The Magic Of Fresh Produce Trade Shows

Nic Jooste, European Market

Originally printed in the October 2021 issue of Produce Business.

This morning I watched the video report of last year’s Fruit Logistica 2020 in Berlin, which was in February before all of the shut-downs of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Over 72,000 visitors attended this event, with visitors from all over the world descending on the famous Berlin Messe. Little did the people behind the smiling faces and animated discussions know that within days the world would stagger from the pandemic that ultimately would result in more than 83 million infections, and more than 1,824,590 deaths. The world came to a virtual standstill.

As time progressed, every fresh produce trade show was cancelled. In 2020 there was no Fruit Attraction in Madrid, no PMA in America, no Anuga in Germany, no SIAL in Paris. Working from home became the norm, and our colleagues and friends became ‘virtual associates’. The world became a lonely place.

Now that international fresh produce trade fair activities have again started up in Europe, and with positive trends in global vaccination rates maintaining momentum, we are all energized to look to the USA for our next attendance of a trade fair.

As time progressed and the global vaccination percentages improved, we started looking forward to meeting up again. Yet the start of 2021 also brought little joy. Fruit Logistica was cancelled. The organizers developed a new format (Fruit Logistica Special Edition) that was designed to bring together visitors in a controlled environment in May 2021. Yet on 18 March 2021 this event also was cancelled. Show organizer Madlen Miserius said the following: “We developed Fruit Logistica Special Edition as we knew through discussions with the industry that the market’s desire for a physical event was very strong. That’s why we developed a concept to offer our exhibitors the greatest flexibility at the smallest possible risk.” All to no avail: COVID was the winner.

And then, finally, the hopes of the fresh produce industry were rekindled when the Spanish IFEMA announced that Fruit Attraction 2021 would be held ‘old style’ from 5 to 7 October 2021. For months, there was hesitation all-round. Will it be cancelled or postponed? Early on, very few exhibitors and visitors were prepared to commit themselves to exhibiting or visiting. “It will be cancelled,” and “I do not think it will be worth it to go to Madrid” were two phrases that were commonly heard. Yet as time progressed, the positive ones among us started believing that we might just see a fresh trade show happening in October.


From 5 to 7 October 2021, I had so much fun in Madrid. As a fresh produce industry veteran with many visits to trade shows all over the world, I can honestly tell you that nothing beats the feeling of meeting up with old friends and new acquaintances to reminisce, discuss and brainstorm on the opportunities that our amazing industry offers. The disciplined approach to maintaining a safe distance, having one’s temperature checked multiple times per day on entering and leaving a building, and wearing a mask in hotels and elevators had no adverse effect on the pleasure of interacting with growers from South Africa and Peru, retailers from China and the Middle East, wholesalers from the Baltic States and foodservice companies from Scandinavia.

More than 1200 companies from more than 40 different countries exhibited innovative products and ideas. The IFEMA Exhibition Centre hosted the fair in eight halls and numerous pavilions and, at the same time, made the ‘Fruit Attraction LIVEConnect’ platform available. This digital tool was designed to improve the event experience, bringing digital technology to contact management, networks, product and service catalogues, e-meetings and video calls.

Mini congresses and debates included the Biofruit Congress, the Biotech Attraction, the Smart Water & Energy debate, all characterized by the very high level of participants who emphasized the importance of innovation, technology, and knowledge in fresh produce. Companies that exhibited and visitors that attended the show were elated they had done so; those who did not were really regretful. I, for one, was immensely happy and considered myself blessed to be amongst my old friends again.

Now that international fresh produce trade fair activities have again started up in Europe, and with positive trends in global vaccination rates maintaining momentum, we are all energized to look to the USA for our next attendance of a trade fair.

And with that, obviously the unparalleled New York Produce Show springs to mind. Having attended this iconic show and its network events, such as Foundational Excellence, Global Trade Symposium and Ideation Fresh Foodservice Forum several times, I can vouch for the amazing energy that the New York Produce Show brings to the city that never sleeps. I am also convinced that the New York Produce Show will see a larger contingent of visitors from Europe this year, all looking to engage with their American counterparts (as will as visitors from other parts of the world) to renew friendships, refresh knowledge and revitalize business.

For those ‘doubters’ amongst you, I can only say that you will regret if you let this opportunity slip by. So, dear readers: GO TO THE NEW YORK PRODUCE SHOW AND BE ENERGIZED!

Sadly, I will not be able to attend this year as I will be in South Africa on a sustainability mission. However, if you will allow me to use the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: “I’ll be back!”

Nic Jooste is an independent fresh produce consultant who has done presentations at the New York Produce Show on multiple occasions. He lives in The Netherlands.