The Southeast Produce Council's 2015 conference and trade show could see record overall attendance, with excellent representation as always from the key retail and foodservice sides of the produce industry, according to one of the leaders of the council.
Total attendance at last year's conference and trade show, which is known as Southern Exposure, was 1,748, of which 361 were from the retail and foodservice sectors, according to SEPC Executive Director David Sherrod. For Southern Exposure 2015, "We have a little over 1,700 to date, and we're expecting over 1,800," he told The Produce News. "And right now we're at 382" from the retail and foodservice sectors.
"We continually see increases in attendance year after year, and we're excited about that," he stated. "There will be retailers from all over the United States and Canada. There will be a lot of decision-makers walking the show."
Southern Exposure 2015 will take place Feb. 25-28 at the Caribe Royale All Suite Hotel & Convention Center in Orlando, FL.
Last year's conference and trade show also took place at the Caribe Royale, so the number of exhibitor booths last year, 267, will be the same this year. There is a waiting list of companies wanting to exhibit at this extremely popular show, and the council will be able to accommodate some of them in 2016 when Southern Exposure will take place at a new venue: the Curio Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, FL.
For the upcoming event in Orlando, a number of committee and directors' meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 25, but the action really begins Thursday morning, Feb. 26, with the Tom Page Golf Classic, at the Reunion Golf Club, about 15 minutes from the hotel. This annual tournament should conclude around 1:30 p.m., with a lunch and awards reception right after the tournament, running to around 3:30 p.m.
A new event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. that same day: the Southern Roots luncheon. Southern Roots is the council's new leadership program for women in produce. Skiing champion Picabo Street will be the featured speaker at this luncheon, which is by invitation only.
From 6 p.m to 7 p.m., SEPC member Walter P. Rawl & Sons Inc. will hold a very special reception, also by invitation only, celebrating its 90th anniversary. "Ashley [Rawl] has been a big supporter of the council for many years," said Sherrod. "This is a big milestone in that company's history. We're so glad that they choose to have this celebration at our venue."
The dinner for participants in the Southeast Training Education Program for Upcoming Produce Professionals, known as STEP-UPP, and the Southeast Top Agricultural Recruits Scholarship, known as STARS, will take place from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Friday's events will begin with two workshops. The first, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., is titled Save the Queen Documentary. Edwin Stepp, president of Django Productions LLC in Pasadena, CA, will talk about his "Save the Queen" documentary, which focuses on the honeybee and the threat of Colony Collapse Disorder, which was first identified in 2006 as a primary cause of the decline of bee populations all over the world. Attendees of this workshop will be the first to view segments of this documentary and hear from Stepp, according to the SEPC website.
Eric Sorensen, a consultant to a number of produce companies, will also speak at this workshop and "put the topic into perspective for all members of the produce industry," said Sherrod.
The second workshop, dubbed Ask a Retailer Game Show, will take place from 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Audience members will have the opportunity to challenge a panel of experts with questions about the retail side of the produce industry. The four panel members will be Jay Schneider of Acme Markets, Chris Dove of Delhaize America, Gary Myracle of Associated Wholesale Grocers and Scott Bennett of Jewel Osco. Reggie Griffin of Reggie Griffin Strategies will be the judge at this 1950s-style game show and will award points to the best answer to each question. The council will then make a donation in the winner's name to the winner's charity of choice.
Three receptions are scheduled next, all by invitation only. The directors' retail/foodservice appreciation lunch will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m., the Produce for Kids reception will be held from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the Sponsors VIP reception will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. These will be followed by the always popular gala opening party, which saw record attendance last year.
Saturday's events begin at 10 a.m. with the keynote luncheon. The council's Lifetime Achievement Award, which was begun in 2008 in partnership with The Produce News, will be presented posthumously to Terry Vorhees, the council's first executive director and one of its founders.
Also at this luncheon, football legend Archie Manning will deliver the keynote address. When people think of Manning, they think football, but his appeal transcends his athletic achievements. He was selected Father of the Year by the National Father's Day Council, and he currently serves in public relations and consulting capacities for several local, regional and national companies.
"We are very happy to have someone with his legacy," Sherrod told The Produce News in a previous interview. "The family he comes from is so well known to people in the South and around the country. He will be a very inspiring speaker, and we are really looking forward to listening to him."
The trade show, which will immediately follow the keynote luncheon, is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. and run until 6 p.m.
The closing reception will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Sherrod was eagerly looking forward to all of the social and business activities that comprise Southern Exposure 2015. But he was quick to point out three components to all of the council's events during the year that make the Southeast Produce Council the unique organization it is. One is networking opportunities that attract newcomers and veterans alike; another is educational opportunities in programs like STEP-UPP and STARS; and finally there is the council's ongoing commitment to charitable organizations, including its newest program, Sneakers for Charity, which benefits the Society of St. Andrew.
The USApple Association, its members and industry supporters are once again partnering to engage with consumers on social media each day during February’s American Heart Month to spotlight apples’ essential role in heart health. The association’s award-winning “28 Days of Apples” initiative returns for 2015 after successfully engaging with more than 15 million consumers last year by highlighting 28 ways and reasons apples are healthy for our hearts and bodies.
In August, USApple’s “28 Days of Apples’ initiative won top Social Media Campaign at the American Agricultural Editors’ Association Communications Awards. In December, it won best Producer-Funded Consumer PR Campaign in regional Best of NAMA Awards.
With the support of nearly 20 members and supporting brands and organizations, this year’s campaign will feature the following:
“With American Heart Month, February becomes an important health moment and national platform for our industry to remind consumers about the proven ways daily apple consumption supports lowering bad cholesterol, contributes to improved circulation and leads to trimmer waistlines,” Wendy Brannen, director of consumer health and public relations for USApple, said in a press release.
“’28 Days of Apples’ is customized for engaging with individuals in the exact way they now consume their news — on the go, in small visual bites and on social channels," she said. "We are very grateful to our members and supporters for joining in this initiative by providing daily prizes to consumers who engage with or share our health information. It’s what truly makes the program so original and such a success.”
Participating sponsors and donors of daily prizes include Borton Fruit, Chelan Fresh Marketing, Crunch Pak, Envy Apples, Hass Avocado Board, Knouse Foods, Michigan Apple Committee, New York Apple Association, New York Apple Sales, Opal Apples, Pennsylvania Apples, Pink Lady America, Rainier Fruit, Red Jacket Orchards, Robin Asbell, Sage Fruit, The Produce Mom and Tree Top.
Total Produce PLC in Dublin, Ireland, has agreed to purchase a 50 percent share in Gambles Ontario Produce Inc., a Toronto-based distributor of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“This partnership with Total Produce will enable us to grow strategically to the benefit of our growers and customers,” Jeff Hughes, president at Gambles Produce, said in a press release. “We will continue to operate autonomously but will have the support of Total Produce and their global affiliations alongside us.”
Gambles Produce is a leading fresh produce distribution company that operates out of two facilities -- the Ontario Food Terminal Market and a 65,000-square-foot distribution center in Toronto, servicing independent retail, wholesale and foodservice operators throughout the province on a daily basis.
Total Produce handles over 200 lines of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers, distributing 300 million cartons annually of fresh produce to the retail, wholesale, foodservice and processing sectors across Europe and North America. It employs more than 4,000 people in over 100 locations across 20 different countries.
This acquisition continues to expand Total Produce’s North American reach. Its initial introduction to the North American market was in 2013, when it acquired shares in Vancouver-based Oppenheimer Group.
“We see this as a great opportunity for our team to continue to learn, develop and explore new opportunities to collaborate with other produce professionals around the world,” Tom Kioussis, vice president of sales, added in the press release. “This will provide our team with opportunities to share new and innovative best-in-class operating practices.”
It will be “business as usual,” according to Hughes of Gambles, who said the industry can expect the same high-quality experience they have always had with Gambles Produce.
“Our day-to-day interactions with our customers and growers will not change,” Hughes added in the press release. “We will remain the same Gambles that our friends in the industry know and enjoy doing business with. If anything, our relationships should only strengthen with new synergies we have with Total Produce.”
Del Monte Fresh Produce’s banana farms in Guatemala and Costa Rica, as well as its pineapple farms in Costa Rica, have been certified as Sustainably Grown by SCS Global Services in accordance with the producer requirements of its internationally recognized Sustainably Grown Standard v 1.3. As a result, certified bananas and pineapples will soon be able to feature the “Kingfisher” eco-label.
Sustainably Grown certification included rigorous independent evaluation of the production, management and distribution processes of the Del Monte farms in Guatemala and Costa Rica. The certified Del Monte farms demonstrated that they have established practices that guarantee the highest level of environmental responsibility, worker protection and quality control.
“For many years, without fanfare and away from spotlights, Del Monte has been working on sustainability initiatives throughout our operations,” Hans Sauter, vice president of corporate research and development and agricultural services at Del Monte, said in a press release. “We are very pleased that our efforts have been validated by a globally recognized independent certifier such as SCS Global Services that uses sound science as the basis for its stringent Sustainably Grown standard. We are very proud of this accomplishment and we are looking forward to expanding the certification program to cover more of our operations.”
“We congratulate Del Monte for this significant accomplishment,” Stanley Rhodes, founder and chief executive officer of SCS, added in the press release. “Achieving the SCS Sustainably Grown certification is by no means an easy task. This standard is based on comprehensive, multifaceted science-based criteria that address all aspects of agricultural operations aimed at minimizing environmental impacts, providing a safe and healthy work environment, and protecting product integrity. The Del Monte banana farms in Guatemala and Costa Rica as well as their pineapple farms in Costa Rica were able to demonstrate that they have the processes and management systems in place to grow their products in a sustainable manner.”
Certification by SCS, as represented by the SCS Kingfisher, is a visual expression of proven commitment to sustainability through environmental stewardship, responsible resource management, and protection of people and communities.
With Valentine's Day right around the corner, Stemilt is featuring Red Delicious as its “Apple of the Month” for February. The company will have in-and-out promotion opportunities on a variety of bag sizes packed in either display-ready cartons or high-graphic half tri-wall bins with "World Famous Apples" messaging.
Stemilt marketing director Roger Pepperl said that promoting large Red Delicious in five-pound or eight-pound bags in weekly ads or in-store specials this February will help retailers exceed normal movement and deliver value to shoppers on an item that makes up a big portion of category sales.
“Red Delicious is an important part of the apple category,” Pepperl said in a press release. “Reds made up 11.2 percent of category sales nationally in November, which is the latest four weeks reported by Nielsen scan data. That’s one Red for every nine apples sold. It’s important to use this value item in retail promotions all year long, and February is an ideal time for Reds to be on prominent display in produce with the entire store focusing on Valentine’s Day and the color red."