MONROEVILLE, Pa. — Supervalu Inc. attracted the largest crowd of produce buyers and sellers in its decade of hosting an Eastern regional show, where attendees heard the latest on effective retail merchandising.

Supervalu eastern regional show draws retailersThe Eden Prairie, Minn.-based company brought retail customers and employees from its eastern divisions to its annual produce and floral expo.

They learned about ways to creatively and competitively merchandise produce, said Al Ignasky, produce operations specialist in Supervalu’s New Stanton-Pittsburgh area division.

Ignasky said the show attracted retail representatives from North Carolina to upstate New York as well as Ohio.

“We (Supervalu) have been downsizing but we’re really strong in Pittsburgh,” Ignasky said. “We have probably 100 different store groups represented here.”

Designed to emphasize education and training, a key point of the show is to help participants sell beyond the “deal buy,” said Mario Grana, Supervalu’s New Stanton-based director of produce and floral category management.

He said 475 store owners, produce and floral directors, supervisors, managers and retail merchandisers participated.

“We have significant attendance from store owners,” Grana said. “These decision makers have teams in the trenches that do the work but they need direction from someone in leadership to see the trends.”

Supervalu eastern regional show draws retailersThis was the first year that representatives with the family-owned Reid Super-Save Market in Charlottesville, Va., participated.

“This is an impressive show,” said Kim Miller, a Reid manager. “There are lots of deals and lots of products here. You can see things listed in a catalog but don’t have any idea what you’re looking at until you see it in hand and if it will be a good fit for your customers.”

Exhibitors reported strong retail traffic.

“This is a good show that continues to grow,” said Jay Dyer, director of sales and marketing for tree fruit grower-shipper Borton & Sons Inc. in Yakima, Wash. “You see a variety of customers. This is a great opportunity to showcase your product. It plants a lot of ideas for merchandisers. Independent retailers can create similar displays in their stores.”

The expo featured produce and floral training areas, stations showing retailers how to conduct effective product demonstrations, cooking demonstrations and a large display of local produce.

A keynote session marked a week of produce for motivational speaker Jeff Evans, who leads business executives on Himalayan mountain climbing treks including climbing Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak.

He recently addressed workers at Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc. in Watsonville, Calif., who Evans said characterized Supervalu as Driscoll’s third-best customer.

“Everyone in this room is a guide,” he said. “Whether you’re a manager, customer or vendor, we’re all here for a reason.

“There are a lot of mountains out there. Some will make you dizzy, some are overwhelming. But I encourage you to embrace that call. Surround yourself with a team, an alliance that is there for you to nurture every single day.”

New to the show this year, staff from Supervalu’s Lancaster and Mechanicsville, Va., operations joined colleagues from other Supervalu divisions including Baltimore, Buffalo, N.Y. and Milton, W. Va.