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The three-day event will be held June 10-12 at McCormick Place in Chicago by the United Fresh Produce Association. Registration already is open on the association’s website.
The sponsors held committee meetings since last year’s show to figure out how they could make the event more compelling and add features to keep it growing in the future.
“Given the critical nature of food safety in our industry and the challenges we’ve faced just in the past calendar year, I’m looking forward to the Food Safety X-Change Discussions that will take place right on the expo floor,” says Jennifer McEntire, PhD, and vice president of Food Safety & Technology at United Fresh. “As we gather industry experts to share solutions to common food safety challenges, we are further encouraging their peers to work towards solving similar issues within their own companies.”
United Fresh is moving the show from the south to the north hall of McCormick Place, nearer to the hotel and parking lot. It is also focusing on four areas: engaging the exposition floor, adding programming that drives value to VIPs and all attendees, creating new opportunities for business-to-business connections, and increasing networking events.
One key change is moving the learning centers to two stages. The main stage will have culinary demonstrations and panel discussions with produce managers and food service chefs. The other stage will focus on future-oriented topics like what is coming in indoor growing or new flavor profiles. The Innovation Awards also will be given from the main stage on Wednesday rather than the show floor, as in previous years.
The food court, absent for 18 years, will be back on the show floor.
“We’re working with the convention center catering team to incorporate six sponsor companies’ products into several different entre’ stations,” says John Toner, the association’s vice president of convention and industry collaboration. “We anticipate this being a highly exciting area where attendees will be able to go and sample the flavors and tastes of the fresh produce industry live on the show floor.”
The Fresh Start Foundation’s activities will be emphasized with a salad bar and kids’ activities.
For the fitness conscious, the association will hold a step counting competition on the expo floor to see who takes the most footsteps throughout the convention center during the three days of the show.
Schedule of Events
Monday at United Fresh 2019 will see the resurgence of the general session lunch. That will include a panel of about six industry leaders who will talk about the outlook for produce.
The luncheon will be followed by eight to 12 workshops focused on targeted education and key issues driving business.
Monday afternoon also will see the launch of the Partner X-Change, a one-on-one matchmaking event similar to speed dating.
“So we’ll have 20 buying companies with 20 suppliers in a three-hour session with about 10 meetings each for 15 minutes each,” Toner says.
He adds that a lot of key buyers already are signed on, including Albertsons, Costco, McDonald’s, and Walmart. A complete list of participants will be on the association’s website in early March.
Monday evening will have an invitation-only VIP cruise from McCormick Center to the Navy Pier, plus an opening party for attendees.
Among the enhanced events is Tuesday’s Fresh Festival for School Foodservice, which brings together 50 school food service directors so all attendees can see kid-friendly products. The festival was held the past two years, but it wasn’t in an open area. This year it will be in the main registration lobby and include a cocktail reception from 4-5 p.m.
Tuesday also will have a new late-night party at the House of Blues. It is open to “all access” participants, sponsors, some VIPs, and exhibitors with large booths.
The aim, Toner says, it to attract younger or first-time participants to the show.
“We’re also looking for Instagram moments,” he says. “We’re looking at how we can break the mold for our traditional events.”
The Women in Produce event, which has been a reception for 20 years, will become a Wednesday breakfast to draw bigger crowds and to allow for more networking.
That also frees up Tuesday afternoon for more community building events and learning opportunities, including the Listeria Learning Lab.
“Last year’s hands-on [Listeria Learning Lab] was a success, getting food safety professionals to interact and have fun while working through challenges we face daily managing Lm,” Dr. McEntire says. “We’re also excited to offer a new networking event following the Listeria Learning Lab for our ever-growing food safety community.”
Another big change is Wednesday’s Retail-Foodservice celebration that honors 25 produce managers and gives out eight produce in food service awards. The association is making the event more prominent by including them in a closing party, so the 2,000 attendees can see them and network.
The final day’s party also will preview the next destination for the expo, San Diego, in 2020.