(March 18) MONTEREY, Calif. — The phrase, “Live, from Monterey, Calif., it’s the Produce Marketing Association!” may well be heard at a summer Retail Produce Solutions Conference.

At the June 1-3 conference, an educational program session will feature a consumer focus group conducted before a live audience. The focus group will discuss buying decisions, consumer produce purchasing preferences and concerns over issues such as food safety and genetically modified produce.

After the focus group, attendees will hear the thoughts of supermarket produce managers presented through videotaped interviews. After the interviews, the session leader will compare the interviews with insights gained from the focus group.

The presentation is designed to provide attendees strategies to improve communications and relationships between consumers and produce department staff, Lee Mannering, PMA’s media communications coordinator, said in a news release.

The conference will focus on collaboration through teams of retailers and their supply chains. Conference sessions will help retailers, merchandisers, grower-shippers, wholesalers, distributors and commodity board members solve business challenges, sponsors say. One-fourth of last year’s attendees represented retail operators, Mannering said.

Field tours will show participants harvesting and packaging, food safety, processing and packaging, organic produce and other facets of the produce industry. PMA will offer two master classes for participants who have frequently toured the produce region. One master session will show how participants can become more effective negotiators. The other session will explore leadership values.

A golf tournament to benefit the Produce for Better Health Foundation is set for June 1.

The three-day conference is co-sponsored by PMA; the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, D.C.; Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va.; and United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Alexandria, Va.

For more information, visit PMA’s Web site at www.pma.com.