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PMA Fresh Connections China

Last week, the PMA Fresh Connections China summit took place in Shanghai. The programme was twofold. On Wednesday, a tour through the city was organised for international participants to get an understanding of the vibrant Chinese wholesale and retail market. The programme the next day contained a series of lectures on the global and Chinese fresh produce industry and affiliating branches. The conference on Thursday was open to a local Chinese audience, and was well attended by a mixture of Chinese trade companies, importers, logistics providers, retailers and e-commerce businesses.

Market Tour
The Market Tour was attended by a number of international guests that represented growers, importers and exporters, and logistics service providers. This included, among others, The Wonderful Company, Melissa’s, Sun World International, Chucho Produce, ZZ2 and T&G.

Wholesale Market Staff with John Said, Fresh Select and Oleen Smethurst, Costco Canada

The day kicked off with a visit to the Huizhan Wholesale Market. The Huizhan Wholesale Market is the biggest import market of Shanghai, and one of the biggest in China. Large import companies provide fresh produce to stand holders who forward it to local sellers and e-commerce companies.

After the wholesale market, the tour continued with a visit to an Olé Supermarket Food Hall. Olé’s Food Halls are luxury supermarkets that target a high-end customer segment. Fresh produce and imported fruit and veg provide an important part of the company’s product offering and are shown centrally in splendid product displays.

Piet Prinsloo and Tommie van Zyl of ZZ2 with Jose Antonio Gomez, Camposol, during a visit to Sam's Club

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This is similar to Sam’s Club, of which a branch was visited afterwards. Sam’s Club is a division of Wal-Mart Stores with a private membership system. For this retailer, premium fresh produce is an important product segment as well. The company has recently reinvented its packaging and marketing to appeal to a Chinese audience.

The day ended at a traditional wet market and with a stop-over at Pagoda, one of China’s innovative new fruit chain stores. Pagoda has built out a vast network of over 1,300 shops in city centres across China. The chain focuses purely on sales of high-end fruits. Flexibility and accessibility are key. Its shops are located in the centres of neighbourhoods close to the people and are open from nine in the morning to mid-night.

Staff of Pagoda

Fresh Connections Summit
The conference was launched by a joint presentation on the current state of the fresh produce industry by Cathy Burns and Bryan Silbermann. This was followed by a presentation by Mabel Zhuang that outlined the growth of the Chinese fresh fruit import market. Tim York, CEO of Markon, headed a panel on food safety. On the panel, Keith Refsnider, the Global Food Safety Program Director at Driscoll’s, explained how the company has dealt with the introduction and implementation of food safety and hygiene best practises among its workers in China.

At one point the conference was interrupted by the announcement that Mission Produce, Lantao and Pagoda will a launch a joint-venture to supply ready-to-eat avocados to China.

Thinking Like a Global CEO, led by Bryan Silbermann, provided the audience with an opportunity to learn first-hand from industry leaders. Liu Mau Wah of Joyvio-Golden Wing Mau, Steve Barnard, Mission Produce, Michael Simonetta of Perfection Fresh Australia and Shawn Harris of Nature’s Pride shared how they all had difficulties but refused to give in, and how they grew their businesses into successful international enterprises.

Leading trends and varietal innovations, including a discussion of IP rights in China, were discussed by Jose Antonio Gomez, CEO of Camposol Trading, Robert Kershaw, President of Domex Superfresh Growers and David Marguleas of Sun World International. The session was led by Jerome Chen, Executive Director of Joyvio-Golden Wing Mau.

Keith Refsnider, Driscoll's, on food safety and best practises

The day came to an end with a review of the Chinese import market and opportunities in a discussion headed by John Wang, CEO of Lantao Shanghai Great Harvest. Neil Maffey of Sam’s Club China and Oleen Smethurst of Costco Canada discussed how careful sourcing, marketing and packaging, in tune with local preferences, can contribute to successful retail sales.

During the networking breaks and at the end of the conference there was ample opportunity to mingle, which was enthusiastically done.

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