SEPC Southern Innovations Symposium Bright Ideas Platform application deadline extended

MILLEN, GA — The announcement last month of the Southeast Produce Council’s new addition of the Bright Ideas Platform to the Southern Innovations Symposium has been buzzing around the industry, creating a high demand for an extension for members to apply until June 29, 2015.

With a new, smaller approach to trade shows, the Bright Ideas Platform will provide exhibitors and attendees the ability to be the first introduced to the newest and most innovative products and services the industry has to offer.bright-ideasHarold Paivarinta With only 50 exhibitor spaces available, this new opportunity sets out to provide intimate and quality driven networking for its members.

“We want to make sure all companies that want to apply for an exhibit space have the opportunity to do so,” SEPC Education Committee Chairman Harold Paivarinta said in a June 15 press release. “We expect record attendance from the retail and foodservice community and know this is an opportunity our members will want to be a part of. We’ve designed this new show so all feel welcome and see it as a beneficial and affordable way to network within the industry.”

All SEPC member companies are invited to apply to exhibit at the Bright Ideas Platform, but space will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications will be reviewed by the SEPC Education Committee and will need to fulfill the following requirements:

  • The qualifying product or service must be scheduled to release to market between March 23, 2015, and Dec. 14, 2015.
  • The qualifying product or service must be new to the Southeast market area.

Southern Innovations Symposium will be held Sept. 17-19, 2015, in Charleston, SC, with the Bright Ideas Platform held Friday, Sept. 18, from 12:30 p.m. to 3 pm. The conference weekend will host additional events such as a Southern Roots networking event, beachside welcome reception, educational workshops, a general session lunch with celebrity guest speakers, the annual President’s Dinner Dance, golf, fishing and a tour of Charleston, as well as the team-inspired Ultimate Tailgate Party.

To apply for exhibit space at the Bright Ideas Platform or to register for the Southern Innovations Symposium, visit

Retail View: Reaching millennials in-store and online

Recent consumer research reveals that 67 percent of millennials — currently 15- to 35-year-olds — shop online, accounting for about 50 percent of all online retail purchases. Other research shows that about 81 percent of all retail purchases by this demographic still occur in a physical store.

This group, which is roughly defined as being born in a 20-year span beginning in the early 1980s and stretching beyond the turn of the millennium, has buying power estimated at $200 billion, and is clearly growing. While baby boomers and Generation Xers currently have more money to spend, and are more inclined to spend it in traditional ways, the rise of the millennials is to be ignored at your own peril.

So which number should you pay attention to? The $180 billion spent in-store or the $20 billion spent online? Both are very important, according to experts. And retailers are listening.

Reportedly both Walmart and Target have plans in the work to expand their order fulfillment distribution centers, creating distribution centers designed solely to handle online shopping. Experts say there are various ways to handle online sales, but fulfilling those orders promptly is very important if you want the millennials to shop your websites. And there are also ways to attract this demographic to you brick and mortar stores by altering your signage and advertising.

According to market research firm GlobalWebIndex, two-thirds of all millennials shop online, and research from IBISWorld, a market research firm, reveals that e-commerce has experienced an annual growth of about 11 percent over the last three years. In order to meet this growing demand from e-commerce sales, retailers have to improve their supply distribution systems through better in-house warehouse management systems or contracting with order fulfillment services. While the Walmarts, Targets and other huge retailers can establish their own dedicated distribution centers for online purchases, smaller retailers and specialty retailers, including in the food category, might be better served by outsourcing these service to a third party. This segment of the business world is growing rapidly but so is demand for the service. IBISWorld said the prices of these products and services are forecast to grow in the next three years, so companies would be best served by seeking long term contracts sooner rather than later.

As far as attracting millennials to your brick and mortar stores, experts say this requires a targeted approach. Traditional advertising and signage doesn’t necessarily appeal to this demographic. Traditional print advertising, characterized by food page ads in your daily newspaper by food retailers, is on its way out. More and more newspapers are closing up shop as online news sources are expanding. To remain competitive and visible, retailers have to use other advertising venues such as social media campaigns, which obviously appeal to this younger demographic.

Media experts say crowdsourcing and integrating digital advertising with more traditional medias buys is the key to success. Not surprisingly, demand for alternative advertising services — such as experts in social media efforts — is on the rise and is expected to continue to increase for several years. Though less expensive than traditional advertising costs, the expense of running a social media campaign is also increasing, according to IBISWorld.

Retailers should also engage experts in search engine marketing (SEM) as this relatively new concept is key to reaching those doing their research online before buying. Millennials are especially adept and interested in looking it up before buying. Members of this demographic were born in the computer era and do not know what it is to not have a computer at their disposal. Reaching them requires using their tool of choice, the experts say.

IBISWorld expects the price of third-party SEM services to increase over the next three years as the demand increase. But this research marketing firm also expects the availability of SEM alternatives, such as affordable software solutions, will slow growth for third-party SEM services and give buyers some negotiating power. It might be time to engage a third-party SEM provider to make sure your on-line products are getting the hits they deserve.

For the 81 percent of shopping that millennials still do in physical stores, retailers should update store fixtures and signage to attract this group.

Upgrades to environmentally friendly options, such as energy-efficient lights and recycled materials, will appeal to the millennial demographic while also lowering costs and reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

Bananas continue to remain at the top when it comes to imports

Bananas continue to maintain a commanding presence in produce departments and consumer shopping carts. “Bananas claim over 50 percent of the volume of fresh fruit imports,” said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. “Excluding bananas, fresh fruit imports rose from 12 percent of domestic consumption in 1990 to around 25 percent during 2005-10.BananaMarketOVBananas rank number one in U.S. per capita fresh fruit consumption, followed by apples and oranges. Sold year-round in the domestic market, bananas rank number one in U.S. per capita fresh fruit consumption, followed by apples and oranges. To meet U.S. demand, bananas are imported, primarily from Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia and Honduras. Excluding bananas, fruit imports increased an average 7 percent annually over the past two decades.”

ERS further noted that, “Although U.S. fruit exports have shown strong growth, the United States has remained a net fruit importer. U.S. fruit imports rose during the last three decades, partly owing to the growing minority ethnic populations in the United States and to an increased demand for new products. Not only have imports expanded for commodities already produced domestically and created competition for U.S. producers, but imports have also increased for nontraditional fruits, especially many tropical fruits.”

Agnes Perez and Kristy Plattner, authors of the U.S. Department of Agriculture publication “Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook,” published on March 27, provided some insights about banana pricing. According to Perez and Plattner, the January consumer price index for fresh fruit rose 2 percent when compared to January 2014 and remained relatively unchanged in February. Despite these overall increases, banana pricing showed a decline.

“Banana retail prices fell below a year ago in January despite an 8 percent decline in import supplies,” they reported. “Greater volume at the end of last year likely provided a buffer for supplies going into 2015, but the cold weather may have also slowed demand. [Agricultural Marketing Service] data indicate import shipments through early March continue to run behind a year ago, including volumes from major U.S. sources for imported bananas such as Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras, likely supporting prices.”

Perez and Plattner reported that the unit price of a pound of bananas in January was $0.583 and $0.591 in February.

The dust continues to settle following the news that the globally recognized Chiquita brand bananas had been acquired by Cutrale and Grupo Safra. Alistair Smith, international coordinator for Banana Link, wrote his observations about the acquisition on Jan. 20. “The news has implications for hundreds of thousands of people involved in producing Chiquita brand bananas,” he said in an article published at “A quick look at history gives us a glimpse of the potential contradiction that this latest big step towards the ‘Latin Americanization’ of the banana industry represents.”

According to Smith, Cutrale accounts for one third of global orange juice trade and, along with Safra, has acquired Chiquita Brands International’s interests in pineapple and other juices.

“It is reported that the U.S. $1.3 billion price tag for Cutrale and Safra — more than double the original bid last August — includes a compensation payment to Fyffes for losing the race to acquire Chiquita stock,” Smith stated. “What is less sure, however, is where the new company will go in the near and longer-term future. A question which transcends the significance of any big numbers, though, is: what will the new owners and management do with the last much more positive 15 years of Chiquita’s history?”

According to Smith, questions regarding Cutrale’s commitment to improving worker and trade union relations have been raised. “The signal from Cutrale in particular will also be watched and analyzed very closely by many whose livelihoods depend on the scenarios now unfolding. But the orange juice king has a real golden opportunity to make good history. Many will be there to support such a process and build on Chiquita’s leadership in setting up the ground-breaking World Banana Forum,” he said.

On April 20, reported that Del Monte is interested in making financial investments to revive banana production in Baru, Panama.

“Previous negotiations were suspended earlier this year when the sale was announced of Chiquita Brands to the Brazilian consortium Cutrale-Safra, who requested an extension of the deadline for negotiations until next December,” the organization wrote. “However, the company Del Monte has also shown interest in reviving the banana lands, and will be reviewing and updating its proposal for presentation at the next meeting.”

Isaiah Bonilla, president of the Association of Agricultural Producers said the investment would range between $36-40 million.

Lidl coming to U.S. market

Lidl, a leading European retailers, has confirmed its plans to expand into the U.S. market. The company will locate its U.S. corporate headquarters in Arlington County, Virginia, and will open a regional headquarters and distribution center facility in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Brendan Proctor will be president and chief executive officer for Lidl US.

Proctor made the announcement alongside Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe after meeting with leaders of the company at Lidl's international headquarters in Neckarsulm, Germany.

"We are excited to take this important step to launch Lidl's expansion into the United States and look forward to introducing American consumers to a different type of shopping experience," said Proctor. "Our philosophy is simple: We are focused on offering customers top quality products at the most competitive pricing in convenient locations. We plan to build on the foundation that has made Lidl so successful in Europe, while creating a unique experience for American consumers that will be unlike anything else in the market."

One of the largest retailers in the world, Lidl operates nearly 10,000 stores in 26 countries throughout Europe. Lidl markets offer customers fresh meat, produce and bakery items, as well as a wide selection of household goods, at the lowest possible prices.

"We want to thank Governor Terry McAuliffe, as well as the teams in Arlington and Spotsylvania, who recognized Lidl's potential and worked with us to bring Lidl to the area. We are honored to work with this incredible team of professionals who have laid the groundwork for Lidl's success in the United States," said Proctor.

Mann Packing's fresh take on sweet potatoes and Butternut squash

Sweet potatoes and Butternut squash have a new look thanks to a unique way of cutting fresh vegetables into shapes that will inspire creativity for everyday meals.CC Recipe ButternutSquash Comp 2015

Mann’s Culinary Cuts are a new line of fresh cut vegetables cut into distinctive shapes, including Sweet potato ribbons and Butternut squash zigzags. The vegetables are washed and ready to cook and versatile enough for multiple uses such as salads, stir-frys, soups and casseroles. Ideal for a pasta swap, these fresh vegetables are all natural, preservative free and gluten free.

Mann Packing Co. also created new-to-the-world products such as Broccoli Wokly, Broccoli Cole Slaw and Stringless Sugar Snap Peas.

The shapes created by Mann’s cutting equipment are almost impossible to replicate by a home cook, and a culinary professional would need specialized tools to duplicate.

CC Recipe SweetPotato Comp 2015Mann’s Culinary Cuts have been in test markets across the country and will now be available to customers nationwide.

Each package contains four to five one-cup servings and can be prepared in four minutes or less in the microwave, sautéed, steamed or on the stovetop. Detailed cooking instructions are included in each package as well as three unique recipes and usage ideas.

“I’m a mom and I know it can be a battle to get kids to eat their vegetables,” Lorri Koster, Mann's chief executive officer, said in a press release. “We made Culinary Cuts for parents who want to make healthy eating fun, but also for the everyday home cook who’s looking for some creativity to spark tonight’s dinner.”

Mann created a micro-site,, to provide a community for sharing recipes, serving ideas and notifications about where to find the items on sale.

“Culinary Cuts help solve the recipe rut,” Koster said in the release. “Shoppers want variety but often lack the time or skill to plan in advance. We help defeat meal fatigue where you cook the same ingredients the same way; one look at these new cuts and you’ll be inspired to get into the kitchen.”

The product line was two years in development involving extensive consumer research, test markets, professional recipe development and online research.