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OPN Connect Newsletter 329 · July 20, 2023

OPS 2023 Recap—A Bright Future for Organics


New organic rules and regulations, the challenges facing Controlled Environment Agriculture, and the ability to effectively connect the benefits of organic fresh produce to consumers were among the hot-button topics explored at the seventh annual Organic Produce Summit, held last week in Monterey, California.

Joseph Strumolo, Wakefern Food Corp, visiting with Mark Kreiner, Mother Earth Mushrooms

OPS 2024 Retailer Reg square

With more than 1,800 attendees, the event’s largest turnout ever, organic fresh produce growers, shippers, and producers met with over 300 retail representatives from across North America to discuss the growth of organic fresh produce and the opportunities that lie ahead to further bolster sales and consumption in line with evolving consumer lifestyles.

“Based on feedback from attendees, OPS 2023 was a tremendous success. As our largest show yet, OPS attendees had opportunities to discuss the growth, opportunities, and challenges of the organic fresh produce industry,” said Susan Canales, President of OPS. “From the retailer field tours, engaging ed sessions, and a sold-out trade show floor, OPS attendees celebrated the organic fresh produce industry and explored what the future of the industry may look like."

Retailer attendees learning about automated broccoli harvest on the Braga field tour

Vitalis February 2024

Day one of OPS 2023 kicked off with a series of retailer field tours to Taylor Farms/Earthbound Farm, Driscoll's, and Braga Fresh production facilities, followed by a gala opening reception that evening. The second day of OPS featured five educational sessions and a pair of keynote presentations that explored the growth and evolution of the organic produce industry. The event concluded with a sold-out tradeshow floor of 170 organic producers highlighting their products to retailers and buyers.

“Based on feedback from attendees, OPS 2023 was a tremendous success. As our largest show yet, OPS attendees had opportunities to discuss the growth, opportunities, and challenges of the organic fresh produce industry.” - Susan Canales

Among the standout activities of OPS was the Retailer Roundtable keynote presentation featuring leadership from three of the nation’s most progressive retailers. The panel shared that educating consumers about various organic produce items and the backstory of how those items are grown and brought to market represents a tremendous opportunity for producers and retailers to grow and sell more items.

Fox Packaging January February 2024

Retailer Roundtable keynote presentation panel Kevin Coupe, Abhi Ramesh, Sonya Constable, and Daniel Bell

Misfit Markets CEO and Founder Abhi Ramesh told audience members that as a digital operation, his company has ample space to tell the story directly to consumers on its website. “We have a massive storytelling opportunity,” he said, and he urged suppliers to figure out what they want to tell consumers and get those stories on the company’s website. 

Keynote speaker Ryan Begin, CEO of Divert

Hiwassee February 2024

In the other keynote presentation, Divert CEO and Co-founder Ryan Begin Divert addressed the $408 billion food waste issue and his company's goal to eliminate wasted food and double net profits in the retail space. According to Begin, 35 percent of the content in American landfills is wasted food, and those landfills can only hold 17 more years of accumulation at the current rate of disposal.

“We have a massive storytelling opportunity." - Abhi Ramesh

He said the questions we should be asking are, “What is being wasted and why? And how do we close that loop?” Begin said Divert uses a “prevent, provide, power” approach to its multi-faceted business model with 5,000 retail partners.

OPS 2023 featured five educational sessions, which explored a range of topics:

  • "Change is Coming: Getting Fresh Produce Ready for the New Organic Enforcement Rule" discussed the biggest update to USDA organic regulations in over 20 years and how growers, distributors, and retailers are preparing for the new SOE rule.
  • In "CEA: Where do We Grow from Here?" panelists discussed how consumers are responding to these indoor-grown items as well as the current landscape of CEA growth in light of the millions of dollars poured into the segment.
  • "The Value of Sustainability Compliance" explored how retailers are collecting data from suppliers and how the information is used in guiding companies’ sustainability efforts.
  • "The Shifting Organic Assortment at Retail" featured an overview of organic sales in the past year from a pair of retailers and a discussion of the growth opportunities that exist.
  • "Powered by Plants" explored the benefits associated with a plant-based diet and featured athletes who changed their diet and achieved outstanding results in their performance.

Kat Farris, Whole Foods Market visiting at the Sun Pacific booth

Following an outside lunch in a sunny and cool Monterey setting, attendees spent the afternoon on a sold-out trade show floor networking with 170 producers of organic fresh produce.

With over 300 retail representatives in attendance, attendees raved about the connections and business opportunities made during the event.

OPS Retailer Reg leaderboard

Jeff Darling and Jeff Wilmes with Roth's Fresh Markets visiting the Soli Organic booth

“This show is awesome, and I can’t believe the number of retailers I’ve been able to connect with,” said first-time exhibitor Darrel Beyer of Bluebird Mountain Organics. “I connected with a retailer I’ve been trying to do business with for a long time, so it was a great day!

With over 300 retail representatives in attendance, attendees raved about the connections and business opportunities made during the event.

Robert Backer of The Giant Company was another first-time attendee praising the show and its format. “I came out here early to visit with some customers and just love how the show did a great job of spreading out companies across the trade show floor. [I] look forward to returning next year.”

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