ORLANDO, Fla. — I’m 2,000 miles from Idaho, but Albert Wada is looking at me from a sign over some potatoes in a Publix.

I also saw Vincent Zavinovich and John Pandol smiling at me over some grape displays.

This isn’t anything I haven’t seen before — a retailer featuring a farmer/grower alongside his or her produce. I think it’s a great way to put a face to a name, to help consumers understand that produce comes from a person and not a factory.

Industry focuses on telling its stories

Pamela Riemenschneider
Aisle Wandering

I’ve seen really great displays in places like The Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis and H. E. Butt Co.’s Central Market premium format store.

The difference with those displays, however, was that the growers were a little closer than Idaho is to Orlando.

This is the industry telling its story. For the past several years, industry leaders have implored growers, shippers and retailers to tell their story. Can a simple sign over a potato display do that much?

I thought it was great to see growers profiled so far away from home.

Here’s the thing: Wada, Pandol and Zavinovich’s faces weren’t necessarily smiling over their branded products.

In Wada’s case, the potatoes were Publix’s house brand.

Retail tour wanderings

This was on the retail tour for the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit.

I’ve noticed an interesting trend over the past few retail tours — strong participation from people from Australia and New Zealand.

Like last year, the people I talked with were drawn straight to the value-added categories.

Peter Grech, an Australian watermelon grower I talked with, said he liked the chance to see new products and different ways of merchandising.

Several people on the tour commented on the sheer number of stock-keeping units available.

I guess those of us in Texas, Florida and California get used to having 15 types of peppers or six types of potatoes to choose from on a regular basis.

E-mail pamelar@produceretailer.com.