Featured image: Eagle Eye Produce exhibits at Viva Fresh 2023, photo courtesy of Joe Ange with Eagle Eye Produce
Records were made to be broken, as shown by the 2023 Viva Fresh Conference and Expo held March 30-April 1 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine.
Hosted by the Texas International Produce Association, the expo was created in 2014 to spotlight the “Gateway to the Americas” and showcases produce grown in the Southwestern U.S and Mexico.
This year, with its now-traditional Viva Fresh Open Golf Tournament and activities that included Grapevine Winery Tours, numerous receptions and the lively expo, the event increased its attendance numbers on every level.
“Attendance was record-breaking in all categories,” said TIPA CEO/President Dante Galeazzi on April 3. “We had more than 2,500 attendees, 200 exhibitors and over 400 retail-foodservice buyers this weekend.”
Dante noted that TIPA, like other organizations, has seen effects from the pandemic. Forced to cancel the 2020 show, TIPA continues to re-build its membership.
“Membership is reaching pre-COVID levels, although not there yet, and we’re seeing our medium to small sized shippers and importers return to the association as they continue to make up ground that was lost during the pandemic,” Dante said.
He added, “Our hope is that over the next few years, we’ll see not only those members return but that we’ll continue to grow the membership as companies grow and take root in Texas – much like the CEA (controlled environment agriculture) companies have popped up more in the state.”
And, he said, “With their voices added to the association, TIPA can garner more attention to the many challenges and opportunities in our region.”
In addition to displaying the many products grown in Texas, Viva Fresh also focuses on healthy eating and adopting a healthy lifestyle. The 2023 show featured virtual field tours, a visit with a supermarket dietitian, merchandising trends and discussions on trade between Mexico and the United States.
Kristen Davis with Tex Mex Sales, LLC in Weslaco, TX, told us that the Viva Fresh was a successful event for the Texas International Produce Association group she chairs, Young Texas International Produce Association, or Y-TIPA.
In its second year as an organization, the young professionals group put its focus on technology at the 2023 event and attended a special session with speaker Tom Thompson, owner of Revol Greens. Thompson shared with the group the changes in technology occurring within the produce industry.
Kristen told us, “TIPA has done a great job of keeping the focus on Texas and Mexico produce growers and produce industry professionals, and the event just keeps growing each year.” She continued, “The event is a good mix of generations too. We have new people entering the field, and we have the opportunity to network with industry members that have years of experience. They are people we have known for years.”
Kristen added this year’s venue provided a positive atmosphere for networking and meetings. “Having all of the events and activities at the resort was wonderful,” she said. “Everything was within a short walking distance, making it easy to access all that was happening at Viva Fresh. All in all, it was a fantastic experience.”
Joe Ange, Director of Business Development for Eagle Eye Produce, said the show is a good opportunity for networking and reconnecting.
“We had several members from our team representing Eagle Eye in Dallas at the VIVA Fresh Expo last week. The show was packed with attendees and we had lots of face time with our customers and partners. We always enjoy VIVA Fresh and the opportunity to talk about our programs and learn from so many great folks in the industry. When it comes to onions, one of the things we focused on was our year-round supply of USA Grown onions and the ability to service customers from multiple growing regions as the seasons shift throughout the year,” Joe said.
Many thanks to Tiffany Cruickshank with Onions 52 for sharing photos of their Viva Fresh expo experience. Click image to enlarge and scroll.
Next year Viva Fresh will be held April 11-13 in Houston at the Marriott Marquis.