Produce’s big top performance

This year’s Southern Exposure event promises to be  “the greatest produce show on earth.”

No longer is an apple just an apple or a potato just a potato. Growers, shippers and GatorSlider4packers are spending a considerable amount of time and resources developing what they all hope will be the next big hit in their respective produce categories. Many of these companies will be on hand at the upcoming Southeast Produce Council’s 2014 Southern Exposure conference.

The theme for the show, which is being held February 27 to March 1 at the Caribe Royale Resort and Conference Center in Orlando, Fla., is “Under the Big Top.” According to Bobby Creel, chairman of the conference, many of the sights and sounds of the circus will be incorporated into the event. Creel says exhibitors are encouraged to decorate their booth to this theme for a chance to win the $1,000 grand prize.

Due to the growing popularity of the show, a pavilion area at the Caribe Royale has been added to create additional exhibit space.

All the big names in produce will be in the ring. Here is who attendees can expect to see.

Bland Farms
Bland Farms is a grower, packer and shipper of sweet onions, specializing in providing sweet onions such as Vidalias. The company, based in Glennville, Ga., has sweet onion growing operations positioned around the country as well as internationally, which enables it to offer this specialty year round.

Despite it being smaller, the Southern Exposure show attracts quality retailers and offers one-on-one face time with the people they want to speak with most, like buyers, say company officials.

“Because Southern Exposure is not so large, the percentage of buyers and other important attendees is much higher,” says Greg Smith, marketing communications manager.
Until now, Bland Farms has solely been a grower/packer/shipper of sweet onions, but they will be showcasing its newest offering—fresh sweet potatoes. “We’ve spent a significant amount of time on research and development of the product to ensure that the quality of our sweet potatoes is in line with the best in the category,” says Smith.

Vidalia Brands will also be on hand to show its line of sweet onion condiments, salsas and snack foods specifically geared for produce departments. Among the new items Vidalia Brands will be rolling out are a Sweet Onion Hibachi White Sauce and a Sweet Onion Caesar Dressing. They will also be introducing a new shipper option for its popular Vidalia Brands Sweet Onion Petals. “The shipper greatly enhances the presentation of the sweet onion snack food and is sure to attract more customers’ attention,” says Smith. www.blandfarms.com

Del Monte Fresh Produce
Del Monte Fresh Produce will be highlighting its fresh cut fruits and vegetables line as well as the newly launched Fresh Guac. They are one of the world’s leading vertically integrated producers, marketers and distributors of high-quality fresh and fresh-cut fruit and vegetables as well as a top supplier of fresh pineapples—with the original Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet Pineapple—and bananas. “We grow, pack, ship and distribute our products ourselves which enables us to respond quickly to changing market conditions,” says Dionysios Christou, vice president marketing for the Coral Gables, Fla.-based company.

“Our vertically integrated structure allows us to control the quality and consistency of our products, facilitating just-in-time delivery at the very peak of freshness.”

Christou says the show provides an intimate setting where they are able to meet with all the key decision makers from its retail, wholesale and foodservice customer base. www.freshdelmonte.com

Fresherized Foods
Having access to retailers is one of the key reasons officials at Fresherized Foods attend the Southern Exposure show. Jay Alley, vice president of sales for the Saginaw, Texas-based company, says given that the number of exhibitors is kept low, retailers enjoy coming because they can take their time walking the show floor and have meaningful conversations. “We really appreciate that and are proud to be a part of the action,” he says.

Alley says the company’s Wholly brand is best known for being America’s No.1-selling refrigerated guacamole. Its full line of Wholly Guacamole and Wholly Salsa products are all-natural, gluten-free and kosher certified. In 2013, the company’s products went through a complete packaging update. Now in peel-and-serve trays and 2-ounce 100-calorie mini cups, the added portability means the product can be enjoyed as a favorite snack and dip anywhere, he says.

The company will be highlighting its Wholly Guacamole minis, its new layered dips—Taco Bean Dip over Guacamole and Black Bean Dip over Homestyle Guacamole—and its new Wholly Salsa Avocado, Black Bean and Corn salsa. www.fresherizedfoods.com

Idaho Potato Commission
Most retailers know the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) as the marketing arm for the entire Idaho potato Industry. What some may not know is that the Eagle, Idaho-based organization created the well-known “Grown in Idaho” seal, which symbolizes quality, known around the world. Since 1937, the Idaho Potato Commission has represented the growers, fresh shippers and processors of fresh, frozen, dehydrated and refrigerated Idaho potatoes. The commission is directed by nine commissioners—five are potato growers, two are packers/shippers and two represent the processors.

IPC supplies 30% of the nation’s fresh potatoes, mostly russets, but in recent years has expanded its offerings to include niche and heirloom varieties. IPC officials say a recent study has shown its consumer brand awareness is recognized as the highest in the industry. The group dedicates its efforts on providing training and education materials and promoting Idaho potatoes through the vast number of recipes on its website. www.idahopotato.com

New York Apple Association
Representing the New York state apple industry as a promotional and commodity board, the objective of the Fishers, N.Y.-based New York Apple Association (NYAA), is to grow sales and expand markets for New York State apples through retail and consumer promotion tools and programs. Jim Allen, president, says NYAA members will be on hand to inform attendees about the many roles their group plays in publicizing the virtues of apples grown in their state.

“This is an ideal opportunity for us to meet with retailers and wholesalers and share the many reasons that New York State apples are a good fit for their stores and for their consumers,” says Allen. He adds that a wide selection of New York State apples are among consumer favorites and their ability to service Souteast accounts quickly and economically with excellent service and product gives them a distinct advantage. www.nyapplecountry.com

Peri & Sons Farms
Peri & Sons Farms has been growing, packing and shipping premium white, yellow, red, sweet and organic onions for more than 30 years. Teri Gibson, director of marketing and customer relations for the Yerington, Nev.-based grower, says it is also known for its Nevada white onion. She says all Peri & Sons Farms’ onions are either grown organically or using certified, clean, safe and traceable practices and all onions are shipped year round directly from family-farms in Yerington and Firebaugh, Calif.

Gibson says because they are located in the West, the show is an ideal opportunity to be in front of its Southern and East Coast customers. “We like this smaller, more intimate format and feel that the less hectic pace is more conducive to face-to-face meetings,” she says.

Peri & Sons will be featuring its Bloomin’ BBQ Onion promotion. In support, the company will be offering POS materials, including a high-graphic display sleeve, to select retailers. www.periandsons.com

Prime Time International
With everyday availability from its growing locations throughout Mexico and California, Prime Time International is a top supplier of both field grown and hot house peppers. Company officials say its most popular peppers include red, yellow, orange, green and mini sweet peppers.

Mike Aiton, director of marketing for the Coachella, Calif.-based grower, says the Southern Exposure show offers an opportunity to meet with existing customers to plan future promotions and product line extensions. “We also appreciate the chance to meet top level attendees from companies we do not currently do business with and talk with them about opening potential new supply lines,” he says.

The company will be displaying its full line of pepper varieties, including its mini-sweet peppers. Aiton says they will also be on hand to discuss customizing short- and long-term promotions. “We are excited to talk to retailers about the consistency of supply we provide and the quality assurance we embrace that provides our customers with a one-stop-shop year round,” he says. www.primetimeproduce.com

Rainer Fruit Co.
Rainier Fruit Co. provides conventional and organic selections of apples, pears, cherries rainierbinand blueberries. Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for the Selah, Wash.-based company says its evolving product line has been developed with an eye to the future and customers’ ever-changing preferences.

Rainier Fruit will be featuring its exclusive Lady Alice apple, which is typically available through late April. Consumer appeal has continued to grow since its introduction a few years ago and Wolter says Rainer Fruit has increased production to respond to the rising demand. “Lady Alice is one of two exclusive apples offered by Rainier that brings additional dollars into the apple category,” she says.

Rainier supports each retailer’s market introduction with multiple POS options, social media, demos and other customized promotional efforts. “We will be talking to retailers about the new variety and discussing program options that will work for their launch of Lady Alice,” she says. www.rainierfruit.com

Shuman Produce
Shuman Produce, based in Reidsville, Ga., is a grower and shipper of sweet onions, including Vidalia onions. Shuman Produce grows and ships flavorful, safe, high-quality sweet onions all year long as a part of its RealSweet brand.

“For us, Southern Exposure provides a wonderful opportunity to meet with our fellow industry members and retail partners in a relatively laid-back atmosphere,” says Adam Brady, marketing coordinator. “It’s the perfect time for sharing our new programs for the upcoming Vidalia sweet onion season.”

Shuman officials will be sharing a number of new strategies they have developed for increasing sweet onion and overall produce department sales through unique and in-
novative marketing opportunities. “We’re excited to share our full line of packaging and marketing programs designed to drive sweet onion sales for our retail partners,” says Brady. www.realsweet.com

Sweet Onion Trading Co.
The Sweet Onion Trading Co. offers supplies of sweet onions year-round. Barry Rogers, president of the Grant, Fla.-based company, says since this category is their one and only specialty, they are able to offer a wide range of colorful and effective packaging and friendly, professional and personalized service. “We do not use automated phone systems and we never will,” says Rogers.

He says one of the advantages of attending the show are the strict limits imposed on who can attend and exhibit. One of their goals at the show, he adds, is to meet new sweet onion buyers and discuss current and future opportunities with existing buyers. “Year after year the show has proven to be a great way to connect with new buyers interested in working with a company that provides quality sweet onions on demand with fast, friendly service,” Rogers adds. www.sweetoniontrading.com

Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co.
The Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co. grows, packs and ships sweet potatoes for foodservice, retail, fresh cut, processing and international markets. Its potatoes are available in a variety of consumer pack sizes that can be customized to a retailer’s specifications. The sweet potatoes are sold under a number of retail labels including Playboy, Green Giant, Sampson King, We be Yammin’, Louisiana Playboy, Nutritional All Stars, Good Buy and Wayne E. Bailey.

George Wooten, owner of the Chadbourn, N.C.-based company, says they can supply retailers with multiple merchandising ideas such as bulk packs and consumer bags. At the show, company officials will be talking to retailers about the wide variety of sweet potato options available today to expand their business, especially some of the newer, higher margin products. “Retailers have many opportunities before them to expand category sales,” says Wooten. “Years ago the only option was the 40-pound box and now we also offer 20-, 10-, 5- and 3- pound bags, as well as microwavable sweet potatoes and steamer packs featuring U.S. #1 petites.” www.sweetpotatoes.com

 

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