With a tally of attendees expected to break all previous records, this year's PMA Fresh Summit was a success in terms of attendance. But, as PMA's President and CEO, Bryan Silbermann, pointed out, the success of this year's event can't be measured by numbers alone.
With over 21,000 attendees packing the Anaheim Convention Center from October 26th through the 28th, this year's event was great, noted Silbermann. But those numbers don't tell the whole story.
“Numbers-wise, this year has been great,” he said. “But more than the numbers, it's what those numbers represent.” The type of people who filled the convention center also speaks to how vital Fresh Summit has become to the produce industry.
“This event is not just a lot of exporting countries coming to see about selling to the United States market,” he said. “We now draw large retail chains from Brazil, Colombia, India and China. So we're really providing value to the exhibitors.” This year's Fresh Summit featured participants from over 50 countries with Brazil and India having significantly more representation, and Silbermann thinks that's due to a continual improvement of the event.
“We've been doing this for 30 years, and we're constantly improving,” he said. “We have to be continually innovative.” Part of that innovation this year involved switching the show from three days to two, with one day dedicated solely to educational programs. That compartmentalization allowed participants to focus on education on Friday so they could devote the rest of the weekend to the exhibitions. The move drew postive responses from attendees, according to Silbermann, and they'll continue to tweak future shows because that's the only way that Fresh Summit can remain as valuable as it currently is.
“It's about being transformative,” said Silbermann. “You need speakers, you need educational sessions, you need to challenge your industry, because, in today's world, if you're just a show, you don't have room to grow.”