I want to thank every person that attended the EPIA convention in Granada this year. We had a wonderful turnout that exceeded 110 attendees. We now have more members from more countries than ever before. Our membership reach now extends to 29 countries and includes 60 producers and distributors and another 19 suppliers for a total membership of 79. That success is due to the professional attitude each of our members display to one another and to the packaged ice industry in which we work.
This year we stressed two major activities that will make the EPIA more influential in the packaged ice industry. The first was to extend our reach by gaining members in more countries while at the same time gaining additional members in those countries where we already have representation. The second and just as valuable accomplishment was to reach the agreement that in order to remain a member or to become a member of the EPIA, the package ice producer company must meet the HACCP certification requirements as has been defined by the EPIA membership no later than the agreed upon 31 March 2017 deadline. The definitive requirements will once again be sent to all members and each renewing member will be required to provide acceptable documentation of compliance. Those who do not or cannot comply will not be allowed to continue as members of the EPIA. Currently we show approximately 75% of our members comply. Although we are prepared to lose a few who have not invested adequately in their companies to validate HACCP certification, the EPIA will be stronger in the knowledge that our tagline “ice you can trust” can be judged as a valid statement by anyone who might question such a high standard. Our sister association in the ice industry, IPIA has supported the statement “ice is food” for some time now and their statement is recognized as fact supported by food purity guidelines in many countries worldwide. Our challenge is to take this another step higher and have the public recognize EPIA member ice to be “ice you can trust”. This will ensure the public that the EPIA label indicates trust and serve to the detriment of those other companies that might produce ice in a manner with a lesser public safety consideration.
After attending the EPIA convention, I had the honor to attend the IPIA convention in San Antonio, Texas this year. The comparison I found between these two conventions environments was noteworthy as were the similarities. The most interesting difference was that at the IPIA convention all the mid-day meals were served buffet style within the exhibition area. This encouraged a great deal of intermingling between suppliers and producers, producers and producers, as well as supplier and supplier. The eating areas were four top standup level tables which also encouraged short and meaningful conversations rather than longer more static conversations. The results that I saw were that there was a great deal of fluidity that encouraged more person to person contact than would have occurred if seating was at table height, 8-10 person tables. The only large round table seating I saw was in the meeting room where groups would mingle and sit during presentations. This also encouraged meeting and communicating with new acquaintances during the presentations. The seating arrangements seemed to encourage new alliances and sharing of ideas between new acquaintances. I hope that we find a way to do this next year in Wroclaw, Poland for the 2017 EPIA convention.
Another interesting presentation that I believe would be well received and beneficial to our EPIA members was the presentation on family businesses and how to prepare them for the inevitable political and economic changes and how to keep them strong and prosperous over an extended number of years into the future.
The overriding benefit that I saw both at the EPIA and IPIA convention was simply–how to survive in a competitive market and thrive. We cannot loose site of the fact that our industry is moving fast and maturing and we must keep abreast of the changing technology and changing regulations that are and will be shaping the packaged ice industry today and in the very near future.