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Southern Innovations 2021 to focus on 'What's New'

By
Gordon M. Hochberg

The Southeast Produce Council's annual Southern Innovations conference and trade show this fall will focus on "What's New" in the fresh produce industry, highlighting the latest innovations from organics and new product developments to technology and unique brand approaches.

David Sherrod
Mike Roberts

"We are eager to support our members by providing fresh opportunities to market innovative and services, a mission that is crucial as we emerge from the recent pandemic," said Mike Roberts of Harps Food Stores, who is the council's treasurer as well as conference chairman of Southern Innovations 2021. "Through our 'What's New' format, exhibitors can introduce their new product items, services and technologies to buyers who are now able to travel and safely connect face to face."

Southern Innovations is scheduled to take place Sept. 9-11 at the Savannah Convention Center in Savannah, GA. The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, in the city's historic river district, will serve as the headquarters hotel.

David Sherrod
David Sherrod

"The way we're going to approach Southern Innovations this year is by playing on the 'What's New' theme," said David Sherrod, the council's president and CEO. "We've kind of reinvigorated the conference to be a springboard for new products and technologies, and to reflect what Southern Innovations is all about. That's going to be our focus. With that in mind, we've revamped our education series to be tailored around what's new. We're really looking forward to that."

The "What's New" theme will be broken down into four components: At the Farm, In the Store, On the Menu, and For the Earth. Sherrod elaborated on all four.

"At the Farm is going to include anything at the farm level, such as grower-shipper type technologies and advancements, packaging and growing techniques," he said. "In the Store is anything at retail, such as drone delivery, food waste management and apps that stores are putting in."

He continued, "On the Menu will be anything that has to do with the foodservice sector, anything that could affect you at any kind of fast food or hospitality restaurant. And For the Earth will be any of those sustainability type efforts that are going on."

As the CEO put it, "That's how we're revamping the whole event. We feel like we're broadening our efforts to include more of who our membership is and what would be good for them as a whole. We'll be able to bring something that's of value to all of our attendees this year."

The "What's New" theme will be evident throughout the conference. For example, in one of the education sessions, moderator Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics will review the hottest trends in the industry. And each trend highlighted in this session will feature a connection to the four components on the trade show floor, so attendees can look at the latest products and companies that have innovations connected to those trending topics.

Asked on June 23 how registration for Southern Innovations was proceeding, Sherrod was upbeat. "There are still opportunities to exhibit, and still opportunities to sign up," he said. "Southern Innovations is a springboard for new items and new technologies. It's just a good time of the year to do those things because it takes place in that early fall period to get you ready for what's going to be happening for your winter sets and the new year."

He continued, "I will tell you that so far, we're over 70 booths already, so I think we're going to get up to that 80-90 mark when it's all said and done."

As to over all expected attendance, Sherrod stated, "Our retailers and foodservice people are coming back in force. We've got about 30-35 companies represented already on the buy side, which is really good. If we get up to about 50 companies, with about 150 buyers there, that will be awesome. And I think we're going to get there, I really do."

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