Tim Harrington (from left), merchandise manager for the Northeast and Canada for Stemilt Growers; and Jocelyn Gerard, regional merchandise manager for Stemilt, visit with Chris Romano, vice president of produce and floral for The Fresh Market, Greensboro, N.C., on the GOPEX expo floor. ( Photo by Tom Karst )

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — The Packer’s third annual Global Organic Produce Expo brought in more buyers and exhibitors than previous years and garnered many positive reviews.

The Jan. 9-11 event focused on fresh organic produce, but sessions covered everything from sustainable packaging, food safety, logistics, governmental policy, marketing messages and more.

An expo floor featured 86 exhibitors, up from 73 exhibitors in 2019. Of the 714 attendees, 111 were retail buyers, 37 were foodservice buyers and 76 wholesale buyers. That is up from last year, when the event drew 604 people, including 97 retail buyers, 21 foodservice buyers and 72 wholesaler buyers.

GOPEX 2020 attendees included buyers and suppliers from Latin America, Asia and Africa. 

The show kicked off with a morning tour of PortMiami, followed by a TopGolf networking event.

Jennifer Tucker, U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy administrator of the National Organic Program, spoke on Jan. 10 about changes coming this year to tighten up enforcement and extra steps to importing organic products.

A look at organic price premiums by Rabobank analyst David Magana provided a perspective on promising fruits and vegetables in the category.

That speech was followed by a panel discussing retail organic trends and then a session on organic agriculture and climate change. 

On Jan. 11, Ashley Tyrner of Farmbox RX described efforts to revolutionize the health care market by providing fruits and vegetables as a way of preventive care. Keynote speaker Antoni Porowski, the food and wine connoisseur for Netflix’s “Queer Eye,” provided an entertaining hour of musings about food trends and organic produce in a morning session before the expo.

On the show floor

Exhibitors reported good energy on the show floor Jan. 11.

“I had heard really good stuff about (GOPEX), so that’s why we took a chance this year, and I was very pleased,” said Adrianna Fortune, sales representative for Gourmet Trading Co., Redondo Beach, Calif.

“We were very active in the show, and it’s always great opportunity to see our retail partners we’re working with and some of the ones we are not,” said Kyle Moynahan, sales program manager for Red Sun Farms, Kingsville, Ontario.

“(The expo) exceeded our expectations. We loved the BizMatch,” said Jocelyn Gerard, regional merchandise manager for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers, referring to one-on-one sesssions with select exhibitors and retailers. “It has been a high level of activity and interaction with retailers.”

Tony Somohano, director of wholesale sales of Woodspur Organic Date Farms, Coachella, Calif., said the show had a strong buyer presence. 

“We do some shows where people are just here for samples,” Somohano said. “Here people are looking more to bring the product into the store, into their distribution system. And it’s always good to have eyeball-to-eyeball contact with your customers.”

Jessie Gunn, vice president of events and marketing for the produce division of Farm Journal, said that contact is a driving factor behind GOPEX.

“This is why we built a program around inclusion of scale and size of both growers and retailers — inclusion around who could participate in excursions and activities and opportunities to get to know each other in a collaborative and ‘high tides raise all boats’ kind of way,” Gunn said. “Overall, I’m thrilled with our team here and the success we created for the industry, because at the end of the day, that means more organics for more families, everywhere.”

Sabrina Castillo, chief administrative officer for Miami-based Fresh Directions International, which markets hass avocados grown by her family in the Dominican Republic, said networking and meeting new people is key.

“I find that GOPEX and this experience that I’ve had, it’s on a personal level,” Castillo said. “It’s not so commercialized and trading, it’s about getting to know people, and that’s what we love to do.”

Josh Price, in B2B globalization for Hangzhou, China-based e-commerce marketplace Alibaba, said the company attended GOPEX to talk to suppliers about accessing the growing demand on the platform.

“The show’s been great,” Price said. “We’re meeting a lot of great businesses who are interested in increasing their distribution.”

Julie DeWolf, director of retail marketing for Sunkist Growers, Valencia, Calif., said the show was a good place for Sunkist to highlight its organic offerings and to see customers.

AJ Jimenez, salesman for Nogales, Ariz.-based TruFresh, said the company is looking to leverage its presence at GOPEX to get more customers on the East Coast.

“There’s been a lot of key players here, a lot of the big retailers, and a lot of prominent wholesalers as well,” said Heather Fuller, senior director of sales for Braga Fresh, Soledad, Calif., “We have had some really good conversations.”

Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer for Leamington, Ontario-based Pure Hothouse Foods, also mentioned the BizMatch sessions.

“As a vertically-integrated grower who grows an extensive variety of organics, it’s important to have a presence at shows just like this, and the fact that it’s in January as well, to kick the new year off on a good foot, it’s great,” said Chris Veillon, chief marketing officer for Leamington, Ontario-based Pure Hothouse Foods.

Scott Rossi, director of sales and marketing for Hermosillo, Sonora-based Fresh Farms, said the event provided the company direction on what retailers are doing in organics.

“There’s been a lot of retailers who have been here and we’ve met with, so we’re excited about the organics of the future, and we’re growing this way.”

The Packer’s 2021 GOPEX show willl be Jan. 28-30 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Fla.


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