The Southeast Produce Council Southern Exposure Expo in Tampa, FL March 1-3 is a great place for networking and deal-making – but it also offers some amazing educational opportunities. SEPC’s new partnership with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) will continue at Southern Exposure, along with virtual tours of farming and distribution operations and an up-close look at understanding blockchain technology and how to apply it to issues like traceability.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in Tampa. And just to show you what you’re missing if you skip the workshops, we follow below with a video look back at the all-star panel presentations from SEPC’s Southern Innovations show on Hilton Head, SC in September.

Fresh from the Farm Field Trips
Tampa Convention Center – Rooms 18 & 19
Friday, March 2, 2018
8:00am – 9:15am

Fresh from the Farm Field Trips is a video series that brings the farm to Southern Exposure attendees by providing them with a fun and educational virtual field trip experience to learn more about the grower/shipper side of the produce industry.

This year’s Fresh from the Farm Field Trips will feature four SEPC member farms/distributors:

  • B&W Quality Growers in Fellsmere, Florida
  • Florida Classic Growers in Haines City, Florida
  • Nickey Gregory Company in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Robinson Fresh in Tifton, Georgia

The theme of this year’s Southern Exposure is “Where Produce Is King” — fittingly, the virtual field tours will have Elvis Presley as host (we’ve heard rumor it’s actually Michel Jenks of ReedTMS).

The Power of Produce
Tampa Convention Center – Rooms 20 & 21
Friday, March 2, 2018
9:30am – 10:45am

After a successful workshop collaboration at the SEPC’s Southern Innovations Organics & Foodservice Expo, the Southeast Produce Council is thrilled to be teaming up with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) to present its signature research, The Power of Produce, at Southern Exposure 2018. This innovative union will result in the unveiling of future Power of Produce reports at Southern Exposure beginning in 2019.

Food Marketing Institute proudly advocates on behalf of the food retail industry. The Power of Produce analysis reveals shopper habits regarding fruits and vegetables pre-trip, in-store, and at home, as well as hundreds of shopper suggestions on how to improve the produce department.

For food retailers looking to use the produce department to set themselves apart, this report gives insights into the shopper’s produce purchasing process and the real power produce can bring to their store’s business. The analysis, conducted by 210 Analytics and supported by data from IRI and Nielsen, also reveals strategies for food retailers to consider as they bolster their produce merchandising and marketing programs.

The research previously made possible by the generous support of Hillphoenix and Yerecic Label will now receive additional funding from the Southeast Produce Council, as well, creating a dynamic unification within the produce industry.

FMI Vice President of Fresh Foods Rick Stein commented on the partnership saying, “Food retail continues to be the produce stronghold, so the opportunity to debut research that offers an in-depth look at produce through the eyes of the shopper at the premier platform for the produce industry complemented our goals for reaching an insights-hungry audience. I look forward to annually presenting the findings at SEPC’s Southern Exposure featuring some of the produce industry’s most influential professionals.”

Connecting the Dots: Traceability & Transparency Through Blockchain Technology
Tampa Convention Center – Rooms 18 & 19
Friday, March 2, 2018
11:00am – 12:15pm

Here at SPW we have a note hanging on the board where we keep the burning questions of the day that simply reads, “Find out more about what the heck ‘blockchain’ means…”

Here’s our chance and yours. These experts will explain it all:



Brigid McDermott
Vice President of Blockchain Business Development






Frank Yiannas
Vice President of Food Safety






Brendan Solan
Director of Supply Chain Platform






Melanie Nuce
Senior Vice President of Corporate Development



Now as promised, here’s a video look back at the SEPC Southern Innovations workshops from September. Warning: attendance was standing room only a these and wall-to-wall, so make your reservations now!

Here, in their own words, the Southern Innovations experts talk about making that next level leap in marketing in these increasingly critical segments.

First up, SEPC Education Committee Chair Harold Paivarinta of Red Sun Farms talks about the need and reason for these particular workshops — and the extraordinary success they enjoyed on Hilton Head. The Education Committee brainstorms and implements industry-relevant educational workshops and speakers for SEPC events. If you have ideas or would like to get involved email for more information.

Getting to the Root of Organic Matters

Friday, September 29th

You Can Download The Entire Workshop HERE

A collaboration of the Organic Produce Network and The Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) The Power of Produce 2017, a survey of 1,700 people overlaid with IRi and Nielsen data. This data-centric dig into the benchmarks and opportunity gaps in the organic industry today was a sellout hit featuring:

 Anne-Marie Roerink, Principal, 210 Analytics, LLC

Providing customized research and marketing strategies with a specialty in food retailing. Through countless studies and presentations for audiences large and small, Anne-Marie has developed an excellent perspective on the changing nature of the shopper and the food retailing business. Anne-Marie offers a diverse and in-depth view on retailing financials, operations and shopper behavior, and how/why these issues are important to various organizations, today and in the future.

Christian Harris, Vice President Fresh Produce, US Foods

Harris is responsible for all aspects of the Rosemont, IL based distributor and responsible for all aspects of the company’s fresh produce business, overseeing 60 distribution centers across the United States serving more than 250,000 customers every day. Prior to joining US Foods in 2015, Chris served as a Director with Robinson Fresh and in a management position with Fresh & Easy (Tesco). He began his career with one of Europe’s largest lettuce growers in southern England before relocating to the United States in 2004.

 Kristin Yerecic, Yerecic Label

Yerecic represents the third generation in the family business, coming onboard in 2014 as the company’s Marketing Manager. As a proud Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism graduate focused on strategic communication, content marketing and business; Kristin mixes data with strategy to determine how the produce industry can best market their products on-pack. Here she talks about reaching the Millenial organic shopper. A self-designated foodie, Kristin enjoys trying the latest culinary trends, with green smoothies, locally sourced and Build Your Own menus being some of her favorite hot trends.

What’s On The Menu For The Future? A Slice Into Foodservice Trends And How We Should Prepare For Tomorrow’s Consumers’ Appetites

Friday, September 29th

You Can Download The Entire Workshop HERE

Ronnie L. De La Cruz, De La Cruz Consulting & Training

De La Cruz provides industry talks, consulting, expert witness, and training services for the breadth of the Fresh Produce supply and distribution channel through to retail and foodservice market segments. The hallmark of his work is highly customized consulting targeted at a client’s specific needs and timelines. He’s also well known for his interactive and motivational speaking and training style geared at imparting “Real-world know-how” to his audience & trainees. He works with the full range of the supply channel from seed companies looking at bringing new varieties to market, to grower/shippers, wholesalers, retailers, and foodservice distributors on a range of issues from post-harvest technology, quality and handling, to sales and marketing restructure and strategies – all the way to consumers.

Jacquelyn Chi, The Culinary Institute of America

Chi is associate director for programs and special projects for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). In this role, Jacquelyn supports program planning for the college’s annual thought leadership conferences and initiatives, and oversees the Appetites + Innovation National Leadership Collaborative for Retail Foodservice (A+I). Launched in 2015, A+I aims to advance culinary excellence, health and wellness, sustainability, and cultures of innovation in retail food service. Prior to joining the CIA, Jacquelyn earned her MA in International Communication from American University, where she researched food as a tool of public diplomacy, and the social construction of authenticity in foreign eating experiences.

Jeff Tant, Corp. Produce Director, Performance Food Group

Tant is the Corporate Produce Director for Performance Food Group and has 15 years of Broad Line Food Service Experience. His foodservice career began with US Foods, and for the past four years he has been with PFG. PFG has 35 Operating Companies (Distribution Centers), and Jeff works hand-in-hand with Produce Category Managers/Buyers/QA Teams to help grow their Produce sales. He also gives sales calls, sales meetings, training seminars, and works with growers, shippers and suppliers. Prior to the Foodservice industry, Jeff spent 15 years in the retail grocery business; most of those years with Harris Teeter in many different store management positions.

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