(Aug. 25) Disney World won’t be the only popular attraction in Orlando this October. Come see and be seen at the 54th annual Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition Oct. 17-21.

PMA expects to have 600 companies and more than 2,000 booths at the Orange County Convention Center this year. That’s up from 575 companies occupying 1,894 booths last year, says Kathy Means, vice president PMA. In fact, the exhibit portion of Fresh Summit ranks 131st in size among the country’s top 200 trade shows.

The weekend’s events will include speakers and workshops focusing on technology, trends, food safety and more.

“We look at how to get a good mix that will appeal to a wide variety of people,” Means says.

PMA is anticipating a crowd of 15,000. Last year 13,000 people made the trip to New Orleans, says Jay Pack, Fresh Summit chairman and former owner of Standard Fruit and Vegetable Co. Inc., Dallas.

Means says food security and technology issues will be among the hot topics discussed at the convention. Retailers will learn about suppliers’ food safety programs on the show floor, including water quality, employee hygiene and facility sanitation.

“There continues to be a great deal of interest by consumers on food safety,” Pack says.

Attendees will discuss food security regulations that the Food and Drug Administration is implementing Dec. 12 as part of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.

This session will outline the rules of the act pertaining to produce, including the registration of food facilities with the FDA, the creation and maintenance of records to track food at several levels of distribution, the provision of giving prior notice of imported food shipments and “administrative detention” — which gives the FDA permission to halt suspect shipments that present a threat to humans or animals.

Program director Ronnie De La Cruz will assist in running the Fresh Produce Academy. He will present two programs — one focusing on retailers and another geared toward growers and shippers, Pack says.

The Floral Profit Center is another main attraction of the convention. As part of the exposition floor, the center will give a key concentration to the floral department, Means says.

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, former commander of operations for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, will share his presentation, “Leadership in Difficult Times,” at Tuesday’s breakfast and general session, where he will discuss leadership principles and how to apply them.

The convention also will touch on a variety of international, marketing and merchandising topics, including country-of-origin labeling. Means says the association will have the latest information regarding the mandatory country-of-origin labeling laws from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The industry will be required to implement these laws by Sept. 30, 2004.

“Labeling looks to be a nightmare to retailers and suppliers,” she says.

The results of several studies, including one on the Chinese marketplace that includes comments from 37 leading importers, wholesalers and retailers from China’s top retail markets, will be revealed, Means says.

The session on PMA Fresh Track industry studies focuses on foodservice this year and will include aspects of the retailer with foodservice operations, Pack says. It will go over how changes in foodservice supply chain management can affect business and how to realign market strategies to take advantage of new opportunities.

SESSIONS TO STOP BY

Pick up tips concerning the latest trends and how to increase your profits.

Tools of the trade: technology.

Learn how to use new technologies to enhance marketing, public relations, operational efficiencies and customer service techniques. This session will outline strategies for ways to be more prominent online.

Fresh-cut fruit: the next growth category.

Find out what’s causing all the commotion about fresh-cut fruit while listening to case studies. This session will look at the implications of branding.

Consumer trends: food, health and business.

Understand how examining the values, beliefs and lifestyles of customers applies to future focus, and learn the implications of consumer analysis on marketing strategies.

Supermarket retailers: from our perspective.

Listen as a panel of leading retailers divulges how they keep their teams focused. This session also will examine what retailers expect from suppliers to stay at the top. The following speakers are scheduled: Bruce Peterson of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark.; Hamish Renton of Tesco Stores Ltd., Hertfordshire, England; and Dave Corsi with Wegmans Food and Pharmacy Inc., Rochester, NY. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a discussion of key retail issues.

U.S. country-of-origin labeling: what’s ahead?

Acquire information about the USDA’s new regulations to implement country-of-origin labeling, and find out the next step retailers and suppliers plan to take. Realize the potential impact of COOL on your business and the industry. Speakers at this workshop are: Deborah White of the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, D.C.; Mike O’Brien of Schnuck Markets, Inc., St. Louis; Mike Stuart of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Orlando; and Ed Kershaw of Domex Marketing/Kershaw Cos., Yakima, Wash.

Hispanic marketing: opportunities for sales.

Understand how to take advantage of the expanding influence of Hispanic consumers in the U.S. market. This session will focus on marketing and merchandising techniques you can take home to improve sales of Hispanic items.

Use organic labeling to your advantage.

Learn how to increase fresh organic sales. This session will use case studies to examine marketing, merchandising and supply-chain partnerships concerning organic produce one year after the implementation of national organic standards.

Supermarket tour.

Visit such stores as Publix, Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets and Whole Foods to gain firsthand experience. This tour offers attendees an opportunity to sit in on a panel discussion and question-and-answer session with the tour hosts before departure.