Supermarket Perimeter - May 2020 - 58

Produce

United Fresh
Association takes its 2020 show virtual
BY ANDY NELSON

THE CORONAVIRUS may have ended the United Fresh Produce
Association's hopes of holding its annual convention this spring.
But the Washington, D.C.-based group didn't give up on bringing its
members together in some way that could provide value and help the
industry find a path forward.
The result is United Fresh LIVE!, a virtual platform that will
debut the week of June 15, featuring live keynote presentations,
roundtable discussion groups, networking interaction among different
communities and an expo floor where exhibitors and attendees can
share information, view videos and other content, chat live and make
the same connections one would at an in-person event.
"It's an innovative solution to an unprecedented challenge," said
Michael Muzyk, president of New York-based Baldor Specialty Foods
and chairman of the United Fresh board of directors. "Businesses across
the supply chain are clamoring for information and connections. As
we've learned to adopt online platforms to conduct our daily business,
offering this free virtual event broadens our opportunity to deliver real
value to thousands of industry members at a time when they need
it most."
United Fresh LIVE! is free for all participants and is expected to draw
thousands from all sectors of the fresh produce industry, said Tom
Stenzel, United Fresh's CEO and president.
"During these past few weeks, we've all learned something about
connections," Stenzel said. "While we can't wait to join with industry
friends again in person, we've also realized that we're connecting
today in new ways. We're all online, with video streaming, face-to-face
chats and group interactions that, just a month ago, we didn't know
how to do."
For more details on United Fresh LIVE! and the coronavirus's impact
on the fresh produce industry, Supermarket Perimeter sat down
(virtually, of course) with Mary Coppola, the association's vice president
of marketing and communications.
Supermarket Perimeter: How has the fresh produce industry
handled the coronavirus outbreak, and how would you characterize the
state of the industry now?
Mary Coppola: In the new reality of a coronavirus impacted
business environment, the innovation of the fresh produce industry
has amplified. As a perishable industry, we're familiar with how
external factors can impact our business operations, and generally,
we're prepared to handle what Mother Nature throws at us. This global
pandemic has tested our resolve.
After four weeks of business as un-usual the industry's resilience
58 - MAY 2020

SP_May20.indb 58

continues to drive new and creative solutions for delivering produce
products that were already in the fields and supply chain.
We're tired and threadbare, especially foodservice distributors who
are feeling the burden of the loss of business most. However, we're
resilient and full of pride despite the disruption because we continue,
daily, to feed America - a badge of honor that we can stay focused on
to weather the storm of this crisis.
SP: What is United Fresh's role during this difficult time, and how will
that role evolve in the coming months?
MC: Throughout the crisis, United Fresh has had two focused
missions: to do everything we can to keep the supply chain moving,
and to do everything we can to secure financial relief for the industry.
We've done this through guiding the industry into new distribution
channels and developing collaborations with industry partners like the
NGA and FMI to deliver through retail channels at a time when they
needed more product to meet consumer demand. We built programs
thorough the Untied Fresh Start Foundation to supply grants to growers
and distributors to support donations of product throughout their
communities. We've built share groups and other resources to be allow
collaboration between those who have resources and those who need
resources.
We've helped secure financial relief through legislation, leading
collaboration across the industry and on Capitol Hill to gain immediate
attention of our losses. Once the CARES Act passed with funds allocated
to support losses in agriculture, due to our efforts, we transitioned our
work to focus on urging USDA to put programs in place immediately
to get aid to our growers and supply chain in an expeditious manner.
[reference "What Is United Fresh Doing..." resource page. We also
proposed the Produce Market Stabilization Program to USDA as a
solution for getting financial aid to our industry.
SP: What was the decision making behind launching United Fresh
Live, and what about it most excites you?
MC: Transitioning our annual convention - a tradition held at United
Fresh for more than a century - was a natural step in this current
pandemic environment. Despite the difficulty of the decision, it's in
the best interest of our industry to continue to offer a platform where
new and ongoing business relationships ensure that the supply chain
continues to move in innovative and creative ways.
United Fresh LIVE! is exciting for so many reasons. A virtual platform
means the hurdles of travel, time and expense are all removed, offering
the benefits of networking, learning and discovery from the comfort of
an office, home office or mobile device. Offering free registration means

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