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Indianapolis Fruit showcase becomes an annual event

by Tad Thompson | April 05, 2007
What started in early 2006 as an educational session on organics has become a broader privately operated trade show for Indianapolis Fruit Co. in Indianapolis.

Shane Towne, marketing and new business development coordinator for Indianapolis Fruit, said that the organic show of a year ago was a big success for the wholesale company to educate its retail customers, and in turn their consumers, about organic produce.

Participant feedback was very good, and customers suggested a broader show in a second effort. That is what Indianapolis Fruit presented in February at the University Place Hotel & Conference Center in Indianapolis.

The title of the 2007 show was "Winning at Retail II: Preparing for the future; creating a retail experience, developing a destination department." Including vendor partners, about 400 people attended the conference, according to Mr. Towne.

Indianapolis Fruit featured organics in 2006 "because organics was a very big, key issue last year," he said. "There was a big lack of education on organics. Retailers came to us and said, 'I need to bring this in,' or 'How do we make this profitable?' So last year we did an almost exclusively organic seminar. That product showcase was extremely successful. It was so successful and we had so much positive feedback from our customers, vendors, government agencies and publications that were involved, we decided that it needs to be an annual event. Organics was a great topic, but the feedback was that to service our customers properly, we truly needed a full-service seminar. That's where we got the title."

After a vendor showcase and continental breakfast, attendees heard retail industry expert Harold Lloyd give the presentation, "Here comes the future. Will I survive?"

After that, grower-shippers from several leading produce categories spoke on bridging the communications gap between grower-shippers and retailers. On the grower-shipper panel were Mike Stevens of Earthbound Farm in San Juan Batista, CA; Joe Pirrone of Mike Pirrone Produce Inc. in Capac, MI; John France of Sierra Heights Marketing Inc. in Porterville, CA; and Steve Reisenauer of Sage Fruit Co. LLC in Yakima, WA. The grower-shipper panel was moderated by retail expert Joe Hynes.

Mr. Hynes was also a speaker on the topic, "Winning at Retail: Outlooks & Opportunities."

Participants on the retail panel were Tom Phelps of Niemann Foods Inc. in Quincy, IL; Vince Mastromauro of Sunset Foods in Highland Park, IL; and Leticia Saldivar of AJ's Fine Foods in Phoenix.

The 2007 show "absolutely met our goals. I think we accomplished what we set out to do," Mr. Towne said. "Being in the wholesale business, we put a value on educating the consumer and our customers. We literally spare no expense on doing that. We feel that is a big part of customer service. We want our customers to feel there is a take-home benefit in attending the show."

The third annual showcase presented by Indianapolis Fruit has already been scheduled for Feb. 25-26, 2008.