TAMPA, Fla. — More retail and foodservice produce buyers traveling to the Sunshine State helped bring another year of record attendance to Southern Exposure 2012.
The Southeast Produce Council’s ninth retail and foodservice conference and exposition attracted 1,599 growers, shippers, brokers, marketers, distributors and buyers to the shore of the Tampa Bay convention center, higher than last year’s record 1,403 participants, said Terry Vorhees, the East Ellijay, Ga.-based organization’s executive director.
Up to 305 retail and foodservice buyers converged on the March 1-3 show, more than the 280 buyers who participated last year, Vorhees said.
“There is a tremendous number of retailers here,” said Mark Hanks, vice president of North American sales and marketing for DNE World Fruit Sales, Fort Pierce. “It’s amazing. The turnout of retailers and the time you get to spend with them makes this one of the best shows in the country. The growth of this show is unbelievable.”
Doug OhlemeierChuck Yow (left), the Gastonia, N.C.-based vice president of sales and marketing for Sage Fruit Co., Yakima, Wash., talks with Frank Swanson, national category manager of fresh produce for U.S. Foods, Rosemont, Ill., and Kevin Delevan, U.S. Foods’ category manager during a March 2 tour at the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure 2012. Note on correction: The photo caption originally misidentified the people in the photo. This was the fifth time Kent Kuwata, category manager of Los Angeles retailer Smart & Final Inc., traveled to the spring show.
“This is one of the top shows around,” he said. “Hats off to Terry (Vorhees) and the council. They do a very nice job here. Every year it improves. They really make it interesting for the retailers.”
A panel of some of the industry’s leading retail and foodservice distribution executives driving food safety changes tackled the Produce Traceability Initiative during a March 3 session.
“Part of our problem as a distributor, we can come up with solutions for this, but if we do it for U.S. Foods and the rest of the industry comes up with another solution down the line, we’ve put money into this to come up with a system that we have to get rid of later,” said Frank Swanson, national category manager of fresh produce for U.S. Foods, Rosemont, Ill.
“We don’t want to be put into that situation. We’re willing to be a leader and do what everyone else does, but as of today, I don’t know what that answer is. But we’re working on it. You can see how this little bitty thing is a huge problem for a company like us that uses a packer label for 50% of the items we sell.”
Gene Harris, senior purchasing manager for Denny’s Corp., Spartanburg, S.C., said the restaurant chain has a list of approved distributors which must employ effective traceback systems for the 120 U.S. produce distributors Denny’s uses.