(April 9) BOSTON — They came by the busloads, and that might be why so many found the second annual New England Produce Council exposition so successful.

“They” are the retailers. Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, Victory and many more were there in force. Big Y and Roche Bros. went so far as to rent buses to send store-level retail produce managers to the one-day expo April 3 at Boston’s Bayside Expo Center.

“We’ve enjoyed great retail support,” said Bob McGowan, who is entering his second year as president of the Burlington, Mass.-based New England Produce Council.

Nearly 800 of the 1,150 attendees this year were retailers, said Laura Sullivan, the council’s business administrator. The inaugural show had about 750 attendees, she said.

Kelly Dietz, director of Eastern sales for Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield, Calif., described the show as one of the best she attends all year.

“It’s a fantastic show for both retailers and vendors because there are so many retailers in a 100-mile radius,” said Dietz, who is based in State College, Pa. “We get usable feedback from store-level retailers, which is priceless.”

Sullivan said there was plenty to draw retailers, including entertaining, engaging events like Produce Jeopardy, in which five retail teams tried to outwit one another on produce knowledge and trivia.

“Produce Jeopardy was exciting. It was neck-and-neck to the very end. Last year Big Y won in a sweep. This year they won again, but by only a dollar,” Sullivan said, adding that exhibitors donated tons of produce to Greater Boston Food Bank and Little Sisters of the Poor.

The council draws on a range of sources to make its event successful. McGowan, vice president of produce for Advantage Sales & Marketing/ESM, Needham, Mass., said the council participates in round tables with other regional councils, such as the Eastern Produce Council and even Los Angeles’ Fresh Produce & Floral Council.

Addressing consumer trends, Kevin Coupe, editor of the Lempert Report, a retail trends newsletter, said the produce industry must position itself on issues such as whether produce should be individually wrapped, as the Food and Drug Administration has recently suggested.

“When confronted with perceived safety or perceived risk, how would the consumer react?” asked Coupe, the event’s keynote speaker.

He said the industry must monitor consumer anxiety, especially considering the hysteria over biotechnology, bioterrorism, mad cow disease and foot-and-mouth disease. “There’s a real sense of worry, if latent,” he said.