WEST PATERSON, N.J. — The Eastern Produce Council isn’t like its regional council peers. But that’s about to change.
 
Newly elected president Dean Holmquist, director of produce and floral for Foodtown Inc., the Avenel, N.J.-based cooperative for the Foodtown chain of supermarkets, said the council plans to add a regional trade show by spring 2011.

Eastern Produce Council seeks to grow, add expo

Greg Johnson
Editor

Regional produce groups such as the Fresh Produce and Floral Council, La Mirada, Calif.; the Southeast Produce Council, Riverview, Fla.; and the nearby New England Produce Council, Burlington, Mass., hold regular meetings and have at least one trade show with exhibitors and attendees per year.

EPC executive director John McAleavey said the show will probably be in the northern New Jersey area, near the Meadowlands.

He said a newly formed expo committee led by chairman Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce and floral for Kings Super Markets Inc., Parsippany, N.J., was putting together the plan.

“Our goal is to be New England Produce Council’s size,” McAleavey said.

For perspective, the NEPC show in April hosted 210 booths and more than 700 attendees.

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McAleavey said the weak economy is taking its toll on some parts of the council’s business. He said the 42nd Annual Dinner Dance, Nov. 7, at Westmount Country Club in West Paterson, saw 320 attendees, including this produce journalist.

He said that’s down from a high of more than 500 in previous years.

A bright spot, however, was that the council’s hefty print program (checking in at 230 pages), added 22 ads from last year, a more than 10% gain.

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The council presented oversized $5,000 checks to two charitable organizations it supports throughout the year.
Accepting was the Tomorrow’s Children Fund, run by the Hackensack University Medical Center. It treats children with cancer and other blood disorders.

Also receiving a check was the LEAD New York program, which provides scholarships to college students who are interested in agriculture. It’s run by Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

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In the way a hot nightspot needs to attract ladies to be a successful business, a produce organization needs to attract buyers to remain healthy.

The Eastern Produce Council is no different.

“Interaction between retailers and vendors is so important,” said Greg Veneziano, vice president of perishables for wholesale grocer Bozzuto’s Inc., Cheshire, Conn., and council member.

“Retailers sometimes don’t understand how hard growers and shippers work,” he said. “The more they see that side of the industry, the more they understand.”

Veneziano said when he was first starting in the industry many years ago, he took a trip to visit Washington apple growers and shippers.

That gave him a better perspective on what he was buying and how to reach consumers better.

Belonging to an association like the EPC is similar, he said, whether it’s in a monthly meeting or at an expo.

Holmquist said the council leadership has asked itself to better define what its benefits are to the retail community.

“There’s the thought that the retail market (in the New York metro area) is shrinking, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s just changing.”

Holmquist said the council plans to publish a brochure early next year that explains its benefits to all member segments (classified as retail, wholesale/broker and transportation), with the goal of increasing membership.

E-mail gjohnson@thepacker.com

Did you attend this year's Eastern Produce Council Annual Dinner Dance? Leave a comment to tell us your opinion about the council's plans.