind., said he is looking forward to reconnecting with vendors the retailer uses and evaluating other potential vendors.

“I like the format, and I like the fact that in one day I can get around to all vendors and meet with who I need to meet with,” he said.

Osowski also said the event offers networking opportunities. Martin’s Supermarkets plans to send about half a dozen people to the show.

“The nice thing is it is in the Midwest, and from a Midwest retail standpoint it is easy to get to and easy to get our frontline people to,” said.

The show gives retail managers access to vendors and products and a chance for immediate feedback, he said.

“They can say, ‘Here is an item I think will work in my store,’” he said.

Lisa Strube, director of finance at Chicago-based wholesaler Strube Celery & Vegetable, said the company plans to have its full sales staff at the show.

“They’ll have a little more time with the shippers, as well as meeting with buyers,” she said.

It’s a chance to get together with clients in a “relaxed setting,” she said.

Johnson said The Packer leadership listened to attendees, exhibitors and its steering committee about what they liked and wanted to see improved in the event’s second year.

“Attendees should get a great return on their investment with a lot of business opportunities packed in a few days,” Johnson said. “If you can’t have a productive and fun time in Chicago in August, you’re not trying.”

The event’s timing allows visits with retailers about upcoming Northwest apple and pear crops, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc.

“We’re going to use it as an opportunity for people to get their arms around pear promotions and work on some apple promotions,” he said.

November and December promotions will be on Stemilt’s agenda, he said.

“We might cement the plans after the show, but it is a time to initiate that thought process and for retailers to say, ‘I’m interested,’” he said July 25.

Jim Offner, special to The Packer, contributed to this article.