Traceability has been a buzzword and key initiative in the fresh produce industry for more than a year, and with that in mind, the United Fresh Produce Association intends to give the topic some extra attention at its annual conference April 21-24 in Las Vegas.

“We’ve added a new Produce Traceability Demo Center to our show floor this year,” said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and chief executive officer. “I can’t even keep up with the number of vendors who want to participate to help educate our attendees.”

The Traceability Demo Center aims to answer questions regarding the Produce Traceability Initiative, launched last year by United Fresh, the Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.

With clear milestones and timelines established for total supply chain traceability by 2012, thousands of companies across the supply chain are seeking answers to practical questions, such as where to start and what are the steps toward attaining complete traceability, according to the association’s Web site.

The demo center features 8,000 square feet of display area, including exhibits, private meeting rooms and a roundtable discussion area with 100% focus on traceability, according to the Web site.

Dan Vache, vice president of supply chain management for the association, will be at the center. It is open from 3-7 p.m. April 22, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 23 and 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. April 24.

Roundtable discussion leaders include Reggie Griffin, corporate vice president for The Kroger Co.; David Dever, president and chief executive officer of Pandol Brothers; Jim Corby, vice president produce for Food Lion LLC; and Steve Grinstead, president and chief executive officer of Pro*Act.

“I know I want to learn more about the Produce Traceability Initiative, and I plan to spend some time at the PTI Demo Center,” said Brendan Comito, chief operations officer for Capital City Fruit Co. Inc., Norwalk, Iowa, who also serves as vice chairman of the United Fresh wholesale-distributor board. “I also want to see what is new in the food safety arena, and I’ll also check out some packaging machinery.”

Scott Danner, chief operating officer at Liberty Fruit Co., Kansas City, Kan., said, “I’m looking forward to discussing in detail the Produce Traceability Initiative and the costs involved to be compliant with PTI.”

Another highlight at the conference will take place the afternoon of April 22 when the Produce for Better Health Foundation will host a town hall forum to discuss a new national fruit and vegetable marketing campaign.

The forum will be led by PBH president and chief executive officer Elizabeth Pivonka and new PBH board chairman Paul Klutes, director of brand sales at Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson Worldwide.

The breakfast general session April 22 also will feature the awarding of The Packer’s Man or Woman of the Year, just before keynote speaker Steve Forbes.

There is more to see at United Fresh 2009, including “mini workshops” at learning centers at both the FreshTech and Fresh Marketplace expos.