2015 EPIA Convention in Montpellier – France

Wow! We just passed a milestone in EPIA convention attendance—100 attendees. For those of you who met in Frankfurt that first year, did you see this coming? At that time when our producers approached a prospective customer the biggest sales hurdle to overcome was to explain why someone would want to actually pay for a plastic bag of ice. From small acorns grow strong oak trees, but it takes time and good conditions.

As a small group we planted that acorn of an idea and started to nurture it with ideas for success. We have planned and refined our plans for our future as the leaders in the young industry of package ice for human consumption and are more focused today than ever before. We have gotten over the hurdle of meeting a minimum level of quality with our HACCP certification requirement for membership. Although quality still fluctuates from factory to factory, the EPIA level of quality meets or exceeds the standards for a safe food product in Europe. Now our job is to convince the food regulators in Belgium that all ice used as a food product should be “Ice You Can Trust”. This means that we will continue to require and enforce the rule we all agreed upon in Palermo—HACCP certification requirement for EPIA membership, no certificate, no display of the EPIA logo. We cannot afford to dilute our hard fought quality standards that the public will soon embrace as the “gold standard” of the industry.

Enough of the “motherhood and apple pie”. What a convention! From the first check-in at the hotel the experience began with EPIA and Automatic Ice Systems card keys-just so you did not forget why you were in Montpellier. Then the AIS sponsored the welcome cocktail party with AIS signature cocktails followed by first night dinner for new members. I truly believe that Don Carpenter is proud to have also been awarded the EPIA industry innovation award during the closing awards dinner for their innovation with electronic equipment integration and remote connectivity. Please visit the EPIA Facebook page to see the award.

Welcome Cocktail Party

Thursday morning we kicked off the formal meeting with an overview of the agenda and few business items before turning the floor over to the supplier members. This convention was focused on our supplier members just as they requested in Athens. Late morning and all afternoon our supplier members educated us as to what is new in the market. During this day we were provided break refreshments by Patkol who was celebrating 50 years of business as a leading supplier to the packaged ice industry throughout the world. We were also treated to wine at lunch by Leer. Our supplier members also reminded us and proved that the annual convention is the place to see virtually all packaged ice equipment and ice manufacturing supplies available to the large scale food ice manufacturing industry. Once old relationships were renewed and new ones formed between producers and suppliers we needed to drop our defenses and “head’m up and move’m out” just as the French cowboys did with a herd of bulls for our amusement out on the salt flats near Montpellier. Sangria and steamed mussels made for a fine appetizer for the lamb stew under the shelter in the pasture.

A Special evening in Camargue

Then back to work on Friday and the activities did not disappoint and continued to focus on making the EPIA relevant in today’s food industry. The “Italian Initiative” to get food ice regulated by the Italian food ministers was explained along with the “Belgium Initiative” to correspondingly do the same at the EU Commission level were explained. Once the questions and answer session was complete, there was a virtually unanimous agreement to move forward on these initiatives. Once again the largess of our sponsors was enjoyed with break refreshments sponsored by NSF. The final business of the day was to revamp the structure of the association management group and elect the Board of Directors for 2016. We decided that the amount of effort that is required to move the EPIA forward as desired is more than can be expected from solely volunteer support. Therefore it was agreed to by the full membership that Stan Williams would vacate the Chairman position and be retained as a staff member with the title of Managing Director along with Maryse Prior as Correspondence Secretary and report to the BoD. The newly elected Directors for 2016 are Pedro Torres as Chairman, Mark Allan as Vice Chairman (Secretary position abolished and replaced with Vice Chairman), Francisco Wendt as Treasurer, Polly Marr as Producer Representative, and Rafael Labrada as Supplier Representative.

Gala Dinner and Cabaret Show

The celebration that followed the election was unequalled at previous conventions. We rode to the quaint seaside village of Sète and were treated to hours of food and wine and the wonderfully performed showcase cabaret as good as the best in Paris today. What a night as the dancers took us from Paris to Burma to New York then back to Paris on the RMS Queen Elizabeth in 1947. And once again we were treated to wine during the show by one of our major sponsors, Keith Walking Floor.

Glaçière Narbonnaise Factory Tour

But wait, there’s more. The factory tour and with the most outlandish display of local foods you can imagine provided at their own expense by our convention host for 2015, the Phalippou brothers of Glaciere Narbonnaise. The spread had the finest oysters on the half shell from the nearby sea, shish kabobs of delicious marinated meats, smoked salmon, sausages of all kinds, cheeses to die for, and the largest and most delicious mound of foie gras covered with a spread of mustard seeds and peppercorns that I have ever seen (literally the size of ½ of a football-either soccer, rugby or an American football—it was BIG). The beer and local wine was ever-flowing and greatly contributed to the revelry that followed. The final event hosted by Ice World Journal–the now world-renown Ice Olympics with trophies for distance and accuracy for both men and women.

4th Annual Ice Bag Throwing Championship

Once again you as the EPIA members have succeeded and making this the best convention ever just as each previous convention has been. Now what to do in Granada, Spain to try to top this during 21-24 September 2016?

I must conclude with “Wow, what a ride!”