SPC gathering in Tampa for Southern Exposure 2010
by Gordon M. Hochberg | February 23, 2010
The Southeast Produce Council is expecting strong attendance -- especially
from retailers in the Southeast and Northeast -- at its seventh annual Retail &
Foodservice Conference & Exposition, set for March 4-6 in Tampa, FL.
The conference and expo, known as Southern Exposure 2010, will also see
the mix of education sessions, field tours, social events and networking
opportunities that have made it consistently one of the premier events in the
"When I think about total numbers, if you look at exhibitors and attendees,
I'm thinking it'll probably come in pretty close to last year," SPC Executive
Director Terry Vorhees told The Produce News Feb. 4. "It's still hard to say"
with the conference a few weeks away, "but that number is going to fall
around 1,100 to 1,200."
He continued, "What's up this year is the retail and foodservice attendees.
We've got a lot more new companies -- retail particularly -- that are
attending for the first time." While the conference will see a very strong
presence, as always, from retailers based in the Southeast, such as Sweetbay,
Publix and Winn-Dixie, this year's event will see "tremendous turnout out of
the Northeast," said Mr. Vorhees, mentioning as just some examples
D'Agostino Inc., Key Food Stores Cooperative, Wegmans Food Markets, Price
Chopper Supermarkets, Shaw's Supermarkets, Stop & Shop, Hannaford
Supermarkets, A&P, Kings Super Markets and Roche Bros.
The event will begin, as usual, with a golf tournament at 1 p.m. Thursday,
March 4, at the Lake Jovita Golf Club. The awards dinner for the golfers will
take place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Friday's activities will begin at 8 a.m. with two field tours.
The first stop will be Clear Springs Packing LLC. Situated on 18,000 acres in
Bartow, FL, about midway between Tampa and Orlando, attendees will have
the opportunity, among other things, to see the latest in innovative land use
and production management practices on the company's 220-acre blueberry
The group will then go to DiMare Fresh's Tampa location, first for a barbecue
lunch, then for a tour of the facility, which primarily specializes in the
repacking and packaging of all tomato varieties, with state-of-the-art
equipment servicing retail, foodservice and quick-serve restaurant
A Produce for Kids reception (by invitation) will take place from 5 p.m. to 6
p.m. at the Marriott Waterside Hotel, followed by the Sponsors VIP reception
(by invitation) from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., also at the Marriott. The gala opening
party with the theme, "I Love the '80s," will take place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
at the Marriott.
"It's really going to be good," said Mr. Vorhees. "The whole conference has
this 'I Love the '80s' theme," and the opening gala party will really reflect that.
A "DJ-VJ," as Mr. Vorhees described him, will play hits from the 1980s, and a
60-inch screen will show television hit shows from the era. There will also be
prizes for attendees whose attire best reflects the 1980s.
Saturday's events will begin with two education workshops at the Tampa
The first, called Production Trends Shaping our Industry: Traceability/Food
Safety, Sustainability & Locally Grown, will be held from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
Ronnie L. De La Cruz of De La Cruz Consulting & Training will moderate this
session. On the panel will be Edith Garrett, vice president of quality and
safety for Danaco Solutions LLC; Tony DiMare, vice president of DiMare Co.;
and Kevin M. Delaney, director of corporate sustainability and productivity for
Procacci Bros. Sales Corp.
The second, called Marketing & Merchandising Trends: WIC Nutrition
Program, Consumer Trends in This Economy and Social Marketing, will be
held from 9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Heidi McIntyre, president of McIntyre
Marketing Inc., will moderate this session. On the panel will be Lorelei
DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the United Fresh Produce
Association; John Avola, market and Internet development manager at
Produce for Kids; and Dick McKellogg, produce and floral director for Lowes
Food Stores Inc.
The keynote luncheon follows, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., where the
council's third annual Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Peter
Pero III of Pero Family Farms. The Produce News is a co-sponsor of this
award. Greg Link, a recognized authority on leadership, sales and marketing
as well as co-founder and president of CoveyLink Worldwide, will then deliver
the keynote speech, with the theme, The Speed of Trust.
Immediately following the luncheon, the expo will open with a ribbon-
cutting ceremony at 1:30 p.m., also at the convention center.
There were 95 exhibitors at the council's first expo in 2004 in Lakeland, FL.
That number had jumped to 192 last year in Tampa. The decision was made
after last year to "max this out" at 200, and that figure will be the cap "for the
foreseeable future," said Mr. Vorhees.
New this year at the expo: "We will have three individuals yet to be
determined who will be on the trade show floor" judging which booths best
reflect the "I Love the '80s" theme. Those individuals (not directors, board
members or exhibitors, noted Mr. Vorhees) will announce the first-, second-
and third-place winners on the trade show floor around 5:30 p.m., about a
half-hour before the expo closes. The council intends to continue that
contest at all future expos.
The 2010 Southern Exposure will conclude with the closing reception from
7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Marriott.
Asked why he thought the annual event has grown so much and been so
successful in its short history, Mr. Vorhees offered a few reasons.
"One is the size of the trade show," he stated. "It doesn't get too huge. It
gives the retailers enough time, it gives the exhibitors enough time." Also,
"those people that are on the trade show floor -- 95 percent of them are
people that buy the exhibitors' products. They're the decision-makers."
He shared a quote from Robert Van Liew of Associated Wholesalers Inc. in
Robesonia, PA, as to why Southern Exposure is so successful: "Friendly
people, focused event; large enough to be cost effective, small enough to be
Mr. Vorhees also pointed to the historical importance of the Southeast in
supplying such a varied volume of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially
during the spring and fall seasons, to retailers throughout the United States,
particularly those in the Midwest and along the entire Eastern Seaboard.
Finally, Mr. Vorhees noted the networking opportunities as well as the old-
fashioned idea of people meeting face to face in the age of e-mails and
Internet communications. "One of the goals behind the council when we
started was to put a face to a name," he said. "And I think what's happened is
that a lot of those folks [retailers] may have been talking on the phone to a
grower-shipper down here but didn't get the opportunity as much as they'd
like to be able to come down and actually meet with those growers."
And in fact, "We have more going on the field tours than we've ever had," said
Mr. Vorhees. And of course, he quipped, "It's pretty nice down here in March."