Southeast Produce Council's (SEPC) Southern Exposure 2020 Highlights
TAMPA, FL - Produce was most definitely on parade last week, bringing Mardi Gras spirit, a constant attitude of Making a Difference, and all the fruits and vegetables imaginable to Tampa for the Southeast Produce Council’s 2020 Southern Exposure.
Long before the jazz bands led red badges to the show floor, insights were being shared and goals were being achieved as the show saw more than 2,700 industry members attend its intimate floor plan of fewer than 275 booths, with over 580 buyers among them.
“This year’s Southern Exposure exceeded our expectations in every way. The Make a Difference theme was evident at all the educational sessions as well as the keynote luncheon. Tony Dungy was the perfect keynote speaker and delivered a wonderful address on finding success through helping others. There is always something special about Southern Exposure and you could feel it in the air this weekend,” David Sherrod, President and CEO of SEPC, shared with me.
Most capacity events sold out before the airplanes touched down, including Thursday’s Tom Page “Topgolf” tournament and Friday’s women-only Southern Roots luncheon. The latter had a line that many of us related to finding at a concert hall, with ticket holders excitedly waiting for the doors to open.
“When I walked out and saw that line, and what this has grown into...” Teri Miller, Senior Category Manager at The Fresh Market and one of the conceptualizers of Southern Roots, trailed off as she let the full house in front of her sink in. “You may call me Founder but I couldn’t have done it without a lot of help and so many friends.”
We proceeded to be engaged by none other than Colette Carlson, Founder of Speak Your Truth, Inc., who encouraged the room to recognize all we each do in a day and to take more credit for our achievements. I left the room feeling empowered and inspired, and from the hum and buzz around me, I was far from alone.
Friday also saw on-point educational sessions in both SEPC’s Plight of Plastics and Power of Produce 2020, back by popular demand.
While we all know the debate of plastics in our industry is a heated one, the first educational session for this year’s Southern Exposure offered an opportunity to hear about it from several angles. These angles ranged from labeling with Elizabeth Yerecic of Yerecic Label and fresh produce on the retail side as was presented by Anabella de Freeman of Walmart Stores, Inc., to the growers’ efforts and challenges which Janis McIntosh of Naturipe Farms could relate, and even a few other points and perspectives.
And while data is important, so is how to apply it and the success of that application. This is what I took away from the expertise of Target’s Director of Produce/Floral Andrew Schuster, Food Lion’s VP of Produce Category, Merchandising, and Pricing Chris Dove, and VP of Corporate Produce at Associated Wholesale Grocers, Reade Sievert. This expertise also came from those behind the data—FMI VP of Fresh Rick Stein and Principal of 210 Analytics Anne-Marie Roerink.
“This is one of my favorite sessions each year. Good useable content for both suppliers and retailers. I actually had conversations on the show floor referencing some of the content,” Diana McClean, Senior Director of Marketing at Ocean Mist Farms, reflected.
That evening we all forgot we were in Florida when we arrived to the Opening Gala Masquerade, the epitome of the New Orleans culture surrounding us as we took in a live water show in the form of a human fountain, performers on stilts, and costumed industry friends we all couldn’t recognize. Brandon Parker, Shuman Farms Sales Manager and this year’s SEPC Chairman, said it best at Saturday’s keynote luncheon: the band was too good last night!
Before introducing highly anticipated keynote Tony Dungy, NFL legendary coach and celebrated author, Brandon shared with us some of the latest initiatives the Council has implemented and program growth across the board. In the spirit of Making a Difference, he presented $25,000 in donations to organizations through SEPC Cares, adding that the Council has donated over $1.1 million overall.
It was a tough act for Coach Dungy to follow, but follow he did, and he proved why he was such a strong leader in the NFL for so long. Drawing parallels between the game field and the produce field, we heard him speak to team motivations, how being a leader is about service rather than power, and how everyone involved needs to acknowledge their SOUL in the team (Selfless, Own your role, Unified, Larger purpose.)
It is amazing how differing industries can draw amazing and beneficial parallels for the benefit of all—bringing buyers and suppliers together once again.
"SEPC's Southern Exposure is an opportunity to get connected with the latest research on key topics that we all can find growth opportunities from. The event's size and scope allow for meaningful discussions among existing relationships while also making new connections,” Drew Sullivan, Senior Category Manager, Produce, Sprouts Farmers Market, reflects. “Coach Dungy's encouragement on the 'Soul of a Team,' conveyed a clear opportunity to focus on what makes a group cohesive and successful—especially relevant in a time when our industry continues to see changes at an accelerated pace. It's so great to focus on the vibrant group of supply partners that makes the Southeast region such a vital component of the food industry. I thoroughly enjoyed this year's event and am excited to see SEPC continue to thrive!"
Raina Nelson, Executive Vice President Business Development at Renaissance Food Group and SEPC Treasurer kept the excitement and anticiaption going after the day's keynote by bringing buyers together in a parade with the SEPC team, leading up to the 2020 Southern Exposure show floor. From the moment we all stepped onto the carpet, there was a constant energy of strong connecting, networking, and elbow-to-elbow traffic as we all took in the best the Southeast has to offer this year and down the line.
It is no secret, too, that this industry is a competitive one on all levels. Let it therefore not be missed that members were challenged to bring SEPC’s themes to life and did so with gusto. Below, find the takeaways of 2020's Southern Exposure awards.
Tom Page “Topgolf” Classic Winners
- Congratulations to Trey Boyette, Tim Edmondson, and Kemp Edmondson, of SMP Southeast Marketing; Craig Shoemaker of Arby’s; Doug Classen of The Nunes Co.; and Mike Gorczyca of Pro-Act
Costume Contest Winners
- 1st Place: Gary Baker, MDI
- 2nd Place: Andrew Scott, Nickey Gregory
- 3rd Place: Leslie Simmons, Dave’s Specialty Imports
- Best Group: Shuman Farms
Booth Decorating Contest Winners
- 1st Place: DiMare Fresh
- 2nd Place: Dave's Specialty Imports
- 3rd Place: Continental Fresh
Click Connection Challenge Winners
- 1st Place: 1st Dez Forsyth (NPC)
- 2nd Place: 2nd Rene Milburn (King Fresh)
- 3rd Place: 3rd Kim Andreason (Jason's Deli)
Southern Exposure Best Themed Directory Ad
- Congratulations to King Fresh
SEPC Lifetime Membership Award Recipient
- Congratulations to Faye Westfall, DiMare Fresh, Inc.
Terry Vorhees Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
- Congratulations to Rick Estess, RPE
Overall, I am taking much more back with me than a recap story, and I trust those among the thousands in attendance did as well. What a kick-off to this year’s trade show season!