John Foley, former Lead Solo with the Blue Angels, set the incredibly positive tone for the Refrigerated Foods Association’s Annual Conference & Exhibition, held last month in Amelia Island, Florida.  Foley brought incredible energy and optimism, starting the event off with a powerful message focused on performing under pressure, cooperation, collaboration and bringing enjoyment to others through service and teamwork.  Foley’s presentation included specific parallels to the issues and challenges faced by association members and related his harrowing experiences in the cockpit with the trials and tribulations of managing a RTE food business.

Other presenters and topics included Executive Vice President of Technomic, Patrick Noone, who addressed trends in foods; the annual Technical Update by Doug Marshall, Chief Scientific Officer at Eurofins Microbiology Laboratories; Professor Dr. Eva Almenar of the School of Packaging at Michigan State University, who addressed Plastics 101; Rick Gessler, vice president of Engineering at Delkor Systems, who provided valuable insights into using robotics to supplement the workforce in refrigerated food plants; and Dr. Pam Dalton, principal investigatory member at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, who gave an incredibly insightful presentation on lessons from COVID-19 with regard to the sense of smell.

The conference was held at the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Amelia Island, Florida. In addition to the timely presentations, the conference also included outstanding networking opportunities and social events, including a service project that provided 249 meals for Gracie’s Kitchen in Yulee, Florida, and filled their distribution site with blessing bags to hold clients over when the center is closed.  The annual golf tournament allowed avid players a chance to enjoy networking and beautiful weather at the resort’s premier course.  Suppliers displayed their wares and presented money and time saving opportunities at the Exhibit Reception and during the One-on-One CEO Sessions.  The closing banquet was particularly special, including awards and a live auction.  The group also recognized and remembered their late technical director of 40 years, Martin Mitchell of Certified Laboratories.   There was a photo collage display, a video tribute and the traditional Technical Committee Meeting was forevermore renamed The Martin Mitchell Food Safety Luncheon. 

Chris Gelinas of Hans Kissle was elected as a new board member, and Chris Staudt of Chairman’s Foods, and Jennifer Allen of Atlantic Coast Marketing, were re-elected to serve three-year terms. RFA’s Executive Committee consists of President Lauren Edmonds of St. Clair Foods; Vice President Karen Bishop Carbone of Boston Salads & Prepared Foods; Treasurer Tom Davis of Lakeview Farms; and Secretary Mark Rosenfield of Reser’s Fine Foods.