Touring Rutgers students visit London Produce Show
By MICHAEL C. LAMANTIA
Special to The New Jersey Farmer
LONDON (July 1, 2015) — The second annual London Produce Show and Conference took place on June 3-5 at the Grosvenor House.
The show was hosted by the founder of Produce Business Magazine and industry expert Jim Prevor.
It included a panel conducted by fresh produce industry leaders from around the world, a trade show exhibition, a student program, various seminars taught by top researchers of the industry, and local industry tours.
Prevor and his company, Phoenix Media Network, Inc., sponsored the trip for four Rutgers students who represented the university in the student program.
Buyers, exhibitors, suppliers, educators, and students were brought together at one place and time for an opportunity to coalesce and mingle regarding their many interests in agribusiness.
Representatives from all around the globe were present, including ones from India, China, Guatemala, Jamaica, Honduras, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Chile, the United Kingdom, and of course, the United States.
Rutgers University was represented by Dr. Mary Nikola, who is the program director for Leadership Skills Minor at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
Nikola’s presentation addressed the essential leadership behaviors necessary to address the challenge of leadership.
South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Assistant Director of Marketing Sonny Dickinson, was at the trade show calling upon students for research that would help expand exports of South Carolina’s diverse amount of agricultural products.
Dickinson ultimately wants to bring South Carolina products to international markets.
Amy Lance, a buyer for Waitrose, which one of the largest retailers in the United Kingdom, served as one of the student mentors during the Conference.
She explained that buying was all about four key concepts: Sourcing, retailing, contingency planning, and sustaining strong relationships.
Lance also talked about marketing, specifically by creating a “unique sell proposal” that attracts consumers to fresh products that are healthy and good for them.
Bruce Peterson — a former senior vice president of perishables at Walmart and former CEO of Naturipe Farms — was another one of the student mentors who gave valuable insight.
Peterson acclaimed the produce industry as a fascinating industry that is always changing.
He predicted that we will see a “blending of online merchandise and delivering to store or other locations” in the future of grocery shopping.
Also, Peterson said that packaging is important because it gives the ability for more product offerings. The future of fresh produce offering will see more packaging, according to Peterson.
Therefore, with the proper packaging of fresh produce that is assumed to be in demand, why should retail buyers in the United Kingdom not look to places like New Jersey, or South Carolina, for sourcing?
Or even contingency planning? Speaking of New Jersey, agriculture is the state’s third largest industry (New Jersey Department of Agriculture), and interestingly enough, the United Kingdom is the state’s third largest trading partner (The Daily Targum).
Talks of expanding trade between New Jersey and the United Kingdom have been circulating since Gov. Chris Christie and Rutgers University President Robert Barchi visited the U.K. in early February for the very purpose of expanding trade between the two governing bodies.
The 2015 London Produce Show and Conference made it clear that opportunity is ripe with potential for suppliers and buyers in the fresh produce industry, both locally and internationally. New Jersey producers should try to take advantage.
(Editor’s note: Michael C. Lamantia is a student at Rutgers University.)