BERLIN — Despite its exhibit booths sporting lounges filled with clients socializing as they enjoyed food and drinks, the Fruit Logistica expo won praise from North American attendees as a place where companies were looking to do business.

This year’s show drew more than 56,000 visitors from 132 countries to see a record 2,452 exhibitors from 84 nations, according to event organizer Messe Berlin.

U.S. firms may not have had as big a footprint on the show floor as some other nations, but many said attendance offered a good return on their investment.

Fourth-year exhibitor Tom Lange Co. expanded its booth size this year, said Rock Gumpert, chairman, president and chief executive officer of the Springfield, Ill.-based distributor.

Tom Lange ships to the Baltic countries, Scandinavia, Holland and Russia — where fruit shipments to St. Petersburg have been busy lately, Gumpert said, adding that he appreciates how Fruit Logistica brings international business partners together.

Fruit Logistica praised as place to make deals
Fruit Logistica praised as place to make deals

Fred Wilkinson

Chris Groot, marketing project manager for Netherlands-based seed developer Enza Zaden, shows off a hydroponic lettuce table at Fruit Logistica. Enza Zaden is the second-largest lettuce seed supplier in the world, Groot says, and hydroponic production offers advantages, such as more efficient water use and the need for fewer chemicals. He says a restaurant in Japan has lettuce growing on a hydroponic table so diners can pick their own lettuce for their meal.

Emiliano Escobedo, marketing director for Mexican avocado promotion group APEAM, which exhibited along with other Mexican companies at that nation’s sizable pavilion, said Europe holds much potential for growth.

Avocados don’t have near the popularity in Europe as they do in the U.S., he said.

Escobedo said Mexico shipped more avocados to the U.S. in the week before the Super Bowl than it ships to Europe in a year.

France is the top European market for avocados from Mexico, and Eastern Europe, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait show promise, he said.

Others appreciated the exposure to a world of product and packaging innovations.

Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager for exhibitor Stellar Distributing, Fresno, Calif., said U.S.-based firms have in some cases become too inward-looking and can benefit from the global perspective Fruit Logistica offers.

He also said the expo makes it convenient to meet with international clients Stellar deals with.

West Mathison, president of Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., echoed those sentiments.

“We get the opportunity to talk with our customers from basically all over the globe,” Mathison said, citing the opportunity to have joint meetings with importers and retailers.

“It really helps connect the supply chain, and at the same time gives apple growers from eastern Washington a breath of what’s going on in the rest of the world,” he said.

Besides the scale of the event, a key difference from U.S. trade shows some U.S. attendees noted was the intent to ink new deals.

U.S. conventions are largely about solidifying existing business relationships and doing face time with clients, said Brian Kastick, president and general manager of Oso Sweet Onions, Charleston, W. Va.

He said businesses come to Fruit Logistica expecting to make deals.

“People actually buy stuff here,” he said.