Jul 16, 2018
Over 1,500 attend third annual Organic Produce Summit
Gary Pullano

Opportunities and challenges associated with e-commerce highlighted conversation at the third annual Organic Produce Summit (OPS) held in Monterey, California, July 11-12. The third annual OPS continued its impressive growth, with over 1,500 people in attendance this year, including nearly 300 retail buyers, as well as a sold-out exhibition featuring 130 organic fresh produce growers, shippers, and processors networking with retailers, wholesalers, and buyers from across North America.

The two-day OPS also offered popular retailer/buyer tours at five of the nation’s leading organic fresh produce producers, followed by a series of educational sessions looking at key areas affecting the industry including sales analysis and consumer trends, media and a new landscape of information, supply chains, innovation and the rise of online grocery shopping.

“If you didn’t see the freight train coming, I’ve got news for you, it’s here,” said Tony Stallone, vice president of merchandising for Peapod, the largest online grocery delivery store in the United States. The online grocery shopping and subscription meal delivery service trend has been building momentum for some time, but it clearly has been accelerated by Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, a deal announced just over a year ago.

Dan Bourgault, head of brand partnerships for same-day grocery delivery service Instacart – a company with an already established relationship with Whole Foods, says despite initial trepidation over the deal, Amazon’s aggressiveness has actually been good for their business. “You always worry about the possibility of losing a Whole Foods, but in reality, it has pushed many other retailers to get into the game. And 95 percent of our orders include fresh produce,” Bourgault said.  Coupled with millennial shoppers who, as a group, are big buyers of organic items, and the experts at OPS see a big upside to the online trend.

Keynote speakers Geoff White, president of Albertsons OWN brands – including the bestselling O Organic brand – and Dan Buettner, noted journalist and discoverer of Blue Zones, entertained and inspired with provocative presentations.  They were followed by a Retailer Roundtable, featuring panelists: Roger Harkrider, director of produce for Meijer; Ron McCormick, senior director of global produce sourcing at Walmart Stores, Inc.; Randy Riley, director of produce merchandising for Kroger – moderated by Tonya Antle, co-founder of the Organic Produce Network.

“This was an incredible show—OPS rocked! I have gone to a lot of summits and this one was one of the best I have ever attended. The show had great energy, was very intimate and lots of fun.  I will be back every year to enjoy my old friends and new business partners. Go organic Go!”, said Geoff White, President of Albertson’s Own Brands. 

Echoing White’s thoughts on the show was Patrick Wills, produce director, of Lucky Stores.  “I love this show – it’s my third year. I enjoy seeing the innovations, what’s new and what’s coming up!  I went to all the educational sessions this morning and the supply chain one was really valuable,” he said.

A & A Organic Farms, Watsonville, California was the winner of the Organic Innovations Showcase for their use of new recyclable packaging made with sustainable materials for their product line of organic fresh produce items.

“We are thrilled with the response to the third year of OPS,” said Susan Canales, OPS president. “We worked hard to achieve the right balance of education, information, and networking. Promoting organics and connecting people —- that’s the goal, and we think we more than achieved it.”

Photo above: Keynote speaker Geoff White, president of Albertsons OWN brands – including the O Organic brand.


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