The Packer’s Midwest Produce Conference & Expo Aug. 13-15 in Chicago will include a consumer panel and tours of two Chicago retailers.
The opening general session consumer panel, set for 3:30 p.m. Aug. 13, focuses on consumer trends in buying fresh produce. Elizabeth Pivonka, chief executive officer of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, and Pamela Riemenschneider, editor of Produce Retailer magazine, will moderate the discussion.
Riemenschneider said the panel includes the latest Fresh Trends research and touch on hot topics including locally grown, organics, The Dirty Dozen, convenience and marketing to younger consumers.
“Live consumer panels are a great opportunity to interact with shoppers one-on-one,” Riemenschneider said. “We all want to know what’s on their mind as they walk the produce aisle.”
In addition to the consumer panel, at 9:45 a.m. on Aug. 14 a panel of produce suppliers and panels will discuss the growing local food movement in the Midwest, in a session titled “Feeding the Locavore.”
The “Urban Markets Tour,” from 9 a.m.-noon Aug. 15, includes trips to a Shop and Save Market and a Mariano’s Fresh Market.
Both stores are in downtown Chicago and are evidence of a resurgence of “urban retail” markets in the city core.
The last day of Midwest Produce includes tours of the Chicago International Produce Market and two produce distributors, Testa Produce and the Anthony Marano Co.
Taken together, the retail and wholesale tours provide an important learning opportunity for Midwest Produce attendees, said Shannon Shuman, The Packer’s publisher.
“The last day of the event will be very educational with retail tours that will highlight some of the most modern urban retail trends, in addition to a behind-the-scenes look at the some state-of-the-art produce distribution operations,” he said.
Brian Holzkopf, director of produce for Des Plaines, Ill.-based Shop and Save, said Midwest Produce attendees will tour the chain’s Archer location in downtown Chicago, which opened about a year-and-a-half ago.
Shop and Save opened its first store a decade ago, Holzkopf said. It has added four more since, with a sixth store expected to open at the end of 2012.
Fresh produce has played a central in the chain’s success.
“When you go into the store, you don’t even see registers or groceries,” Holzkopf said. “Perishables are the first third of the store, and produce is the first focal point.”