More Years To Come/More Ways To Serve

Fifteen years ago, Ken Whitacre and I visited San Francisco. PMA was having its convention there and we were launching into the world something that had never existed before: PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine.

Now we’re back in California for another PMA convention. And the issue you hold in your hands – with more than ten times the business of that long-ago first issue – stands as testimony to both the enthusiasm with which this industry has embraced the PRODUCE BUSINESS concept and the power of people to write their own destiny.

That is really what PRODUCE BUSINESS is all about – the notion that we all have it within ourselves to change and to create. It is this potential that makes it worth the trouble to study and learn, to read and to think, to strive and to implement. And PRODUCE BUSINESS now is long established as a special kind of industry tool, one that goes beyond information to provide genuine insight into our business and the forces that affect it.

Part of the strength of PRODUCE BUSINESS has always been that the team that built it has had to confront all the obstacles and opportunities that business and life have to offer. If one learns anything with time, it is the truthfulness of a story Abraham Lincoln once told. He said that a great king had summoned his wise men and asked them to produce a banner that he could hang in the palace, which would always be true at any time and in any situation. The wise men struggled but eventually produced a banner saying: “This too shall pass away.”

Pick your subject and we have seen the truth of this in the produce industry: there was a moment when oil companies were going to own all produce production – Superior, Tenneco, Shell and many more. And this future was obvious right up until the moment they lost interest and went away. Another time it was clear that foreign conglomerates were destined to control the trade: Albert Fisher, Poly Peck and more…and this future was also obvious right up till the moment they disappeared.

Most recently, of course, it seemed certain that PMA wouldn’t have room for any more produce companies since the action in the trade would be in the ever-increasing number of business-to-business e-commerce companies. Then the stock market fell, the venture capitalists got nervous, now the companies in that sector are merging, acquiring or just plain disappearing.

Of course, Lincoln’s genius went far beyond reminding us of the temporal nature of things. For after telling the story of how “This too shall pass away”, he followed it by saying, “Yet let us hope that this is not quite true.” He went on to think that it might be possible for democracy in America to endure.

And so, in our lives and our businesses, each of us conducts ourselves following the admonition of Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gently into that good night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

In business, we do this by changing and evolving. Look at the fresh-cut industry, a leading and substantial segment of the trade founded to seize the opportunity that produce could be more than an ingredient.

Here at PRODUCE BUSINESS, we’ve continuously evolved since our launch 15 years ago. You can see it in the magazine itself as it expanded to regularly cover subjects like organic produce. We’ve also reached out through the development of sister publications: One for food exporting, one for deli and retail foodservice, still another for the specialty food trade.

Just recently, at the SIAL Trade Fair in Paris, France – the largest food event in the world this year – we unveiled a new initiative. In a joint venture with Diversified Business Communications (you may know these folks as the sponsors of the world-renowned Boston Seafood Show or as publishers of SEAFOOD BUSINESS), we’re launching a brand new event: the International Prepared Foods Conference and Exposition. The first edition of the show will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California, October 7-9, 2001.

This conference will not be a produce show, but a lot of produce is used in prepared foods. Prepared foods are a broad class of product, from frozen French fries to coleslaw, from fancy desserts using every fruit imaginable, to soups using every vegetable you can name. Of course, there will be meat, fish and poultry and all the foods people of the world eat. There will also be organic, kosher and private label representation as well.

Unlike shows like FMI or NRA, which are dedicated to a specific class of trade (supermarkets or restaurants, respectively), the International Prepared Foods Conference and Exposition is dedicated to a class of products and will attract attendees from all classes of trade and from around the world. Different segments of the industry use different names – in foodservice, the product might be called Chef Ready or Guest Ready; in retail, it’s Grab ‘n Go or HMR. Whatever it is called, it’s all prepared foods.

Between food safety concerns, labor shortages leading restaurants to want to buy more prepared items, the decline in consumer cooking skills and the search for convenience, leading retailers wanting to offer prepared items, we see a prepared-food business that is already booming and one with limitless potential. If your company buys or sells products beyond bulk produce, please check out our website: or call me directly at 561-447-0810 for more information.

Of course, if we yearn for immortality in our business by building something that will last forever, 15 years in business also teaches that the great satisfaction of life is the private ones. I was married just over a year ago, and I wish I could thank personally all the many people in this great industry who thought to send anniversary greetings to Debbie and I when we celebrated our first anniversary this past September 5th.

My congratulations are now in order. Ken Whitacre, who so many of you know from that very first trip to San Francisco 15 years ago, will be getting married November 11, 2000, in Boca Raton, Florida. He is marrying a delightful young woman by the name of Kerry Jenkins. Do stop by PMA Booth #1915 and extend your best wishes to Ken and Kerry.

After all, we may have 15 years under our belt, but there are many more years to come; many more ways to serve this industry, many more experiences to enrich our understanding and perspective, many more years to make friends and build relationships. A profound thank you for taking time out of your life each month and investing it in the pages of PRODUCE BUSINESS. It has made all we have done possible. All of us here pledge to never forget that simple fact.