United Fresh’s LIVE! virtual event to become year-round resource
You never had to look far for the produce industry’s latest advancements in packaging, processing, products and more. They have been routinely front and center at the annual United Fresh Convention & Expo for more than a century.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic threatening this year’s convention, the United Fresh Board of Directors welcomed the challenge of expanding the industry’s vision of what a trade show could be. The board pivoted not just their own businesses but the United Fresh 2020 Convention and Expo as well, moving the gathering onto the new virtual platform United Fresh LIVE! More than 200 booths — including 70-plus new exhibitors — representing some of the industry’s most innovative companies, packed the virtual expo hall in June, eager to catch the attention of 7,500-plus attendees from around the globe. We caught up with several United Fresh LIVE! exhibitors to chat about their experiences at the first ever virtual convention and trade show for the fresh produce industry.
Always in high demand, sustainable packaging solutions were in ample supply on the United Fresh LIVE! virtual expo floor. American Packaging Corporation seized the opportunity to showcase their hermetic and modified atmosphere (MAP) packaging to the fresh-cut industry for leafy greens, sliced fruits and tray lidding.
“Our United Fresh LIVE! exhibiting experience exceeded expectations,” said Mike Mallon, VP of sales and marketing and a member of the United Fresh Fresh-Cut Processor board. “The opportunity to load our virtual booth with materials targeted specifically for attendees on a platform that visitors can access at their leisure, made for a low pressure setting, helping us to cast a wider net; and educate booth visitors about the critical role that flexible packaging plays in minimizing food waste and increasing shelf life.”
NNZ, another provider of sustainable packaging solutions, discovered both immediate and long-term benefits of the United Fresh LIVE! platform.
“Because of the flexible virtual format, there was no limit to what we could showcase in our booth,” said Steve Greenfield, director of sales and marketing.
NNZ highlighted its packaging products including a Filmbag with steam valve, cardboard tray for kiwi, Doypack for potatoes, cups of tomatoes and more.
“We captured extensive amounts of data — far more than we can at an in-person event — and with our customized data portal, we were able to see which brochures and videos the attendees accessed, giving us more personalized follow-up opportunities,” Greenfield added.
Produce wholesaler and processor DNO Produce used its virtual booth to showcase the FresHealth Kids brand of products. Portion-packed to certain specifications, FresHealth Kids delivers grab-and-go fruits and vegetables for K-12 schools, C-stores and other customers. DNO works heavily with both schools and distributors on the USDA Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program (FFVP) and DoD Fresh.
“We love making school foodservice professionals’ and educators’ jobs easier by offering a wide variety (50-plus SKUs) of portion-packed items,” said Yolanda Owens, Director of Marketing.
With United Fresh LIVE!, DNO was able to reach their target audience, as well as a broader and more diverse audience than ever before. “I don’t think that we could have imagined walking away from this virtual event with nearly 1,000 connections,” Owens said.
Some exhibitors thought “outside the booth” when constructing their virtual presence, including Duda Farm Fresh Foods, which transported attendees directly into the operations of the grower, shipper, processor and marketer of fresh vegetables and citrus.
“The virtual format of the show enabled us to give attendees an inside look at our company through exclusive experiences, including live virtual tours of our fresh cut celery facility and field harvests, as well as a special school foodservice culinary training session we hosted,” said Nichole Towell, senior director of marketing.
United Fresh LIVE! opened the produce industry’s eyes to new ways of doing business. Shortly following the pioneering success of the event, United Fresh set the industry’s sights on the future, announcing a transition of its virtual platform to United Fresh LIVE! 365, a year-round online marketplace where buyers seeking to source new products and solutions will continue to discover hundreds of vendors across the platform. In addition, United Fresh LIVE! 365 will become the association’s year-round platform to deliver webinars, conference programming, and networking opportunities.
Log in to United Fresh LIVE! 365 today (www.unitedfresh.org/united-fresh-live-365/) for free to visit the expo hall, as well as access 30-plus hours of on-demand education that took place during United Fresh LIVE! in June.
— By Ben Massoud, communications manager, United Fresh Produce Association.