The English poet, lawyer, priest and satirist John Donne wrote that No Man is an Island and Hillary Clinton, erstwhile First Lady, US Senator, Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate, wrote that It Takes a Village, and both, were they speaking about the establishment of The London Produce Show and Conference, would have been speaking the truth.
For a great industry institution cannot be willed into existence. The technicalities of ownership fall by the wayside. In the end, the institution must be owned by the trade itself, the physical manifestation of the community ideal.
Yet finding and realizing such ideals is no easy task, When our company was founded in 1985 with the launch of PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine at the PMA convention in San Francisco, we adopted a motto unusual for a publication; we took as our mission not to report the news or just write valuable articles, we took it as our obligation to “Initiate Industry Improvement” and today, on the verge of the birth of this new event for the trade, we stand certain that we have served well that obligation we took upon ourselves so many years ago.
For the essence of the event is a notion that bringing the industry together is the path to industry improvement and so, piece by piece, day by day, we sculpted a trade show from eminences of six continents. We gathered speakers to inform and inspire and attendees to engage. We brought students to expose them to a broader world and media to make conscious of the contributions of this great industry. Chefs were presented with the fruit of the earth and challenged to create dishes both healthy and indulgent with the cornucopia this trade brings forth to present to the world.
What we have wrought is substantial and important. The London Produce Show and Conference shall be the largest assemblage of produce executives in the history of the British Isles. It shall signify both openness on the part of the British trade to the best ideas the world has to offer and an openness of the world to learn from all that is world-class and extraordinary about the trade in Britain.
None of this, however, would have been possible without the financial, intellectual and reputational support of many industry leaders.
Not every company, not every executive, is ready to take the risk of association with the possibility of failure that is inherent in the decision to associate with the future. Now, with our exhibit hall filled to the brim, the conference program impressive and the attendee roster rising by hundreds a day, it is easy to want to be associated with The London Produce Show, but the visionaries that stood with us as the start deserve special note.
Our four Platinum Sponsors each contributed uniquely to the establishment of this new industry institution:
New Covent Garden
Both the Covent Garden Market Authority and the wholesalers themselves signed on quickly to support the event by hosting the Opening Cocktail Reception on Wednesday night. This was a substantial financial commitment by the Covent Garden Market Authority, but it is more than a matter of money. When you come on Wednesday night and you see the traders welcoming you to their home town, you will realize that this is not just an event in London or in Britain; it is an event of London, of Britain.
It signified many things, first, that this would be a total industry event — that big chain retail may be important, but it is not the only important market. Second, it symbolized by virtue of Covent Garden’s ancient roots as the heart and soul of the UK’s produce trade that the community had come to embrace the event. Third, as the Opening Cocktail Reception at our sister event, The New York Produce Show and Conference, is sponsored by the Hunts Point Produce Market in the States, so it represented an embrace of the idea that in New York and London, there were unique parallels and sister shows, in sister cities with sister markets could be a route to higher learning and greater success.
We knew of Prophet from its growing success in America, and we knew Mick Hetherington, its sales director, and Carl Davies, who heads up its US operation — as we had met them at The New York Produce Show and Conference. But we did not know Mark Peachey, Prophet’s intellectually versatile CEO and then he invited us to dinner and we listened. Like an air traffic controller simultaneously tracking each aircraft in the sky, Mark talked us through the trends and the people, the companies and the threats.
He laid out a kaleidoscope of the future and pointed out how technology, the technology he and his team were creating, could guide the industry to a profitable and sustainable future. With a mind like this, it was not a surprise that Prophet elected to sponsor our “Thought Leader” breakfast on Thursday morning.
This too was a substantial financial commitment, but, once again, the value and importance of Prophet’s support went way beyond money. By the nature of its business, Prophet reaches into companies of all sorts — in the UK, in South Africa, in America. It is all confidential, of course, but they know who is doing well and who is struggling and the nature of the challenges facing the trade. So for Prophet to assess our plans and view them as playing a role in advancing the industry sent a message, a message reinforced by Mark Peachey’s personal reputation in the trade and Prophet’s history of supporting new initiatives that serve to move the industry forward.
Sun World is a unique company. It is both a substantial California shipper in its own right and the developer and owner of vast amounts of intellectual property, which it has judiciously licensed around the globe. It is one of our Platinum sponsors because it decided to use the event to revive the Sun World café, which was a feature of PMA exhibitions for many years. Yet this financial support, though substantial and appreciated, was not its key contribution. It looked at the London Produce Show and Conference and noted that not only was the UK an important market for many of its licensees, but that London itself was the reputational epicenter for the world’s fruit trade.
That, in a sense it was of London, not New York, that the song lines, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” ring true, at least for the fruit trade! So Sun World decided to use The London Produce Show and Conference as a central point of display. It would gather from the four corners of the globe more than 20 of its licensees and gather them in one place, at one time.
So on one day, on the 5th of June, 2014, any buyer in the world could walk through the exhibit hall of the London Produce Show and Conference, see the Sun World licensees from Australia, Peru, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Israel and elsewhere and put together a year-round supply of Sun World’s unique varieties such as Scarlotta Seedless and Sable Seedless grapes.
In taking this path Sun World helped us immensely. It both internationalized the show from the get-go and so established that the event would be a global one but also made clear that some very shrewd marketing people had assessed that London was a fine place to envision a gathering of buyers and media to embrace these proprietary varieties.
C. H. Robinson / Robinson Fresh
Most in Europe have never heard of the company, and if they have they think of it as an American company. Yet C. H. Robinson has over 1,000 employees in Europe and it has been a company undergoing a quite revolution. A transportation giant, the company was simply instrumental in taking Wal-Mart in the US from a few stores to the leading produce retailer in the country. Over the past several years, it has acquired a series of produce companies that brought it closer to the earth: Rosemont Farms, Food Source and Timco prominent among them.
It was fortuitous that just as we were planning the London event, C.H. Robinson was preparing to unveil a new produce identity, Robinson Fresh, a name that would tie together far flung operations and present to the world a new global identity rooted in company’s deep commitment to fresh.
And what company more perfectly fits in with what is happening in the UK market than Robinson Fresh? The thirst to “buy direct” is what led C.H. Robinson to buy producers such as Rosemont Farms. But the limitations of direct buying are also obvious. Handling procurement and logistics for product from halfway around the world is not easy. What happens to rejections? What about farmers that need financing? What if bad weather wipes out a supply district?
Well, Robinson Fresh combines direct procurement with a massive supply chain efficiency operation. It is heady stuff from a company with $13 billion in gross revenues, and where would this behemoth of a company decide to unveil its new branding? The London Produce Show and Conference.
We appreciate, of course, the willingness of Robinson Fresh to sponsor our Attendee Bags and Registration. It is a significant investment and we thank them for the support. But in signaling to the world that London and, specifically, The London Produce Show and Conference is the place a company with over 46,000 customers thinks it wise to use to showcase its new identity, Robinson Fresh and the C.H. Robinson organization send a message that money could never buy.
These four Platinum sponsors are the wellspring for much of what has come since. We could not have the incredible event that we have coming up next week had these four giants of the industry not stood tall on behalf of The London Produce Show and Conference.
In doing so, they helped forge a new institution for this trade, an event that will bring together the minds and methods that we all need share to succeed in the years ahead.
There are other sponsors, and many more thanks to give. Keep reading in the days ahead.
These four, though, wrote those first checks and stood with us early, and what you will see next week is what, in no small way, these leaders have wrought.
Come and join us at the first annual London Produce Show and Conference and see what these four giants have worked with us to build.
Please register for the event right here.