Southeast Produce Council's David Sherrod Discusses Southern Innovations Organics and Foodservice Expo
NASHVILLE, TN - Southeast Produce Council’s (SEPC) Southern Innovations Organics and Foodservice Expo is upon us, and the time has come to brace for the whirlwind of offerings hitting our industry by storm and changing the face of food offerings.
The upcoming event will take place September 6-8 in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. Further, as we inch closer to 2019, you might want to get your calendars out and ready for the marking. In March of next year, the organization will host its groundbreaking regional retail-focused event, Southern Exposure. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though, and focus on the here and now, and boy, is it inspiring!
“It combines the retail grocery and restaurant foodservice channels all in one location. This expo will provide a valuable connection between the retailer and the restaurateur to help the grower community develop and deliver quality organic products to all locations where consumers are buying fresh produce,” David Sherrod, SEPC’s President and CEO, tells me. “We will be providing two excellent sessions this year—one on menu creation and the other on organic merchandising.”
With industry events available all over the country, I ask what sets this one apart from the rest. David tells me that it is all in its vision and focus on an intimate atmosphere that harvests strong and lasting business relationships. The event has taken time to craft, as the organization listened to the needs of the industry and region.
“Even though this is the 18th year for our annual fall conference, this is just the second year for Southern Innovations Organics and Foodservice Expo. The vision of the conference came from a strategic meeting that the Board of Directors had in 2016,” David shares with me on the event’s exciting opportunities. “It originated in a definite need in our marketing area to provide a platform to focus on two growing sectors in our region: organics and foodservice. Each of these segments are starting to drive such a large amount of total sales in the region that we decided to create an event for them in our own back yard.”
This year’s SEPC happenings boast of plenty of networking and educational opportunities. Phil Lempert, Supermarket Guru, will navigate two panels, which will be served by three top grocery retailers, two top restaurant chain chefs and a home meal delivery service expert. DMA Solutions’ Dan’l Mackey Almy and retired football coach Steve Spurrier will be keynote speakers at the event, too. To find out information on the sessions, attendees can go to the event’s app. The goal of these panels and the easily accessible information on the event is to put SEPC’s people first throughout the entirety of the event experience—but not without throwing some distinctively Southern fun in the mix. The organization’s theme this year is country western.
When I ask David why it is so crucial to have a premier industry event centrally located on the East Coast, he tells me it is all about location, location, location in the business world. SEPC, he specifies, is a testament to that, as it caters to the region and industry this September.
“We were asked by many of our members to provide a platform on the East Coast to help in the expense associated with traveling to other venues. The East Coast, especially the Southeast, is rich with some of the country’s top retailers, grower/shippers, and restaurant chains, and they all see the value SEPC brings to the table. Our goal is to provide an opportunity for more people to be exposed to a world class event closer to home.”
Always keeping an eye on the whole picture when planning the event, David makes sure to wrap the best of all worlds into SEPC’s offerings. He tells me that he keeps SEPC’s members’ business wants and needs front-of-mind in an exclusive environment that breeds great results. With the 20th anniversary coming up next year, the organization has plans to keep that methodology going—keeping participants connected and invested in the well-being of organics and foodservice business. The reason, he tells me, is that people want connection. At the end of the day, our stake in our businesses is always personal, and David tells me that SEPC makes sure to bring that perspective to the industry.
“We put our people first when we plan the events, and then we add our true Southern hospitality that can’t be found anywhere else in the country,” he shares.
With notebook in hand and pen ready for the writing, we at AndNowUKnow can’t wait to see what stems from the work planted at this year’s event.