ersonal. Connected. Intimate. No one knows how to inspire the full meaning of these words quite like the Southeast Produce Council (SEPC), especially considering the near-constant bustle inherent in each facet of our industry.
As attendee registration begins to fill for this year's upcoming Southern Exposure conference and trade show, the SEPC has infused our penchant for innovation with the same inclusive vibes that keep the produce-minded coming back year after year. And, with a mystical new theme–“The Magic of Produce”–to animate the event, long-time veterans and first-time attendees alike will be sure to glean some glimmering produce nuggets from the three-day span.
Guaranteed to add to the sparkling allure of this year’s show, is the reputation SEPC has built amid some of our industry’s leading retail and foodservice operators. Amongst those estimated 450 buy-side attendees, comes US Foods–steward of culinary trends and lasting innovations.
“US Foods is planning to attend Southern Exposure in Orlando this year, as we have every year since the inception of the Southeast Produce Council. The Southeast region has always been an important part of the US Foods organization and this event, therefore, has been extremely beneficial for our produce team. This year is no different as we are planning meetings, tours, and meals to complement the events the SEPC has planned to take place during Southern Exposure,” Frank Swanson, Senior Manager of Produce Procurement at US Foods, assures me.
So, first off, what's new? To the industry’s delight, SEPC is bringing produce straight to the “most magical place on earth,” Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Directly inspiring Southern Exposure’s enchanting theme, “The Magic of Produce,” this new locale promises to fulfill all your adult and child-like tendencies at once.
The conference, accommodations, and subsequent activities will all be hosted at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort to give attendees an extensive and centralized experience as they navigate the best and brightest offerings in fresh produce, cultivating meaningful relationships along the way.
As Charlie Eagle, Vice President of Business Development at Southern Specialties and Southern Exposure veteran, tells me, he is proud to attend the show on its home turf, but in new digs with even furthered opportunities. “Southern Exposure is our favorite show of the year. The event attracts retailers and foodservice distributors from across the nation to enjoy the Florida sunshine, and see the bounty of the Southeast and what is new in the industry,” he says. “Having the show in our home state also gives us an opportunity to invite attendees to enjoy some ‘Southern Specialties Exposure’ at our Pompano Beach headquarters.”
Southern Exposure is also increasing the number of booths to boost the luster of its show floor. This year’s event will boast 283 booths under one roof, a slight jump up from last year’s 275 stops. The increased number is one that future event-goers can continue to expect, as SEPC has announced a cap on its featured booths. This solidified amount will both give attendees a plethora of booths to frequent while still maintaining the same visceral connectivity for which Southern Exposure is known.
Putting an interesting spin on the magical possibilities the event offers, comes a new keynote speaker to the event. Willie Robertson, star and Executive Producer of famed reality TV show Duck Dynasty, will now round out the event with his colorful takeaways on entrepreneurship and building an empire.
Expect even further opportunities for fun as SEPC continues to run with the fanciful nature of its magical theme throughout the exposition. Southern Exposure will imbibe the possibilities of magic with the possibilities of produce throughout the duration of the event. From its expanded workshops and activities all the way through to a certain number of secretive surprises, this event is sure to leave a memorable mark.
But, as always, the top of the docket for SEPC and Southern Exposure will be the continued focus on treating the event, and the produce industry at-large, as a diverse and intricate family. A multitude of networking events, paired with the innovative nature of the varied workshops offered, will provide attendees with endless moments to touch base and connect with each other–both personally and professionally.
“The SEPC’s Southern Exposure event is one of the most important annual traditions for our family-owned business,” John Shuman, President of Shuman Produce, tells me when I ask him what makes the expo a premiere event for fresh produce leaders. “As a long-standing member of the council, I have always held its goals of networking, education, and community in high regards. The 2017 Southern Exposure promises to be an exciting event as our industry comes together to gain the latest insights and promote our businesses while enjoying the warm Florida weather. Shuman Produce is looking forward to building stronger relationships and sharing our story of family, farms, and legacy.”
SEPC assures that while change will occur every year for Southern Exposure–inspiring and emulating the very innovation it seeks to showcase from its attendees–these progressions will be in unconventional ways rather than just size. As always, from the very roots and foundation of SEPC itself, Southern Exposure is once again encouraging not only new connections to catalyze industry members forward in their business-minded endeavors, but to provide unlimited chance rendezvous that can extend beyond just the professional world into meaningful lifelong associations.
So, with some Florida sun as a winsome backdrop after a long winter, and new opportunities to marry a Mickey Mouse vacation with business, who would want to miss out on this bewitching fun?