In March of 2020, life as we knew it came to a stop. Despite being weeks out from a series of in-person events that were quickly postponed, Produce Marketing Association pivoted and within days of the first lockdown had held the first of what would become a weekly Virtual Town Hall. On March 24, 2021 at noon EDT, PMA will mark its one-year anniversary of Virtual Town Halls with a special South by Southwest (SXSW) edition.
“Our Virtual Town Hall series has become a weekly touchpoint for members to gain insights to drive their business and connect with each other,” said Cathy Burns, PMA CEO. “I am incredibly grateful to every panelist and attendee over the past 12 months for sharing their knowledge and perspectives, as well as the PMA and Center for Growing Talent (CGT) teams for pivoting and creating new value and experiences."
The Virtual Town Halls were initially created to help the industry address the multiple layers of disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry was experiencing and reacting in real time to unpredictable and complex demands on the supply chain and our consumers, which ranged from panic buying to defining safety precautions for staff. The series featured industry veterans such as Bruce Taylor, Tim York, Joe Don Zetzsche and Adrielle Dankier along with USDA representatives, data experts from Euromonitor International and more.
The first Virtual Town Hall attracted almost 700 attendees and by the second week, the participating members had grown to almost 900. Over the past year, and through 48 Virtual Town Halls, more than 6,750 individuals have joined a PMA Virtual Town Hall. PMA has created a video recap of the year of Virtual Town Halls that can be viewed here.
Over time, the topics have evolved based on industry needs. The first several months focused on the urgent needs like navigating government funding opportunities. And as the industry has shown great resiliency in adapting to the changing landscape, the topics have also come to include more future-facing topics like the coming edition on Culture Updates from SXSW.
"PMA continues to connect the produce and floral communities with the world and along with our members, deepen our understanding of culture and its impact on our industry," said Lauren M. Scott, PMA chief strategy and membership officer. "Themes of embracing change, the evolution of societies and spirit of creativity permeated throughout the SXSW conference this year."
SXSW is billed as a “destination to discovery” and typically takes place each year in Austin, TX. There, conversations and collaborations are had across all aspects of culture, technology, entertainment, politics and food. For the past several years, PMA has attended and hosted an activation that invites consumers to explore the Joy of Fresh™ and all of the delightful and healthy aspects of produce and floral.
This year, the event was held virtually and in the tradition of previous years, PMA welcomed members to educational sessions to learn, listen and report back on the conversations. The March 24 Virtual Town Hall will be an opportunity for those members to share the cultural and consumer trends that will continue to shape produce and floral businesses moving forward.
Participants of the SXSW Virtual Town Hall include Jan DeLyser, vice-president of marketing, California Avocado Commission; Craig Slate, president and CEO, SunFed; Adam Cooper, senior vice-president of marketing, The Wonderful Company; Christina Ward, senior director of global marketing, Sunkist Growers; Elena Ozeritskaya, founder and managing director, Fresh Insight; Erin Esensee, BLOOMS Business Unit director, H-E-B; Marc Oshima, co-founder & CMO, AeroFarms; and Lauren M. Scott, chief strategy & membership officer, Produce Marketing Association who will serve as moderator.
Registration is open.