One thing will be readily and abundantly clear to anyone attending the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit show Oct. 18-20 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL: This is not the same ol’ PMA.

The organization has spent the last couple of years taking a hard look at itself and – significantly – looking outside to other industries for ideas and new approaches.

Watch SPW’s Television Coverage Of Fresh Summit On RFD-TV

That is most evident in this year’s stunning lineup of guests and speakers.


PMA’s own Cathy Burns kicks things off Oct. 18 at 8:45 a.m. with Forum for the Future – State of the Industry. Burns, PMA’s CEO, promises a power-packed session backed by the collective intelligence of the industry that will continue the legacy of the Forum’s business-changing predictions.

At 11:30 a.m., Greg Williams, editor of the influential techie media company Wired, will moderate a session called Today’s Disruptions, Tomorrow’s Opportunities with Dr. Andrew Pelling of The Pelling Lab and Dr. Jaydev Desai, associate director, Medical Robotics & Human Augmentation, Georgia Tech. These “disruptive innovators” will address new trends and opportunities, challenging attendees to rethink their business to capitalize on the change and come out stronger as a result.

Greg Williams

At 2:15, Broadway’s Leslie Odom Jr., best known for his Tony Award-winning role in the smash hit “Hamilton,” will be part of a session about originality, fast-changing culture and diversifying society influence and all the resulting benefits.  Leslie Odom, Jr. Motivational speaker, author and Hollywood career coach Stuart K. Robinson will also take part, in a discussion moderated by MorningNewsBeat’s Kevin Coupe about business lessons that can be learned from theater, popular culture and the enduring power of a creative spirit, whether on the stage or in produce and floral departments.

Leslie Odom, Jr.

The heaviest hitter comes last – NFL legend Peyton Manning will be the guest of honor at the Oct. 19 8:15 a.m. breakfast session Lessons in Leadership Both On and Off the Field. The two-time Super Bowl champion and five-time NFL MVP understands how to be a successful leader, develop strategy and overcome adversity. He shares real-world leadership tips on how to ensure success by adapting to rapidly changing circumstances. Peyton uses his unique perspective as a legendary professional athlete and philanthropist to share insights on creating a high performing team culture and leading with passion. Bruce Taylor, founder and CEO, Taylor Farms, will moderate.

Peyton Manning

Of course there will be legions of other educational and networking opportunities (click HERE for a full schedule) and the main event will still be the two-day expo Friday and Saturday, with hundreds of exhibitors from around the world expected to welcome as many as 25,000 attendees.

“The whole supply chain comes together at Fresh Summit,” PMA Vice President of Demand Creation and Consumer Affairs Kathy Means told SPW. “You’re conspicuous by your absence.”

We caught up with Means for a pre-PMA primer that will have you ready to go. See you in Orlando!

SOUTHEAST PRODUCE WEEKLY – This is not the same old PMA Fresh Summit we know and love…


MEANS — It all kind of feels different. We’ve increased the ways people can connect, we’ve really upped the education in terms of powerful speakers that can deliver take-home value. In between the really big speakers is a new way for the industry to connect better and drive their own learning. It’s all part of this new strategic vision we have: We want to play on a bigger stage, bring the global produce and world community together.

SPW – It’s a lot to take in.

MEANS — You always want to change and do better – this year it’s going to be significantly different – it’s the vision that was announced last year about growing a healthier world, and that demands that we be on a bigger stage and have bigger conversations, bigger interactions. That led to revamping the main speakers and the Focus On the Future.

Not Just Saying We’ll Grow A Better World

It’s looking outside of our industry, who’s out there, what can we learn from other thinkers, other industries, not just having headliners to have headliners, but looking at our industry through the lens of other things, whether it’s sports or business decisions. Like with Peyton Manning talking about leadership, Tony- and Grammy-award winning Leslie Odom, Jr. telling about what we can learn from theater, popular culture, diversity, storytelling, the power of creativity.

We want people go home with new ways of thinking about things, inspired to do more, better, all of that. We can’t rest on our laurels. We’re eager to get there and do this, express this bigger vision in the actual work we do – it’s not just saying we’re going to grow a better world, it’s putting our work behind that vision. We’re making really big changes, not incremental changes.

SPW – But still plenty of time for networking and getting business done.

MEANS — We’ve even changed how we’re doing networking. The receptions, we’ve patched them together in a global suite there for the opening reception so everybody can network with everybody. The receptions, the meals, the times in between, there are so many networking opportunities.

One of the things that has not changed and I can’t imagine it ever will is that sameness of buyers and sellers coming together – the people are going to be the same, they’re coming to do business, they’re going to do business, we’re just going to experience this in a different way. But it’s still that core feeling of a family reunion, that’s what stays the same.

Looking At The World Outside The Produce Context

SPW – I think we’ve all seen over the last few years that sharing information among ourselves benefits everyone, especially when it comes to how we tell our stories.

MEANS – We want to get people thinking differently, give them a place to interact, see what new relationships and ideas are sparked. We’re an industry that does a fabulous job of marketing, but if we look at ourselves through a different lens, how will that inspire us all to see things differently and do things differently? It’s not just tell telling your story in ways that are transparent, interactive, engaging with customers whether that’s B-to-B or B-to-C, it’s how do you make it compelling? It’s not just about the context of our industry, but in context to how consumers see the world. You make yourself more relevant, you’re more a part of their lives as opposed to just being a side dish or something.

This is an industry that makes personal connections with each other so it’s not that difficult to extend it to B-to-C. Consumers today are hungry for that, for transparency to know more about their food, certainly health but there’s so much more about how produce and floral fit into our lives and our experiences. When we talk about those things, it does make for a much bigger conversation and a more in depth conversation.

There’s a marketing continuum in the industry now – there are those who don’t get it at all and there are those who are stellar, but most are in between. PMA helps move that line, that continuum, whether it’s food safety or marketing or our ability to attract the best people. All of those things are important and we want to make sure we’re looking at it through that bigger lens, not just at Fresh Summit but with the new vision and the new strategic plan to make sure our members are in the best position for success. It is our time, we need to seek that moment. There’s never been a more exciting time than now for fresh produce.

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