The International Fresh-cut Produce Association (IFPA) recently sent a letter to its members describing discussions our organizations have had on the potential value to our members and the industry of producing a joint convention. We believe it is therefore important to share the views of United’s Board of Directors on this topic.

United’s Board voted at its May 2000 meeting to engage the IFPA in a dialogue about building a joint convention that would be a win-win opportunity for both associations. Our Board and staff have had several meetings with IFPA representatives since that time in the belief that industry trends point the way to greater consolidation and the opportunity for growth and increased efficiency for both our attendees and exhibitors in a broad-based technology driven trade show such as the United event.

United’s convention and trade show is focused on serving all segments of the produce industry with the tools, technology, equipment, goods and services we need to be successful. This strategic vision and format was established in 1995 to better serve the industry with an event focused on productivity and profitability, rather than produce marketing. Since this strategic vision was adopted, United’s convention has grown every year. Our Phoenix convention in February 2000 attracted 25% more attendees than the previous year, and the largest trade show of exhibitors in United’s 96-year history. Increasingly, companies selling fresh-cut processing equipment are exhibiting at United, and thousands of our attendees are the decision-makers on purchasing value-added equipment and supplies.

We believe this trend is likely to continue. Exhibitors that now promote fresh-cut equipment and services at IFPA also serve many other segments of the produce chain who attend United, including growers, packers, wholesalers, retailers, and foodservice distributors, many of whom have their own valued-added operations. And, many United attendees have active business operations in multiple business segments, including commodity operations, fresh-cut processing, distribution and handling, retail and foodservice, and much more.

Like many companies in the produce and retail business today, we believe in the power of partnerships. Our partnership forged in 1999 to incorporate the GrowTech Americas Exposition and Conference into the United convention has resulted in greater business success for our exhibitors, stronger education for our attendees, and healthy financial results for both organizations. United’s Board brought that same opportunity to IFPA, in the belief that we might cooperate in a joint convention rather than compete for many of the same exhibitors and attendees, at conventions only a few weeks apart.

We believe a strategic partnership with IFPA would have added significant value for our exhibitors and attendees focused on the fresh-cut value-added business. We respect IFPA’s decision to continue to offer its more narrowly focused convention for the reasons it cites. However, in today’s business climate, when value to attendees and exhibitors alike must be our paramount goal, United will continue to build the industry’s premier event for education, networking, and exhibits focused on productivity, technology and profitability of all segments of the produce supply chain. We will continue to welcome discussions with any potential partners that might help add value to our exhibitors and attendees.

We remain committed to making the United Convention the most cost-effective, industry-driven, and profitable event for produce companies, their suppliers and their customers. Today, our industry consists of a strongly interrelated produce chain from farm level through value-added operations through retail delivery to the consumer. United’s convention delivers value to every segment in the supply chain, and we offer great new business opportunities for exhibitors to reach the broadest possible audience for the equipment, tools, and technologies to deliver the highest quality, most convenient, and greatest value produce – in whatever form – to consumers.

As one part of that event, we will also promote the benefits of participation to all of those companies that supply fresh-cut equipment and services to meet with our thousands of attendees who are focusing on current and potential value-added business operations. For individual processors and multi-segment companies with fresh-cut operations who may not have attended a recent United convention, we invite you to join in the excitement and see the business value of this growing one-stop shopping and educational experience.