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    IFPA, United to Join Forces

    WASHINGTON, D.C. --The International Fresh-cut Produce Association and the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association are joining forces to create a new United Fresh Produce Association.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. --The International Fresh-cut Produce Association and the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association are joining forces to create a new United Fresh Produce Association.

    Executives and board members from both associations told Progressive Grocer the merger of IFPA and United will prioritize leadership for its members and the produce industry in five key areas: Leadership in government relations, issues management and media advocacy; leadership in food safety/quality assurance/nutrition and health; focus on innovation/business growth through increased produce sales and profitability; local/global member services; and streamlined services and improved return on membership investment.

    "This is a merger of two strong, independent, and respected associations, and a major step forward for both IFPA and United members, and the entire produce industry," said IFPA chairman Mark Miller of San Antonio-based Fresh From Texas. "With our combined board leadership and staff expertise in public policy, food safety, marketing, nutrition and health, education, leadership development, media communications, and supply chain issues from field to fork, we will serve our members with greater resources, greater expertise, and greater efficiency than ever before."

    United chairman Nick Tompkins of Guadalupe, Calif.-based Apio, Inc. praised the greater member value and staff expertise that will now reside in the combined organization that "will reflect the strength and heritage that each association brings forward today," said Tompkins. "IFPA has been an essential force since 1988 in helping grow the fresh-cut, value-added produce industry to the mainstream business that it is today," he noted, adding that United recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.

    An electronic ballot seeking endorsement of each board's action was sent to the voting members of each association yesterday, with official results of that vote set to be released May 6 at the United Produce Show at FMI. Once the memberships have signaled formal approval and their respective annual trade shows are complete -- including IFPA's annual trade convention that takes place next week in Baltimore -- the new organization will begin taking shape during the course of the summer, said United president Tom Stenzel.

    "Our goal is to have the entire process complete by late summer," said Stenzel. "We’re looking at September to roll out the new UFPA organization as well as its new identity."

    Further, in light of the distinct nature of both associations' annual trade shows, Stenzel said that it's the groups' intention to run them as complementary, as opposed to combined shows.

    "The IFPA Fresh Cut Expo has a very strong focus on technology and equipment for suppliers," and will continue to be held annually to expand the focus on the equipment, tools, and technologies needed to drive innovation in seed development, agricultural production, post-harvest handling, packing and packaging, warehousing and distribution, and other technical solutions, said Stenzel. The United Produce Show at FMI is also anticipated to continue growing its focus on marketing and merchandising innovations for produce sales growth through retail, foodservice, and other channels, he noted.

    Discussions to develop a strategic alliance between IFPA and United began in September 2005 and focused on the possibility of combining resources, expertise, and industry leadership to better serve the two organizations' respective memberships. On March 30 the executive officers of IFPA and United met to review a possible business plan for this strategic alliance and voted to recommend a full merger of the two associations to their own boards. In subsequent independent meetings on April 12 and April 14, respectively, the IFPA and UFFVA boards of directors voted unanimously to proceed and seek membership endorsement of the merger.

    Speaking to "the real strengths of both associations," Tompkins said the association's "enhanced food safety expertise and the combination of United's public policy and influence on Capitol Hill will be a real asset that both associations can now leverage. In addition, "[C]ombining that with some of the nutritional initiatives to help drive consumption throughout the produce industry presents a wonderful opportunity," he said, adding, "Food safety, public policy, and driving consumption will be where you'll see the focus of the new group."

    IFPA and United are the only broad-based produce associations based in Washington, with board and council leadership and professional staff in all aspects of public policy, government affairs, and media relations. Moreover, IFPA and United are the only produce associations to each have member-led food safety and technical committees. The new staff team will feature a depth of scientific expertise with current senior staffers Dr. Jim Gorny, Dr. Dave Gombas, and Dr. Ashley Bell leading food safety efforts, and Dr. Lorelei DiSogra directing nutrition and health programs.

    By combining forces, management will drive overhead costs lower, maximize staff synergy and expertise, and dramatically improve member company time efficiency. The groups estimate that office overhead reduction alone will generate more than $100,000 in savings that can be reinvested in member value.

    IFPA president Jerry Welcome said retailers would be a primary beneficiary of the merger, which he calls, "a real positive for our industry and real benefit for grocers down the road. I think they'll hopefully see an organization" whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    In a joint statement the Produce Marketing Association's board chair, Janet Erickson, e.v.p., purchasing and quality assurance at Del Taco, Inc., and its president, Bryan Silbermann, said PMA has "every confidence that the volunteer leaders of both associations made the right decision for their members. Strong and effective trade associations have played an instrumental role in the success the global produce industry enjoys today. We wish them well and plan to continue to work closely with the United Fresh Produce Association."

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