“It really wasn’t worth it.”

There may be some in the North American produce industry who have uttered that assessment upon returning from Fruit Logistica, the annual European fresh produce trade show held in early February in Berlin, but no one from this news source has found them.

Berlin expo’s best asset is expanding ideas

Greg Johnson

This will be my second trip to Fruit Logistica (more on that later) and the first for The Packer’s publisher Shannon Shuman.

Each year, it seems, the North American presence at the show increases. This year, both American national trade organizations and the largest Canadian one are sponsoring events for members during the Feb. 3-5 convention.

The Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association has:

  • organized a central hotel for members to meet (the Berlin Marriott Hotel) and secured a group rate;
  • set up a retail and city tour for members Feb. 2;
  • co-sponsored educational workshops at Freshconex, the fresh-cut oriented companion trade show to Fruit Logistica;
  • plans to host a Feb. 4 reception for members and guests at its booth in Hall 1.1 of the Freshconex expo.

Meanwhile, the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., has a booth in Hall 23, C1, where it plans to host a Feb. 4 reception for its members and guests. The Packer is a co-sponsor of the reception.

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Ottawa, is co-sponsoring the first-ever Canadian Pavilion and plans to hold a reception in its business lounge in Hall 23, C2, Feb. 3

The USA Pavilion is Hall 23, B1. About 20 companies/groups have plans to exhibit in the area, as of the end of January.

Why go?

So, what’s so special about this European event for North American companies?

Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications for United Fresh, said more than 15% of the association’s membership is international, and even if they don’t do business in the U.S., they look to United Fresh for food safety guidance, networking and other things.

Much has been made about the sheer size of Fruit Logistica (more than 50,000 attendees and more than 2,200 exhibitors expected for 2010, compared to PMA Fresh Summit 2009’s 19,000 attendees and 800 exhibitors), and Gilmer said that’s important association members.

“At no other show will you see 50,000 produce executives from all over the world,” he said. “That’s far more than any U.S. produce tradeshow.”

Julia Stewart, PMA’s public relations director, said the convention is a great venue for PMA to expand its awareness among the global produce and floral industries.

She said PMA’s reception area will be its largest when its hosts its Feb. 4 event, which is sponsored for the first time.

But PMA has had a presence at Fruit Logistica for many years.

“We think it is a valuable venue to reach the various segments of the European produce and floral supply chain,” she said. “That’s why we chose to participate again this year.”

My experience

I attended Fruit Logistica in 2007 for the first time, though The Packer’s Tom Karst and former editor Lance Jungmeyer had each been there a number of times.

Certainly, the sheer size jumped out at me. There was no way to get to everything.

But what also surprised me was how much business was conducted at companies’ booths.

It was common to see a booth’s occupants welcome guests, bring them into a more secluded area, break out a bottle of wine and a cigarette or cigar and presumably, conduct business.

United Fresh’s vice president of convention and industry relations, John Toner, took notes last year of this behavior.

After returning from Berlin last February, he told The Packer he was impressed with the way European produce representatives effortlessly mixed business with pleasure.

United Fresh incorporated some of those lessons into its annual convention last April, with private business suites and a happy hour on the show floor.

Much has been made of how North American produce companies pick up new ideas and concepts at Fruit Logistica. But associations do too.

As do publishing companies.

Please catch Shannon or me in Berlin and let us know what ideas you have for us.

E-mail gjohnson@thepacker.com

Are you planning on attending Fruit Logistica? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.