What Blew Us Away (#WBUA) at Southern Exposure 2022

Have you ever laughed so hard that your stomach muscles hurt?  Have you ever talked so much that you lost your voice? Have you ever attended an event feeling full of gratitude for the work that you do simply because of the people and leaders you have the opportunity to work with each day? We have.

And all of these describe the way we feel today after attending Southern Exposure in Orlando.  With so many people to see, hands to shake, and things to learn, we are home and ready to share with you what blew us away during this year’s popular industry event.

Tradeshows Feel Like Home Again

This year, after 2+ years of navigating the unknowns in the midst of a pandemic, we left Southern Exposure feeling confident about our industry’s future. We are happy to report that this year’s show yielded record attendance (with 2,800 people) and the positive energy was so thick, you could cut it with a potato peeler.

DMA Team at Southern Exposure 2022


The Power of Produce is Real

Now in its 7th year, the Power of Produce is one of the most sought-after educational sessions for produce professionals to attend each year at Southern Exposure. This session is jam-packed with valuable insights from FMI, 210 Analytics, and a panel that included representatives from Target, Sam’s Club, and Albertson’s. We learned about the economics that impacts purchases, trends, and consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Here are some takeaways that we feel are most important for marketers to know:

  • While shoppers are spending the same amount of money on produce, the volume purchased is being impacted due to inflation.
  • Berries and salad kits were classified as “pandemic powerhouses” in terms of sales, while product categories like mixed fruit and pineapples were purchased less.
  • Market size for organic produce outgrew the rate of growth of conventional produce.
  • People will make room in their budgets for organic produce as they perceive it as “better for them” than conventional produce.
  • Plant-based proteins are still on the rise! According to the study, 73% of people occasionally opt to get their protein from a source other than meat. 
  • 59% of respondents in the study purchase specific fruits and vegetables because of their health benefits. (Hint: This is a great messaging opportunity for fresh produce marketers!)

    Power of Produce


Generational Marketing Matters

In the opening educational session of Southern Exposure, we learned all about how to celebrate the differences of each generation and use this to our advantage when navigating how they purchase food and respond to marketing messages. Here are a few of the key takeaways that we believe are important to share:

  • Baby Boomers are going through a time of transformation and they shouldn’t be ignored! In fact, during the pandemic, this age group shifted to purchasing online more frequently.  To reach this audience more effectively, utilizing words that reframe how we think about aging is imperative for marketers.  The baby boomer generation does not desire to age like their parents and instead, intends to age gracefully living full lives inclusive of activity, food, art appreciation, and fun.
  • Generation X really shifted the relationship “status quo” with their children. 70% of Gen Z teens with Gen X parents say their parents are their best friends. Studies show that Gen Xers have skepticism about marketing and prefer clarity over brevity. When marketing to Gen Xers, including generationally relevant terminology and music (like hip-hop) can easily change the trajectory of this unique group’s purchasing decisions.
  • With the rise of Millennial adults, we are also seeing the rise of dual-income households in America! In 2018, 66% of all households were dual-income. People from this generation are collaborative, empowered, risk-averse, and are searching for meaning in life.  Of the generations, this group is most likely to impact organizations simply because of their eagerness to live a flexible working lifestyle.  Since the pandemic, this group expects changes in businesses that challenge the status quo.
  • Gen Z is a group that prioritizes wellness. As this generation enters the workforce, they will be asking themselves if the workplace is a healthy environment for their mental and physical wellbeing more than any other generation before them.  This generation has lowered teenage drug use, drinking, and sexual activity.  They are cautious and focused on optimizing their lives so that they are able to realize their wellness and happiness goals more efficiently.

Overall, we were reminded in this session that there are opportunities to reach each generation and the way we speak to each group should be tailored to them.

Tebow Takes the Stage

Yes, that Tim TebowHeisman trophy winner and professional athlete was present at Southern Exposure and on stage! On the last day of the show, Tebow was the keynote speaker during the luncheon and delivered a full spectrum of lessons, laughs, inspiration, and maybe even a few tears. We heard the stories that inspired the creation of the Tim Tebow Foundation, which seeks to help those who cannot help themselves. He shared about living a life with purpose and living for something greater than yourself. As fresh produce marketers, there are many ways we can give back and we left this luncheon feeling energized and motivated to do what we do best, providing fresh food to people everywhere.

Tebow and Raina


Signs of Innovation

One of our favorite places on the show floor is the “Innovation Station.” Here we are able to see new ideas that brands are conjuring up to entice shoppers to buy more fresh items when they shop.  Here are a few things we noticed that is important for marketers to note:

Convenience is Key

Shoppers continue to look for quick and easy solutions to make meal prep more convenient and fun. Garden Highway and Fresh Innovations featured these time-saving and creative solutions in the innovation area.

Garden HighwayApple Nachos

A New Kind of Messaging

Companies like Continental Fresh brought innovation to the show floor with their messaging and branding tied to a new, philanthropic campaign. Proceeds from the sales of specially labeled produce (easily identified with branded boxes and waterdrop-shaped PLU stickers) will go to directly support clean water and sanitation programs in Latin America. 

water 2water


Branding Takes Center Stage

Our friends at California Giant Berry Farms featured their new label and website design in the New Product Showcase. We love how the simplicity of the label allows the iconic logo to stand on its own.California Giant New Product Showcase


They’ve Got Spirit, Yes They Do!

Dave’s Specialty Imports

The team at Dave’s took 2nd place in the superhero-themed booth contest which made our very own, Leslie Simmons one proud booth attendee. The pomegranate arils and berries on display in the booth were showcased nicely with smiling superheroes and a spirited backdrop. 

Daves Booth 2022 SEPC

Idaho Potato Commission

Also getting in the spirit was the Idaho Potato Commission that gave away delicious homemade Idaho potato chips to attendees. Informational brochures and booklets were strategically placed near the display to find out more about the Commission. 

Idaho Potato

Westfalia Fruit

One of the booths that stood out to us on the show floor was Westfalia Fruit, a gold sponsor of Southern Exposure. We appreciated the messaging on this booth because it was clear and concise.   We think the people working the booth are pretty great too. 

Westfalia Team


All in all, we had an incredible time at Southern Exposure! We are grateful to the team at the Southeast Produce Council including David Sherrod, who is always a gracious host, Anna Burch for being just about the sweetest southerner we’ve ever met and Molly Edenfield for helping us navigate the show.  You all did an amazing job and we thank you for hosting such a rich experience!

For more on future shows planned in 2022 by the Southeast Produce Council and other organizations, download our 2022 Produce Marketer’s Calendar completely free of charge! This calendar puts 2022 into perspective from a marketer’s view and includes the most important dates and events that you should consider to bolster your brand throughout the year.  We look forward to seeing you all again very soon!