More people are registering to attend this year’s Southern Exposure retail and foodservice conference and exposition.
Scheduled for Feb. 28 to March 2, the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure 2013 also plans some changes as it returns to Orlando, Fla.
Show organizers say they expect more supermarket and foodservice buyers to attend.
Attendees will tour area growing-shipping operations, walk the trade show floor, pack the educational sessions and fill the convention parties at the Caribe Royal Resort and Conference Center in Orlando.
Back to the ’80s is the theme of this year’s show.
Show chairman Mark Daniels, senior buyer and general manager for the Savannah, Ga., division of Norfolk, Va.-based Military Produce Group, promises a strong show to kick off Southeast Produce Council’s second decade.
“It’s going to be a great celebration for us, since it’s our 10th anniversary,” he said. “We have a lot of exciting things planned, from the receptions to the dynamic speakers, tours and workshops. There are a lot of people involved with the show that have the passion to make this a top-caliber show.”
Terry Vorhees, executive director of the East Ellijay, Ga.-based council, said as of early February 251 retail and foodservice attendees (which include buyers, vice presidents of produce and produce directors) had registered for the show.
Up to 305 buyers participated last year, more than the 280 in 2011, and Vorhees said he expects this year’s event to attract as many.
The March 2 expo features 238 exhibitors — similar to the 240 who exhibited last year.
In all, Vorhees said he expects around 1,600 industry people to visit Orlando, about the same as the number that trekked to the Tampa, Fla., show in 2012.
As of early February, he said the council had received 1,449 registrations.
Pre-show interest is high for the other activities as well.
Vorhees said a record number of attendees are expected for the March 2 keynote luncheon address by legendary college football coach Lou Holtz.
The Back to the ’80s gala opening party on March 1 has 1,200 signed up, and the field tours scheduled for earlier in the day that take busloads of buyers to north Florida potato and cabbage fields and an Orlando-area garlic plant maintain a waiting list.
More than 320 have signed up to attend a March 2 session on labor, while 200 are planning to attend a session on effective packaging design, record numbers for both sessions.
“What’s made this show a success for the council is, first of all, the number of volunteers we have in this organization that serve on the committees like the conference committee,” Vorhees said. “They are very dedicated to making this work. That’s a big part of it because it does take a lot of work.”
New this year, the council plans to sponsor its Shed the Pounds contest to encourage people to eat healthy and lose weight.
Participants weigh in March 1-2 during the show and later record and e-mail monthly weight reports to the council.
After a final weigh-in during the council’s fall conference in late September, the biggest three weight-loss winners receive $1,000, $500 and $200 respective prizes.
“This will be really fun,” said show planner Heidi McIntyre, managing partner in the Orlando-based Full Tilt Marketing LLC. “It will be a great incentive. We all want to be healthier and lose weight working in the produce industry. The incentives to win an award will be a plus.”
Rick Murrah, vice president of sales and marketing for Flavor-Pic Tomato Co. Inc., Birmingham, Ala., originated the idea by asking why shouldn’t industry people who are supposed to be about eating healthy sponsor some type of weight-loss contest, Vorhees said.
Among retail and foodservice companies attending for the first time this year: Affiliated Foods Inc., Amarillo, Texas; Allegiance Retail Services LLC, Iselin, N.J.; Belle-Foods, Harahan, La.; Big M Supermarkets, Syracuse, N.Y.; Jewel Food Stores Inc., Melrose Park, Ill.; and Richmond, Va.-based Ukrop’s Super Markets Inc.’s Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods.