ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association here has planned some changes to its annual convention, to be held Feb. 24 to 26 in New Orleans, that the association says will make the event easier and more attractive to attend.
The three-day event, called FreshWorld 96, will take place on Saturday through Monday, rather than Sunday through Tuesday, a change intended to address concerns that the convention takes attendees away from their businesses for too long. It will also allow travelers to take advantage of cheaper airfares, since they are likely to stay over a Saturday night, said United representatives.
"I think the schedule change is the most exciting new addition to FreshWorld 96," said Caren Schumacher, vice president of communications and marketing for United.
Schumacher said interest among exhibitors is strong; she anticipates over 250 companies will take booths on the show floor.
To the agenda, the association has added a six industry "forums" during which attendees can gather and discuss specific industry-related issues. Separate forums will address topics such as distribution, technology and value-added products.
After holding FreshWorld in California for several years, United's choice of the New Orleans location should encourage participation from more East Coast-based companies, said Schumacher. It will also open up a region of the country that many members may not be familiar with.
Some things won't have changed about the convention, however. United is bringing back what it calls "mobile classroom tours," a popular convention feature introduced last year.
At FreshWorld 96, attendees will have their choice of touring stores operated by retailers A&P and Schwegmann's; Dole Fresh Fruit Co.'s banana facility on the Port of Gulfport; growing fields in Plaquemines Parish; back-of-the-house operations at the New Orleans Hilton and the Morial Convention Center; and several brokers, processors and distributors.
"We're taking attendees out of the confines of the convention center to experience the produce selling, shipping, growing and processing operations in the Southeast -- a region rich in agriculture," said Al Garner, chairman of the FreshWorld 96 advisory committee.