Florida growers and related agribusinesses generated an estimated $77 million in sales at the annual Produce Marketing Association "Fresh Summit" trade show in New Orleans earlier this month.
A total of 18 individual Florida companies, as well as the Florida Blueberry Growers Association and Florida Strawberry Growers Association, participated in a first-ever "Florida Pavilion" created by PMA to give the state's exhibitors a centralized major presence at the event, which draws more than 1,000 exhibitors and 18,000 attendees from more than 60 countries.
Buyers include representatives of grocery and food retailers, as well as food service operators such as restaurant chains and food service suppliers.
The Produce Marketing Association is the leading trade association representing companies from every segment of the global produce and floral supply chain.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam led the Florida delegation, with support from FDACS development representative supervisor Yolanda Roundtree, who has been attending the PMA show for 12 years.
"Florida products are second to none, and the demand for these products in the United States and abroad continues to grow," Putnam said. "We are proud to partner with Florida businesses to help them increase awareness and sales of their products to benefit the local and statewide economy."
Collectively, the participating companies estimated $28.2 million in sales of products
on site and another $49.1 million in projected sales.
Although impressive sales results were important, Roundtree said, an even more important aspect of this year's event was the initiative PMA took to create a new Florida Pavilion, which was aggressively supported by FDACS.
"We have always had a presence at the show and had individual companies attend and participate with us under our umbrella," Roundtree said. But the new Florida Pavilion concept, she said, gave Florida a consolidated presence in a single location that provided maximum convenience for buyers and maximum visibility for the state's growers and agribusinesses.
And as a result, Roundtree said, a record number of individual businesses participated and attended as part of the Florida mission.
Major trade shows, both in the U.S. and internationally, are a critical component of FDACS's overall marketing efforts, Roundtree said.
"They are very important to the department, not only as a marketing tool for us, but also for the individual companies that participate," she said. "Going to these shows allows companies to be face to face with potential buyers of their products. It's a business to business event designed to put buyers and sellers face to face."
Sue Harrell, director of marketing for Florida Strawberry Growers Association, has been attending the PMA show for almost 20 years. She gave FDACS high marks for its support of Florida producers at such industry events and cited a key benefit for smaller companies and organizations.
"We exhibit in their 'Fresh from Florida' booth because we have a small marketing budget and we couldn't afford to do it any other way," Harrell said. "And the real estate at the show they had this year was significantly larger than ever before. And a lot of the companies, especially smaller companies, were also able to exhibit because of the cost being lower than it would if they attended the show on their own."
And the centralized location made it easier for buyers to find them, Harrell said. "Because all of the Florida companies were in a single location, buyers knew exactly where to go to find every kind of Florida produce."
Andy Brown, vice president of marketing at Fellsmere-based B&W Quality Growers, the world's largest producer of watercress and also a grower of specialty baby leaf products such as arugula, is also a longtime supporter of FDACS's presence at the PMA event.
"One reason is that the show allows buyers to find Florida produce in a single location because we're all grouped together," he said. "It also gives us a national presence and a bigger voice than any one of us could have individually. The Florida footprint it gives us is just significantly larger than any of us could have by ourselves. And by grouping ourselves together, Florida growers become one of the larger exhibitors at the show. And that also means we also get a better position at the show."
The show also delivers good bang for the buck, Brown said.
"For the investment you make, you get a much better value than you would if you participated on your own," he said. "For example, an exhibitor's location in the show is determined by how big its footprint is. So with all of the Florida companies exhibiting together, that means there is a major exhibit for the state of Florida, right in the middle, so that no one can walk through the show without bumping into the state of Florida."
Next year's PMA Fresh Summit will be in Anaheim, Calif.
For more information about FDACS and its marketing programs, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.