Southeast Produce Council Wraps Southern Innovations 2023; David Sherrod, John Shuman, and More Comment

Southeast Produce Council Wraps Southern Innovations 2023; David Sherrod, John Shuman, and More Comment

CHARLOTTE, NC - No one does a theme like Southeast Produce Council (SEPC), and when it comes to innovation, as President David Sherrod reminded Southern Innovation attendees, “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

So, Race to Discover made for the perfect theme to tie together the long weekend of activities, from starting our engines at the welcome reception to the green light to enter the trade show itself and crossing the finish line with fun networking opportunities.

David Sherrod, President and Chief Executive Officer, Southeast Produce Council"Southern Innovations continues to outpace all of our expectations each year. Retail and foodservice buyers from all regions of the country are realizing the benefits of a show dedicated to highlighting new innovation and technologies. We were delighted to see most of our regional retailers showcasing their retail stores and departments in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area," David Sherrod, President and Chief Executive Officer of SEPC, commented. "We also debuted the What's New? report at Southern Innovations, which was packed full of useful trend data for both sides of the supply chain. Everyone who attended the session had a 'seat at the table' to offer their own insights into the findings."

Outgoing Chair Tim Graas shared David's enthusiasm while reflecting on the past few days.

Tim Graas, Outgoing Chairman of the Board, Southeast Produce Council and Executive Director of Produce, Associated Wholesale Grocers“Southern Innovations 2023 was a resounding success! Not only did we see record attendance, we also set new records in booth count and buyer attendance," Tim said. "The SEPC staff and entire Board of Directors works very hard to put together industry-leading trade shows and we couldn't be happier. We innovated again this year with our What's New? education session and Silent Theater and have received an incredible amount of positive feedback. Anne-Marie Roerink's cutting-edge consumer research was completely on target and the group discussions were amazing. Thank you to all who attended, see you in Tampa in March for Southern Exposure!”

In addition to debuts, there was the return of the popular Southern Roots Luncheon for the women of our industry. Even as I entered the welcome reception, I was hearing about the positive impression left by long-time sports journalist and current Broadcaster at Fox Sports Shannon Spake. The next day, as we ate lunch and prepared to listen to the keynote, I would reflect on this fear of missing out.


Produce commands we pivot, and so does life, with travel challenges demanding a last-minute change to the luncheon keynote. The anticipated Darrell Waltrip was unable to make the trip, and so we were treated to an impromptu Q&A between Shannon and Kristen Yerecic Scott.

As someone who was not able to make the Southern Roots Luncheon, I was grateful for the opportunity to hear a bit of what I missed by the change in events. And I was not alone, even hearing the same feedback from men in the industry.

Murmurs of admiration at leaning into such opportunities followed the crowd as we made our way to the official opening of the Southern Innovations trade show. Over 1,300 total registrants, as well as 305 retail and foodservice buyers, spilled onto the floor to new items, offerings, and connections.

John Shuman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Shuman Farms“It’s one of the landmark events on the calendar,” said John Shuman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Shuman Farms. “It helps us connect to drive sales and our message. We look at SEPC as a great intimate offering and an opportunity for one-on-one with retailers to talk in detail a bit more about what we’re doing.”

In just four hours, the rows were filled with business conversations and handshakes as the intimate atmosphere encouraged the opportunity to tell the stories of the wares on display.

Kimberly Mangum, Sales Representative, Limoneira Company“This is my end user, so it is a great opportunity to welcome, connect, and say ‘come see my fruit!’” shared Kimberly Mangum, Sales Representative, Limoneira Company, in reflecting on the quality of the show.

Also seeing value in the show, Peppe Bonfiglio, Vice President of Sales, reached out on behalf of the Sales team at Mastronardi Produce® in attendance.

Peppe Bonfiglio, Vice President of Sales, Mastronardi Produce®“Mastronardi Produce is always looking for ways to move the needle in fresh produce, and the SEPC Southern Innovations show is an incredible platform for celebrating that with the whole industry. It was a great opportunity to highlight the success of our Snacking innovations and unique, proprietary items,” Peppe said.

Before I knew it, the show floor was calling it a wrap and we all had plans to see each other at the evening's dinner dance—an especially care-free event with the exhibits completed. After thanking outgoing decision makers of the SEPC and welcoming new and current board members, we all kicked up our heels to live country music and danced the night away—a pleasant misfortune for those of us who were on an early bus for the Martin Eubanks Sporting Clays Classic, the Founders Memorial Golf Tournament, or the local Queen City Tour and Charlotte Motor Speedway "Feel the Thrill" tour.

Congratulations to the winners of these key features of Southern Innovations, who had all the bragging rights at the annual Ultimate Tailgate Experience Saturday night.

Martin Eubanks Sporting Clays Classic Winners

  • 1st place

Mark Pandol of Pandol Bros; Brett Anderson of Eastern Produce; Shannon Johnson; John Pandol of Pandol Bros; Kyle Price of Performance Foodservice; and Kevin Hannigan of AgSquared

  • 2nd place

Mike Naftel of Del Monte Fresh Produce; Josh Caldwell of Food Depot; Andrew Garrett of Del Monte Fresh Produce; Molly Edenfield Farrow of SEPC; Austin Farrow; and Richard Pazderski of Bland Farms

  • 3rd Place

Dave Plinck of Buyers Edge Platform; Clark Roper of Chick-fil-A; Logan Pettit of John Greene Logistics Co.; Thomas Rossi and Peter Heimbruch of Buyers Edge Platform

Founders Memorial Golf Tournament Winners

  • Chandler Grimes of Southern Valley
  • Bill Pollard of Dollar General
  • Dug Schwalls of Southern Valley
  • Zac Goodno of Southern Valley

As they say: To be South is to be home. Finding home amid new innovations while, as David Sherrod said, cherishing the old, is a perfect summation of Southern Innovations. Thank you to the Southeast Produce Council and those in attendance for making this event such a memorable one. See you in Nashville for 2024!

Southeast Produce Council

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Southeast Produce Council

The Southeast Produce Council (SEPC) is a member-driven, non-profit association of more than 2,500 leaders from all…