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Viva Fresh buyer attendance up again

“We are thrilled with how Viva Fresh is shaping up,” Bret Erickson said of the 2019 Viva Fresh Expo. Attendance numbers for retail and foodservice buyers at the annual meeting, held April 25-27 this year, will be up, Erickson noted. “It’ll be another record breaking year on the buying side. We’re on track to have an excellent show,” he said.

Erickson is a steering committee member for Viva Fresh this year. He was the leader of the Texas International Produce Association as Viva Fresh was formulated for launch in 2015. Erickson in more-recent years has gone to the industry’s supply side, working now as senior vice president of business affairs for J&D Produce Inc., which is owned by Jimmy Bassetti. Bassetti was the TIPA member who first visualized the need for an event like Viva Fresh.JDAt the 2018 Viva Fresh Expo, Jimmy Bassetti and Bret Erickson of J&D Produce Inc., enjoyed the experience together.

On the exhibition side of the show, Erickson said leaders of Viva Fresh “have worked hard to highlight the Tex-Mex corridor. That has really strong representation.”

When Viva Fresh was created exhibitors included “either growers in Texas or growers that shipped through Texas ports of entry.”

The Viva Fresh steering committee “has been very active in ensuring the expo show floor truly represents the Texas-Mexico produce corridor. Our steering committee has a stringent review process for exhibitor applications, where we take into consideration a number of factors, first and foremost that the company truly represents our region.”

“This is truly a regional show. We want to have a consistency in our size, which is to allow some intimacy. This is good for buyer-supplier relationships. This is a very high-quality event. We sell out pretty quickly.”

Erickson continued, “We make a concerted effort to keep the same size” in terms of numbers of exhibitors.

Erickson said he hadn’t seen a tally on 2019 produce buyer attendance since mid-March, when there were 320 coming. “But I see that applications” from buyers to attend Viva Fresh “continue to flow in, and we still have a month to the show! We’re tracking ahead of last year” — and reaching all-time records — “by every measure.”

Erickson said attendance this year will be higher than last, but of course, those total numbers are unknown. “Last year was strong. But we are making a concerted effort to keep the show the same size.”

“We are thrilled that we have evolved into such a well-rounded show,” he added.

Beyond connecting Texan and Mexican suppliers with buyers, the secondary purpose of Viva Fresh has always been to elevate the consumption of fresh produce, Erickson said.

“Fresh fruit and vegetable consumption makes peoples’ lives better. We’ve stayed true to that.”