Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson talks about his shopping habits and his family’s journey at the SEPC 2017 keynote luncheon. This year’s guest speaker is John Mackey, cofounder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market.
( Pamela Riemenschneider )

This year’s Southern Exposure sessions start with virtual field tours and end with one of the hottest trends in traceability — blockchain technology.

“Blockchain is a really hot topic in our industry right now,” said SEPC president and CEO David Sherrod.

“We’ve got a great panel put together from the industry, including Frank Yiannas from Walmart, Brigid McDermott from IBM, Brendan Solan from Driscoll’s and Melanie Nuce from GS1.”

Sherrod said attendees will hopefully walk out of the session with an understanding of how the technology works.

“Brigid McDermott really puts it in a way that everybody can understand,” he said.

“We feel like this format we’re going to present it in will be great for our attendees.”


The Power of Produce

Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics plans to present the Power of Produce report along with Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods for the Food Marketing Institute.

This is the start of an agreement with the FMI to host the premiere of this study annually at Southern Exposure.

Roerink said she plans to cover the Top 10 key findings of the most recent report, and 2019’s show will be the unveiling of future Power of Produce reports.

“We’ve gotten such great response from the retail community about this report,” Sherrod said. “It’s such a well-used report.”

SEPC pulled together a panel of retailers, including Randy Riley, director of produce merchandising for The Kroger Co., Jacob Krempel, associate director of produce operations for HelloFresh and John Ruane, chief merchandising officer and senior vice president of Giant/Martins to provide their perspective on the report’s findings.


Virtual Farm Tours

This year’s Farm Field Trips feature four new SEPC member farms:

  • B&W Quality Growers, Fellsmere, Fla.;
  • Florida Classic Growers, Haines City, Fla.;
  • Nickey Gregory Co., Atlanta; and
  • Robinson Fresh, Tifton, Ga.

Sherrod said the SEPC not only features these member farms at Southern Exposure, but also adds them to its library, and focuses on adding a new sponsor farm each year.

“We’ll continue that year after year, to build a database of virtual farm tours that we’ll have available to our membership.”