The return of one of the industry’s premier shows to the Big Easy is creating a buzz and expected record eastern show attendance.

The Fresh Summit 2013 expo, Oct. 18-20, marks the Produce Marketing Association’s return to New Orleans.

Its “Say Hello To The Future @ Fresh Summit” theme reflects the show’s attempt to lead the industry into the future through fresh produce trends and challenges.

The extravanganza, which last was in New Orleans in 2002, was scheduled to pay a second visit in 2007, but Newark, Del.-based PMA relocated the show after Hurricane Katrina decimated the city in 2005.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm in the industry for getting back into New Orleans,” said outgoing PMA chairwoman Jan DeLyser, vice president of the California Avocado Commission, Irvine. “I’ve been to the city since the hurricane. It’s a great city with wonderful restaurants and great facilities. Many people are looking forward to just getting back there.”

Strong attendance expected

In mid-September, buyer registration for the event was running higher than at the same time for the last two shows, PMA officials reported.

More than 20,000 people from 60 countries are expected to pack the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and visit the more than 1,000 exhibiting companies in 250,000 net square feet of exposition space.

That’s more than the 14,122 who visited last time in the Crescent City, and it could top the 18,284 participants who visited 940 exhibitors at the 2011 show in Orlando, Fla., which set the East Coast expo record.

Rouses Supermarkets, Thibodaux, La., has registered more than 80 participants, while Costco Wholesale Corp., Issaquah, Wash., plans to bring 30, according to PMA officials.

“The energy level is rising,” said Bryan Silbermann, PMA’s president and chief executive officer. “The enthusiasm is very strong for the whole year ahead.”

With all the activities PMA conducts throughout the year and the world, the show has shifted from being the year’s culminating event to the window on what lies ahead for the rest of the year, he said.

Events, workshops planned

Silbermann said he plans to present a broad-brush look at the produce industry’s current status in his Oct. 18 state of the industry address.

He plans to include the increasing role of women in industry leadership positions, how produce is making more inroads on foodservice menus and why produce marketers should take lessons from consumer goods marketers’ playbooks.

The speech will include short video vignettes by experts in those areas sharing their thoughts on how such trends may shape the produce industry.

Silbermann plans to promote industry innovation and change, topics shared by speakers in the show’s other general sessions and breakout sessions and on the expo floor’s events and activities.

Words involving innovation resonate with the industry, Silbermann said.

“People really live it,” he said. “They live it in the way they market their products in the expo and how they take home best practices from workshop speakers they can apply to their businesses.”

Incoming PMA chairman Tim Riley, president of The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, said the show will help guide produce industry leaders into the future.

“Business is evolving at blistering speeds,” he said. “If we are to compete with consumer product goods’ snack products in the future and increase consumption, our industry needs to be ready for tomorrow. Fresh Summit 2013 is focused on providing a vivid picture of tomorrow on consumers, global trade and innovations in packaging, science and technology.”

Supporting healthy eating through the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, PMA members committed $123,000 to support installation of salad bars throughout the U.S.

PMA and local school district officials plan an Oct. 16 event in New Orleans to release news that $30,000 of that funding will go to support installation of 10 salad bars in the St. Tammany Parish schools, Silbermann said.

The Packer plans to present its Marketer of the Year award during the Breakfast General Session at 8 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 20,

The show continues its two-day expo format, which was implemented last year in Anaheim, Calif.

Read more about the show at