Certified South Carolina hosts successful showcase
The Certified South Carolina program is a cooperative effort among farmers, processors, wholesalers, retailers and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, with the Certified SC brand and label helping consumers easily identify goods that are grown and harvested or raised in the Palmetto State.
The program launched in 2006, and is the primary branding program for South Carolina.
“Buying local not only means people are taking home fresher, tastier foods, it also means they are supporting our state’s farmers,” said Katie Pfeiffer, market development coordinator with the SCDA. “We promote Certified South Carolina as a whole through social media, advertising, events, sponsorships and more.”
The market development team works to unite retail merchandising and specialty crop, and specialty food outreach efforts.
“The team’s goal is to help match up South Carolina producers with appropriate markets — retail, wholesalers, chefs, food hubs, and others — as well as to help them identify resources to build their capacity and reach new markets,” Pfeiffer said. “This helps to fill the pipeline of growers to ensure an even more stable, diverse supply of great produce coming out of South Carolina.”
In March, the SCDA hosted the first Certified SC Showcase, an event that connected South Carolina producers with local and regional buyers from grocery stores, wholesalers, and restaurants presenting an opportunity for South Carolina agriculture to show off its abundant produce, specialty food products, and strong industry support.
The event grew out of SCDA’s successful Grower-Buyer Mash-Up, which for the past four years has brought together Certified South Carolina food producers and buyers to network and learn. This year, SCDA moved the event to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and expanded its scope.
“We’re putting South Carolina farming on the map,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. “During COVID-19 we learned that people want to know more about where their food’s coming from, who’s growing it, and if I can trust them. Sourcing more Certified South Carolina products is one way to answer those questions.”
The educational section of the event included a panel discussion featuring buyers from various outlets — from wholesale to grocery to restaurants. The panel explained how they works with growers to ensure freshness and maximum profit.
“Being able to market your own brand and share your story is key, because then we can share that with customers,” said Lauren Horning, local product specialist with Freshpoint.
The event also incorporated The Taste of South Carolina, a networking reception featuring Certified South Carolina hors d’oeuvres, sponsored by Arbor One and AgSouth Farm Credit.
Pfeiffer, noted the inaugural Certified SC Showcase was a huge success and South Carolina farmers can expect an expanded event next year.
“We loved the opportunity to show off South Carolina’s diverse, year-round bounty of food and farm products and the people who make it possible,” she said. “South Carolina has so much to offer.”
In 2022, the market development team will showcase new Certified South Carolina retail merchandising products — which it offers free of charge to retailers.
The materials feature eye-catching new designs and are more durable.
“We are adding to the product lines included in our retail merchandising program with signage for beverage aisles spotlighting local beers, and signage for meat and dairy sections showcasing local products,” Pfeiffer said. “The new materials also incorporate QR codes linking to recipes and information about seasonal produce availability.”
This year, SCDA is also placing new focus on international marketing as the market development team takes on the role of managing SUSTA (Southern United States Trade Association) for South Carolina.
“SUSTA helps small companies in the Southern United States promote value-added U.S. food and agricultural products to foreign markets,” Pfeiffer said. “We hope more South Carolina producers can benefit from expanded market opportunities through this program which includes support for overseas marketing events and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products.”