Southern Innovations Expo has become one of our favorite events of the year and is best described as “where good meets gracious,” to borrow from the stellar keynote! The Southeast Produce Council and the incredible SEPC staff believe wholeheartedly in the power of community.
While our fearless leader joined us (she wouldn’t pass up a chance to go to the Music City!), we also had two new DMAers join to attend their first ever fresh produce tradeshow. SEPC gave us a warm southern welcome, and we would not have expected anything less! With intentional and thought-out educational sessions, new products on the show floor, phenomenal speakers, and great live music, the DMA team thoroughly enjoyed the show and left more inspired than ever about the innovation and positive trends surrounding fresh produce. Here is what blew us away at Southern Innovations in Nashville.
Memorable Keynote Speaker
The keynote speaker, Steve Robinson, former CMO of Chick-fil-A, delivered an exceptional speech on the importance of having your brand’s story on center stage. One of our favorite points: “you are never a great brand without a great culture.” This motto pushed the Chick-fil-A brand to success. It is pivotal for businesses to build trust and loyalty in the team first, and then have the goal to positively influence all you come into contact with. Steve talked about the importance of being a faithful steward, and that each organization needs to have a clarity of purpose, which is how you evaluate all of your efforts.
This was reaffirming for us to hear, as we have spent the past several years honing our culture, values and focusing on our purpose: To inspire demand for fresh fruits and vegetables. We are just diving in and highly recommend Steve’s new book, Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A.
Enriching Education Sessions
The educational sessions were a hot topic on the show floor and received great feedback. We loved the ample amount of facts and research that went into each session as well as the panel discussions.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Organics But Were Afraid to Ask
The panel pointed out the ever-growing population of organic shoppers, and how the organic shopper profile is continuing to evolve. They indicated that the core organic shopper is now between the ages of 36-45 years of age with college and/or graduate degrees, and an annual household income above $125,000. It was interesting to note, that the top five organic items are strawberries/blueberries, apples, carrots, bananas and tomatoes - representing 48.5% of organic dollar sales. It is evident that produce is powerful and more and more people are seeing its impact and importance.
Trending Produce in Foodservice
Fresh produce is taking on an increasingly pivotal role in foodservice. Consumers want to know if their produce is local, who grew it, and where it comes from. It’s our mission as fresh produce marketers to support these communities by sharing our stories, being transparent and building trust. A huge takeaway was the ever-growing awareness of food waste being at an all time high. And awareness should be growing with an average of 40% of food not being used and thrown out! It is our job, as the produce industry, to share the story of food waste and build awareness around the importance of this movement.
The Next Generation Award
Congratulations to the winner of the Next Generation Award, Andrew Hare, General Manager of Vertical Roots. Andrew was honored with this award for being a young professional within the industry that sets the example of a true produce leader that has made a significant contribution. This SEPC organization is filled with great purpose as it supports and honors young entrepreneurs making a difference. SEPC also has two long standing programs, STARS and STEP-UPP, which were created to attract and develop talent in the industry.
New Products on the Showfloor
The greenhouse industry in fresh produce remains in a tremendous trajectory of growth fueled by innovative varieties of tomatoes and other vegetables. Yet, the “why greenhouse story” has yet to reach mainstream audiences, in our opinion. So, we were blown away by the innovative packaging unveiled by Brighthouse Organics. The package is shaped like the greenhouse the product is grown in creating an immediate connection to the story they are trying to communicate with consumers. What is smarter than placing your greenhouse-grown product in a clamshell in the shape of a greenhouse? - Innovative!
Nothing is better than easy-to-grab snacks, whether you are looking for a power-filled post workout boost or just everyday snacking! Knowing that the average consumer is looking for more than just fruit, Naturipe Farms created a snack pack that is balanced and full of nutrients for health-conscious foodies. Their new snack pack is filled with an assortment of strawberries, blueberries and grapes paired with protein-rich nuts and specialty cheeses. Naturipe provided a variety of combos that will supply protein, fiber, vitamin C and calcium with flavors from sweet to savory and mild to spicy. Keeping portability in mind, Naturipe hit the bullseye with this healthy and convenient snack pack.
There seemed to be an all-natural salad dressing trend on the show floor! Mother Raw stood out to us with their idea to provide consumers with all natural, organic, vegan, non-GMO (the list goes on) dressings, dips AND condiments. The samples they provided were delicious and inspired by nature. They truly brought light to the importance of plant-based items that steer away from all the preservatives and artificial ingredients you typically find in your average foods (like ketchup or barbeque sauce!). Mother Raw believes in the power of plants, and their core ingredients range from cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil to unfiltered apple cider vinegar to hemp seed.
Building on the natural salad dressing trend, we have to give a shout out to Satur Farms, who came up with the innovative idea to provide consumers with individual one-time-use organic salad dressing pouches. Their products are not just organic, but are grown in North Fork Long Island exclusively with clean ingredients by Satur Farms. This makes on-the-go eating, travel and food transportation clean and simple with their 1 oz salad dressing pouches.
Cece’s Veggie Co.
Craving ramen? (And we’re not talking about those cheap microwaveable packs you ate in college!) Cece’s Veggie Co. presented a new and creative way to get your noodle fix. Many food experts credit New York’s Momofuku Noodle Bar with igniting the ramen craze in North America, and smart produce brands are identifying ways to capitalize on this. Combining the ramen trend with the plant-based trend, Cece’s created a convenience pack of noodled zucchini ramen that we can’t wait to get our hands on in stores.
Dubbed the Music City, you simply can’t have a tradeshow in Nashville without live music! It was a sweet surprise to hear many of our favorite country songs sung live throughout the show floor. If you know us well, you won’t be surprised to hear that Dan’l, our owner and CEO, was the first to take the stage during the open mic portion of the evening for a little karaoke! We also appreciated that there were delicious snacks, treats and drinks around every corner. SEPC did a great job of supplying plenty of tables and chairs for the attendees and spaced out the booths beautifully.
The 2019 Southern Innovations show provided attendees and exhibitors alike with an enriched tradeshow experience, filled with southern hospitality, new and familiar faces and stand-out new products. It is evident that SEPC is about the community they seek to serve first and foremost, and it showed! Through rich networking experiences and on-point education, to spectacular keynote speakers and charitable giving and involvement, SEPC’s desire to make a difference in the industry holds strong and we can’t wait to see more from this people-centric association in the future, like in Tampa in February 2020 for the Southern Exposure Expo! Will we see you there?
Also make sure you save the date for next September - Southern Innovations 2020 will take place September 18th-20th in Savannah, Georgia!