Expo attendees enter the show floor for the Southern Innovations expo after a morning of education sessions. ( Ashley Nickle )

NASHVILLE – Exhibitors gave high marks to the Southeast Produce Council’s foodservice and organics conference Southern Innovations both for the show itself and the connections it facilitated.

Attendees reported seeing the people they wanted to see at the show, and networking events leading up to the expo included a Southern Roots event for women around building friendships and a jam-packed opening reception. After the expo, attendees enjoyed a dinner and concert by country artist Chris Lane. Activities from local tours to sporting clays were planned for the following day.

“It’s so nice to see all these people,” said Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Southern Specialties. “This is a great show, you know people here, there’s value in the relationships. One of my favorite shows.”

Bob Catinella, East Coast marketing manager for Milwaukie, Ore.-based Pear Bureau Northwest, did not get a chance to attend the education sessions but described the expo as “tremendous.”

“We find a lot of value in it,” Catinella said.

Landenberg, Pa.-based Mother Earth Mushrooms exhibited at the show for the first time this year, and Meghan Klotzbach, vice president of sales, marketing and operations, credited her colleague Mark Kreiner, outside sales coordinator, for suggesting the company attend.

“He had a lot of amazing things to say about SEPC and about this show, and so we’re thrilled to be a part of it,” Klotzbach said.

Jerry Watson, owner of Monetta, S.C.-based Jerrold A. Watson & Sons, noted that this is the third year his company has been part of the show.

“We like seeing our customers face-to-face, networking with other customers, and we always have a goal when we come to try to pick up at least three or four new customers,” Watson said.

Education sessions at the conference included a panel on growing organic produce sales and a discussion of produce trends in the foodservice space. Actionable information from the retail-focused session included strategies about growing organic produce sales among different consumer groups, along with a list of which organic produce items are seeing the most growth. The foodservice session included insights on how operators can make their menu items more appealing by calling out produce and telling the stories of various items.


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