ORLANDO, Fla. — Southern Exposure 2017’s theme was the “Magic of Produce,” but the recipe for another successful event was hardly hocus pocus.

Take the perfect late winter weather in central Florida, 288 exhibitors, 480 retail and foodservice buyers among the 2,600 registered attendees, and it’s easy to see why attendees were happy they made the trip.

“Being at a Disney property, we tried to make it extra sensory,” said David Sherrod, executive director of the Southeast Produce Council. “I haven’t had any complaints,” he said toward the end of the expo March 11.

Teri Miller, SEPC president and produce senior category manager for The Fresh Market, Greensboro, N.C., said the March 9-11 event at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort went smoothly, especially for their first time there.

“It’s been great for learning about products and retailers,” she said. “The entertainment (at Southern Exposure) lets people get to know each other and not just make it a transactional event.”

Exhibitors were generally pleased with the event that they’ve come to expect good things from.

Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers, Wenatchee, Wash., said the event met expectations with steady buyer traffic for the first two-thirds of the expo.

Dana Mulroy, sales manager for Freshline Produce, Mahwah, N.J., said her booth was packed with retailers asking about the company’s new line of vegetable noodles.

Garry Bergstrom, retired director of produce for Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc., received the Lifetime Member Award to go with “a lifetime of memories.” 

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