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Product, Trade, Ideas And Friendship: Insights Into The London Produce Show And Conference

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, October 28, 2013

We announced with great excitement the establishment of a new global industry institution with a piece titled New Event Planned for 2014: The United Kingdom’s Fresh Produce Consortium And PRODUCE BUSINESS Magazine Announce The London Produce Show and Conference

We had plenty of interest and will, without a doubt, sell out the show and, more importantly, create an incredible new industry resource that will focus global industry attention on the thought leadership, standard-setting leadership and market opportunity in the United Kingdom.

Still, as an American, this Pundit well knows that pioneers wind up getting arrows shot in the back and, indeed, everything we have ever done — precisely because it has been innovative — has met with some skepticism.

When we launched PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine, the first magazine in a field with two newspapers, we were told that only the quick pace of presenting news would hold any interest, yet, 28 years later, it turns out that news is a dying vestige for print, yet long-format, in-depth assessments of how to do one’s job or do one’s business better is thriving.

When we launched the Perishable Pundit, we were told that nobody would spend the time to read substantial things online — yet we showed that if one has valuable things to say, people make the time to absorb it.

And when we joined hands with the Eastern Produce Council to launch The New York Produce Show and Conference, we were told nobody needed another trade show and nobody wanted to pay New York City prices — yet it turned out that thousands upon thousands of people disagreed. They find value in their investment in time and treasure, and so the event has continued to grow.

Without a doubt, now that we are launching our new hybrid consumer magazine, FRESH ENTHUSIAST, as we detailed here, and, along with our friends at the Fresh Produce Consortium have announced The London Produce Show and Conference, there will be skeptics aplenty.

First up is a gentleman named Max MacGillivray, who runs a headhunting firm in the UK, named Redfox:

A number of people have been saying that there needs to be more impetus to the showcase of the Fresh Sector here in the UK… So THE LONDON PRODUCE SHOW & CONFERENCE is formulated with good timing, but it is the Yanks that have rolled into town to set it up!

There is a pundit in the Fresh Sector from the States by the name of Jim Prevor, and he runs an American-style website for the fresh sectors called the PERISHABLE PUNDIT. As a business they run a successful yearly event called THE NEW YORK PRODUCE SHOW & CONFERENCE and they are now looking to duplicate that into London for next June and presumably make some lolly out of it.

They have partnered up with the FPC… but the FPC is partnered up with Market Intelligence, which runs the Fresh Produce Journal and EuroFruit… and collectively for the past few years, the FPC and Market Intelligence run the Re:fresh event.

So is that it for the Re:fresh event? Is it consigned to be but a virtual memory? Or is there room for both events? I can see some rather heated conversations being had trying to sort that lot out behind closed doors with the UK end, as if they run with both, they will cannibalize ticket sales from each other worse case. But the “glue” in making the new event work will be Mr. Tommy Leighton.

Taken from the PERISHABLE PUNDIT, they state about him: “Tommy Leighton is perhaps best known as the ex-Editor of Fresh Produce Journal (FPJ), the UK’s weekly newspaper for the fruit, vegetable and flower industries. He spent 12 years with the paper, a decade as editor and during his last five years with the firm, was managing director of FPJ publisher, Lockwood Press. During his time as Editor, the FPJ underwent something of a renaissance, and Tommy was also the driving force behind the 2004 launch of Re:fresh, a trade conference and awards evening that brought a sense of unity and fun back tothe UK industry.”

What is odd about this is that Max talks as if we have never communicated. In reality, he has been trying to get this Pundit to write for his own newsletter for over almost four years! Back in January of 2010, Max wrote the Pundit:

…I have been receiving your newsletter for a couple of years now and find them very useful and very informative. We are a recruitment consultancy working in the International fresh sectors, sourcing executive level individuals for leading clients. In 2010, we set up a newsfeed service for our clients & candidates. We did this as a number of them could not gain industry news in the UK or the EU as it was stuck behind the pay-walls for trade publications….

The reason for contacting you is to see if you would be interested to write on a topical subject of the day for our readers. We are very keen to get more industry comment especially from other countries, especially the United States, so that our readership can get better “educated” on the sectors hopefully to the benefit of all….

See what you think Jim and look forward to hearing back with your views.

P.S.  Are you in Berlin in Feb @ Fruit Logistica? Would be good to meet up if you are!

— Max MacGillivray
Managing Director
Redfox Executive Section Ltd
Park Farm Business Centre
Fornham St. Genevieve
Bury St. Edmunds
Suffolk

We always try to help people out, and we were more than happy to write something for Max. But just as Max’s letter had arrived, the Pundit’s father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We began that battle and told the industry all about it in a piece titled, Never Tell Me The Odds: One Man, One Disease, One Battle.

It was quite a battle, emotionally, intellectually and chronologically draining. In any case, we never got around to writing the piece and so never got to become friends with Max. Perhaps, however it is not too late.

Let’s try and answer Max's questions:

1) Events that add value don’t lead to cannibalization.

The world is filled with events of all different kinds. It is easy to imagine that one event “cannibalizes” another, but it is not true. These events are not charities; we don’t request alms for the trade show operators. These are serious business opportunities, and many a company has been built over contacts made on a trade show floor.

Put another way, if an event produces value… if, say, Redfox buys a stand and, as a consequence, picks up new clients or gains more business from existing clients… this does not hinder Redfox’s ability to participate in other events. It enhances it! It makes Redfox more profitable.

We have no idea as to the future of any particular event. Doubtless these events will change with the times, and some will grow, some will shrink, some will change and, yes, some will disappear but they do all these things because of the value these events do or do not produce. This new event, The London Produce Show and Conference, will be unlike anything that exists, will be good for the UK industry and, in the end, a stronger industry will support more, not fewer, events and institutions.

2) Business is not like marriage; you are allowed to have relations with lots of people at one time.

Max seems perturbed by the fact that the Fresh Produce Consortium has worked with different people and organizations in different aspects of its operations. Relationships change with the times as people change. This is to be expected and has precious little to do with this new event. We would say that, in principle, dealing with different people and organizations for different projects makes perfect sense. We have known Chris White from Market Intelligence for decades and have always found him to be a gentleman, and we have, in fact, found him a genuinely interesting person. We hope in spending more time in the UK, we will have a chance to know him better, just as we hope to make acquaintances with many British friends.

Certainly, although we compete in some publishing spheres, we would anticipate advertising in the Fresh Produce Journal and its websites. Why? It’s the biggest publication for the UK produce trade. Why should the fact that we compete a little bit with the company in Latin America prevent us from working with the best tools out there for the UK? The Pundit Momma called that kind of thinking “Cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

3) The London Produce Show and Conference is a UK event.

It is completely irrelevant how much trade goes back and forth across the pond to the USA. Of course, there is some business… as a boy and young man, the Pundit worked in our family business, and part of that was exporting MacIntosh, Empire apples and Florida grapefruit to the UK. Once in a while we did some berries, grapes and, if memory serves, some carrots up to Northern Ireland, but we would be shocked if 5% of the exhibitors at this show were selling American products.

In The New York Produce Show and Conference, we have exhibitors who, either directly or through importers, are representing everything from South African citrus to Chilean grapes to Australian navels, Canadian hothouse produce, Mexican vegetables to Spanish clementines, Italian chestnuts, Greek figs, Belgian endive, Korean pears, Central American melons  even British beets!  and much more, plus domestic shippers from around the country.

The UK has a much more diverse supply base than the USA, so we would expect an even more diverse exhibitor base in London. In fact, an important intention of this event is to focus the attention of the global trade on the incredible opportunity that the UK market represents.

4) Just because one can do something alone doesn’t mean one should do it alone.

Our company has accountants and bookkeepers and so forth, so we could certainly do our own payroll checks. Yet, we choose to hire ADP to do it. To answer Max, without a doubt the Fresh Produce Consortium, Tommy Leighton, and even Max MacGillivray himself and, doubtless, many thousands more “could” put on a trade show without any help from an “American” – but why should they? What is wrong with collaboration, searching out friends who have different ideas and different expertise? 

The people who represent the FPC— Nigel Jenney as the Chief Executive, Jim Rogers, President of the FPC Council and Managing Director of Fesa UK and the other council members — are a pretty impressive group:

· Nigel Harris,Vice-President/CEO of Fresh Direct

· Simon Martin,Vice-President/Group Sales & Marketing Director, QV Foods

· Andy Garton, Head of Produce Buying, WM Morrisons

· Jim Jeffcoate,Technical Director, IPL/ASDA

· Gillian Kynoch,Commercial Director, Albert Bartlett

· Chris Hutchinson,Managing Director, Arthur Hutchinson Ltd., and Chairman, New Spitalfields Wholesale Market Tenants Association

· Anthony Levy, Managing Director, Ideas into Action

· Richard Thompson, Director of Gilbert Thompson (Leeds) and Chairman, Yorkshire Produce Centre Tenants Association

· Michael Velasco, Chairman, Rodanto.

These are serious people, and they evaluated the FPC’s options extensively and rendered their formidable business judgment as to what kinds of arrangements and with whom were most likely to produce the best outcome for the UK industry.

No “Yank” singing Yankee Doodle Dandy could bamboozle these folks.

We are honored to be working with the Fresh Produce Consortium.

We like to think it was a multi-generational reputation in the produce industry, combined with 28 years of initiating industry improvement via PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine, the publishing of The Pundit, the success of The New York Produce Show and Conference and our sister operations that led the FPC to choose to join hands with us on this venture.

We consider ourselves lucky to be selected, but we think of luck as Arnold Palmer defined it when he got a hole in one. It is said he was approached by a reporter who opined that it had been an incredibly lucky shot. Palmer turned around and said, “That may be true, but you know what? I find the more I practice, the luckier I get.”

5) The great exchange of the 21st century is ideas and friendships.

Events such as this seem superficially to be about moving product and, of course, facilitating that through the trade show is the financing mechanism for the event. In reality though, the prerequisite for increasing the exchange of goods and services — for doing more business — is in only the shortest term respect, simply about doing the deal. After all, doing “the deal” can only be about the business that exists right now, and that has inherent limits.

The vision for the future has to be about exchanges of ideas so that all our operations can tap into global expertise, adopt best practices and find new opportunities. And yes, ideas don’t just originate in America or the UK or any other place, so we have to be open for collaboration and idea-exchange. It will make us all richer.

One of the things about business, though, is that it turns out to be hard to do all this without real trust and friendship. Finding solutions is difficult to do if one won’t confess one’s problems and, in business, only fools confess their problems to people they don’t trust.

This is just one reason why having a world-class event in London will pay benefits for the British industry in a way that is not yet fully appreciated.

When the big trade event is a distant territory or country and you meet industry associates, customers, and vendors there, you meet them at the show, and if you are building a stronger relationship you go to dinner together at some restaurant. If the event is on your own turf, you invite people to your home for dinner; they meet your spouse and your children. Next year they bring their spouse and you spend a weekend before or after the show together. Maybe if you’re fortunate enough to have a country home, you take them there; if not, you don’t just go to a restaurant or a trip, but you go to your favorite restaurant or local vacation spot. You don’t just golf someplace, you golf at your club. It is a completely different experience.

And it may seem as if all this mixing and mingling is about fun, and since life is short, it is very good if you find enjoyment in it. But it is also the very prerequisite to building the trust relationships that create the conditions for the kind of honesty and collaboration that lead to success.

**

We don’t know what the future will bring but we know that The Fresh Produce Consortium wants a world-class event for the United Kingdom, and we are joining hands to make it happen. We hope Max and Redfox will join us in this effort.

It is notable that Max ended his note to the Pundit by asking if we could meet at a trade show in Germany. He didn’t ask if we were coming to any number of events in the UK.

The whole point of what the Fresh Produce Consortium is trying to create here is to establish an event on a different scale, an event that will attract thousands of people to the UK and from the UK to Central London so that next time Max wants to meet with some Yank — or some Auzzie or African or Latin American, Indian or Asian, Arab or Israeli — he can suggest a meeting, not in Germany, but at The London Produce Show and Conference.

Isn’t that, in and of itself, a big win for the UK industry?

Many thanks to Max MacGillivrey for weighing in on this important issue.

If you are interested in exhibiting, let us know here.

If you would like to consider sponsoring an event, let us know at this link.

And if you would like attendee information, please let us know here.

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