Southern hospitality

Produce growers are heading to Tampa Bay for the 2012 Southern Exposure trade show.

The Southeast Produce Council’s (SPC) Southern Exposure trade show is a favorite for many produce growers. Its smaller size and intimate setting provides a breeding ground for developing new relationships. This year’s show promises to be no different.

“One thing unique about Southern Exposure is that we limit the foot traffic on the floor to decision makers,” says John Shuman, SPC president. “For a vendor, there is value there for quality traffic.”

A topic industry observers are currently focused is the Product Traceability Initiative, says Shuman. Observers also predict a continued growth towards value-added and pre-packaged produce items. Here are some of the companies exhibiting at Southern Exposure taking place at the Tampa Convention Center from March 1 to 3, and the innovations they will be sharing with attendees.

Bland Farms Booth #215
Bland Farms is working toward strengthening its relationships with its customer base by creating unique sales and growth opportunities, says Sarah Seebran, marketing manager. “The success we had with our customers last year has prompted us to increase the availability of these unique retail solutions. These products are created by the retail sweet onion experts at our farm in collaboration with merchandising professionals specific to meet our customers’ needs.”

Attendees can view Bland Farms Vidalia sweet onions, which come into harvest mid-April, and the Texas 1015 Sweet Onions, which begin harvesting mid-March.

Chelan Fresh Booth #140
With Chelan Fresh’s first Fuel Up and Play 60 (FUP60) retail promotion behind them, the company is getting ready to kickstart next year. The FUP60 promotion was developed by the National Football League in conjunction with the National Dairy Council to encourage healthy eating habits in schools nationwide. Last year Chelan Fresh expanded the campaign, promoting it at the retail level. “We’re hoping to really knock it out of the park next year,” says Terry Braithwaite, director of marketing.

The company is also showing its new bin design that features a lighter background color. “We’ve been using the same colors for a long time; it was time to give our company a boost,” says Braithwaite. The merchandisers will feature both apples and pears on them so they can be used interchangeably.

Del Monte Fresh Produce Booth #214
Del Monte Fresh Produce is featuring its new proprietary MAG melon. With a smaller seed cavity, it offers consumers more value per purchase and is available year-round. “It has a more pleasant, consistent and concentrated aroma compared to traditional cantaloupes,” says Dionysios Christou, vice president of marketing.

Coming this year, Del Monte will be developing marketing campaigns in line with its Eat Healthy. Live Healthy. tagline. “We’ll be launching several promotions that assist with encouraging consumers to lead healthier lifestyles. Retailers and consumers can expect to see some of these campaigns to be launched through our digital and social media outlets,” says Christou.

Dole Fresh Fruit Booth #237
Dole Fresh Fruit is introducing its Go Bananas Every Day campaign, a year-long effort to position Dole Bananas as part of a daily routine. The campaign was launched at the beginning of the year with Dole’s 366 Ways to Go Bananas in 2012, offering unique banana-themed recipes, serving suggestions and household tips and trivia. “We’re using the 366 program to communicate the fun, versatility, portability and health and nutritional benefits of America’s favorite fruit,” says Bil Goldfield, communications manager.

Dole will work with retailers to develop in-store promotions, point-of-sale materials, sampling events and other programs.

Idaho Potato Commission Booth #504
The Idaho Potato Commission’s (IPC) The Great Big Idaho Potato Truck will go on tour this spring, visiting cities across the country in celebration of the IPC’s 75th anniversary. The truck was modeled after a popular Idaho postcard that showed a giant potato chained to the back of a truck, say company officials. It was unveiled in December at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Company officials will be available at SPC to discuss promotional opportunities at retail locations during the Famous Idaho Potato Tour. The IPC is also hoping the truck will help bring awareness and raise money for Meals on Wheels, a nonprofit organization that delivers meals to homebound seniors.

The American Heart Association (AHA) checkmark will also be showing up on Idaho potatoes. “The AHA checkmark reinforces our nutritional benefit,” says Seth Pemsler, vice president of retail and international. The logo will appear on Idaho potato packaging, in advertising and on the truck.

Monterey Mushrooms Booth #522
Monterey Mushrooms is highlighting its new sustainable packaging with consumer-friendly labels. It features biodegradable paper printed with recipes, meal ideas and nutritional information. The labels highlight “Deliciously Healthy” and “High in Vitamin D” with a mouth-watering image of a recipe idea, says Joe Caldwell, vice president. “We will also highlight the ‘Locally Grown—Nationwide’ aspect of our nine regional farms.”

Monterey Mushrooms continues to work with its retail partners on promotions that focus on the three features of Monterey’s products, nutrition, versatility and weight management, says Caldwell. “Consumer demand is consistently growing as more and more consumers are realizing the deliciously healthy benefits of mushrooms and how versatile they can really be,” says Caldwell.

Prime Time Produce Booth #602
Prime Time Produce is showing its new mini pepper product. The smaller-sized peppers are sold in a mix of colors in 1- and 2-pound bags year-round. They have caught on quickly and retailers are having good results, says Mike Aiton, director of marketing.

Prime Time has also extended a number of its current product lines—mixed color packages, value packs and premium packs. “We are pretty much able to custom package anything retailers would like to carry,” says Aiton. “We are also doing more extended pricing for people to take the ups and downs out of the market swings and are happy to talk about that at the show.”

Shuman Produce Booth #200
“We’re proud to share our brand new redesigned website with the industry,” says John Shuman, president and director of sales for Shuman Produce. He says the new look was created to appeal directly to consumers, providing information on Shuman Produce, recipes featuring RealSweet onions and a farm-to-table photo essay that illustrates how RealSweet onions go from a seed to the retailer’s shelf.

Last year Shuman redesigned its consumer bag to include nutritional information, recipes, a QR code that directs consumers to a mobile web page and call-outs to interact with the brand through social media sites.

“We are available to meet during the show and we welcome retailers to visit the Shuman Produce staff throughout the day,” says Shuman. “As a leading grower/shipper of Vidalia sweet onions and Peruvian sweet onions, we’re proud to share the details of our innovative marketing, dedication to food safety and year round program with retailers.”

Vidalia Onion Committee Booth #100
The “American Favorites: Sweet Vidalias and Country Music” promotion is back for a second year. The Vidalia Onion Committee (VOC) will be releasing details of the campaign conducted in partnership with Universal Music Group out of Nashville.

VOC officials will announce which country music artists will be featured in the promotion, discuss the retail display contest and talk about opportunities to get consumers involved. “Last year’s program was very successful; we received positive feedback from both retailers and consumers,” says Wendy Brannen, executive director. “Stores got really excited about the display contest so we are going to continue it but structure it a little bit differently.”

Wayne E. Bailey Produce Booth #629
Wayne E. Bailey Produce’s steamable sweet potatoes have a new shipper. The stand-up carton is shipped and can be set up as a secondary display in the produce section or used as a cross-merchandising tool throughout the store, say company officials.

“It’s a very colorful display carton that comes boxed up as a shipper with 12 items to a case,” says George Wooten, president. “We supply that to the store as an aid to help market the product. You don’t have to refrigerate them so you can put them in key places in the store that would drive some traffic.”

The steamable potatoes have been very successful, says Wooten. Offered under both the Green Giant brand and the grower’s private label brand, George Foods, the microwavable bag contains five to six sweet potatoes that cook in eight to 10 minutes.

Well-Pict Berries Booth #404
Well-Pict Berries is featuring its 1- and 2-pound clamshells of strawberries, grown in Florida. The grower’s expanded growing regions in Florida, California and Baja allow them to meet retailers’ demands throughout the year. Retailers can also check out the new raspberry varieties and organic strawberries available.

Well-Pict is also offering retailers a chance for their fifteen minutes of fame with a display contest. Retailers can submit photos of their in-store displays and the best displays will be used in an ad featuring the photos.

Wilcox Fresh Booth #127
Wilcox Fresh is continuing to work with retailers to help differentiate their products and programs. “We offer retailers the opportunity for us to visit their stores and their senior leadership to help them update their strategy for the potato and onion category,” says Jim Richter, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “A second thing we’ll be doing is developing opportunities to help retailers take advantage of product fluctuation and market volume shifts so that they can stay competitive in the marketplace.”

As value-added and convenience products continue to be in demand, Wilcox is highlighting its Potato Jazz product and its retail-friendly four-count trays with an Idaho baker wrapped in a black foam tray with the company’s Mother Earth Fresh label. “It’s a very attractive package,” says Richter.

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