United Fresh Convention: Not Just Harvesting Machines

Living lettuce

At first glance, United Fresh, a convention held at the San Diego Convention Center May 14-16, had me thinking the entire convention was only about efficiency in harvesting, shelf-stable packaging and tracking produce to the stores. But it turned out to be much more than that, to my relief.

After wandering through the heavy machinery on display, I spied several exhibits featuring produce. There was a heavy emphasis on getting kids to replace their junk food with fresh food like tomatoes, touted to be as sweet as candy. The reigning sentence I eavesdropped throughout the convention was, “I want to get our produce into the mouths of kids.”  And that was true when the biggest announcement at the convention was the donation of 350 salad bars to California schools, which is part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.

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One of the largest exhibits on the floor was Sunkist, offering a bevy of free samples including soft drinks, popsicles and fresh citrus in smart packages. Even Panera Bread was trying to get into the mix with a display of their new line of salad dressings that will be available at grocery stores. A nice effort on their part but it seemed to be a strange addition in my opinion.

But I was most impressed with locally owned Fresh Origins and their line of sugar crystals infused with either flowers or herbs. With only two ingredients listed, I can imagine this being incorporated into unique baking projects or lining margarita glasses. For the small fry, pie-baking kits by Pumpkin Patch Pals will available in the fall that includes two sugar pumpkins ready for baking— a fresh alternative to the canned stuff.

It was an interesting convention (a far, FAR cry from comic conventions) and I’m looking forward to seeing some of their products on store shelves soon.

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