Day 1 at United Fresh 2012 in Dallas: Optimism, work to do

May 2, 2012

What a full first day at United Fresh 2012 in Dallas.

From the opening breakfast featuring a presentation on the future of food retailing by Harris Teeter President Fred Morganthall to a triumphant evening featuring the Chairman’s Reception and annual Produce Celebration Dinner presenting winners of the 2012 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards and 2012 Retail Produce Manager Award winners, it seemed there was a lot to celebrate.

Combining the annual United Fresh show with the FMI, AMI and NASDA shows meant a huge trade show floor exhibit area with thousands visitors.

Several themes emerged:

Remember the customer. Everything that the industry does, from food safety and traceability to product development and delivery, boils down to one thing: delivering what customers want. And that, according to several industry experts who spoke today, would be healthy products that are safe, flavorful and of known origin.

Optimism. A definite sense of optimism pervades the atmosphere, whether camaraderie-filled gatherings for meals and to celebrate the accomplishments of the industry and professionals who are working on its front lines to exhibitors who brought equipment, samples and information to the exhibit hall at the Dallas Convention Center.

Innovation. From technology to products, exhibitors are showing that the industry continues to look forward in terms of developing and producing products that customers want — whether they’re producers who need equipment and packaging or consumers at the retail level.

Commitment. It was with great pride that United Fresh’s Dr. Lorelei DiSogra announced that the United Fresh Foundation had achieved its goal of raising enough money to implement 100 salad bars in 100 Texas schools. It was with additional excitement that Dan’l Mackey Almy, president of Irving, Texas-based DMA Solutions Inc. and a key figure in helping achieve the Texas salad bars goal, announced that HBO is going to fund 100 more school salad bars across the country. (HBO recently created a documentary about the childhood obesity epidemic, airing this month.) She also presented the challenge of raising enough to give 100 San Diego-area schools salad bars when United Fresh 2013 is held there one year from now.

Vigilance. The industry faces a lot of issues: labor, the Food Safety Modernization Act, transportation, foodborne illness and more. All are on the table at United Fresh as leaders meet, share information and discuss initiatives that will enable them to influence and shape instead of responding and letting others lead the way.

Some heartwarming highlights:

Outgoing United Fresh Chairman Reggie Griffin’s heartfelt shout-out to his wife at the conclusion of his speech about his time as UF chairman and 42-year career in retail, from which he is retiring.

A Texas fifth-grader, Ryan Powell, delivering a speech about the importance of salad bars and how important it is to introduce his fellow classmates to fresh produce early. He said he’s going to be starting a blog about the importance of “filling your body with quality, not quantity.”

The nice thing is that with the fresh-cut and produce industry, you can actually do both.




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