The Council Connection July 2021


Registration is now open for Southern Innovations 2021 which will be held September 9 – 11 at the Savannah Convention Center in Savannah, GA.

We invite you to discover “What’s New?” within our industry as we reinvigorate Southern Innovations to springboard new product items and technologies into the marketplace. Join us for our annual tradeshow and conference focused on highlighting the latest innovations within the fresh produce industry, from organics and new product developments to technology and unique brand approaches.

Educational sessions led by industry leaders complement our tradeshow, offering an opportunity to hear how to elevate your brand in an increasingly competitive field and receive valuable fact-based data to strengthen and improve your business. And as always, you’ll be able to sample a taste of true Southern hospitality as you fellowship with friends and colleagues.

Feature your innovative products as an Exhibitor!

Exhibitor Benefits

  • Ideal Environment and Timeframe to Launch New Items into the Marketplace
  • Outstanding Exhibitor/Buyer Ratio
  • Intimate Atmosphere to Make Quality Connections
  • One-day Exposition with Capped Attendance
  • Enhanced Aisles with Single Rows of Exhibitors
  • Equal Opportunities with 10x10 Booths for All Exhibitors
  • Multiple Networking Opportunities Throughout Conference
  • Hosted at GBAC STAR Accredited Facility – Savannah Convention Center – for Enhanced Safety

To reserve your space, please register before July 23, 2021.

Please note that Southern Innovations allows eight (8) booth associates as part of the exhibitor registration. To maintain our intimate space, additional booth associates will not be allowed. All exhibitor registrations require approval.

Education Sessions

Educational Session I

Recruiting and Retaining a Multi-Generational Workforce

Hiring and keeping strong employees is more difficult than ever in today’s market landscape! Join Claudia St. John of Affinity HR to learn about the current hiring challenges and ideas on how to combat them. Claudia will also talk about retention strategies because keeping your current team members is priority number one! Throughout the topics, we will look at generational specific information to help us understand how to improve engagement with existing and potential associates.

Educational Session II

What's New?: Trends and Innovation

Join Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics in her review of the hottest trends in the industry to show us “What’s New?” in technology and innovation. Each of the trends highlighted in the session will feature a connection to the four “What’s New?” sections on the tradeshow floor – At the Farm, In the Store, On the Menu, and For the Earth – so during the Expo you can take a look at the latest products and companies that have innovations connected to these trending topics.


The Power of Empathy: How to Have More Compassion for Yourself and Others

We can all agree that 2020 through now has brought on its own set of challenges. Carrie Grace will be sharing inspiring stories and tips on how to develop more empathy for others, finding ways to fill our wells to pour out to others, and to create a deeper sense of community and connectivity.

Southern Roots Luncheon Speaker

Carrie Grace

Motivational Speaker

Carrie Grace is a former teacher turned motivational speaker. She is on a mission to create more compassionate work and school cultures. She currently travels the country to inspire and encourage others to live their best lives and spread more kindness. She also helps people take more risks to get from where they are to the life they truly want. She has spoken at companies such as Marriott, Target, Jack Daniels, and many more.

Educational Session Speakers

Claudia St. John

Founder & President | Affinity HR Group, Inc.

Claudia St. John, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, is founder and President of Affinity HR Group, Inc., a national human resources and management consulting firm specializing in hiring and recruiting, HR compliance and employee engagement. Affinity HR Group is the endorsed HR partner and resource for more than 17 national trade associations and their member companies. As a consultant and frequent speaker, Claudia has given hundreds of presentations and workshops on such topics as how to recruit like a pro, common management mistakes, employee engagement, and multi-generational workplace challenges. She is the author of the Amazon.com bestselling book Transforming Teams – tips for improving collaboration and building trust. Her weekly HR Minute e-mails and monthly articles are followed by thousands of business leaders nationwide.

Anne-Marie Roerink

Principal | 210 Analytics, LLC

Anne-Marie Roerink is a Principal at 210 Analytics, LLC—providing customized research and marketing strategies with a specialty in food retailing for clients such as the Food Marketing Institute, National Grocers Association, National Confectioners Association and many others. Through countless studies and presentations for audiences large and small, Anne-Marie has developed an excellent perspective on the changing nature of the shopper and the food retailing business. Anne-Marie offers a diverse and in-depth view on retailing financials, operations and shopper behavior, and how/why these issues are important to various organizations, today and in the future. Prior to founding 210 Analytics, Anne-Marie was the Head of Research for the Food Marketing Institute.

Keynote Luncheon Speaker

David Butler

Chief Growth Officer | Kids2

Former VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship | The Coca-Cola Company

David Butler is a designer, strategist, and investor. As Kids2’s Chief Growth Officer, David is responsible for how the company learns through insights, designs its products and builds its brands globally. Prior to joining Kids2, David led global design and innovation for The Coca-Cola Company where he leveraged the power of design to help double the value of the company in less than a decade. Before joining Coke, David led brand strategy for Sapient where he helped Fortune 500 companies transform into digital companies. David began his career as a graphic designer where he specialized in designing large scale branding systems for Fortune 500 companies including AT&T, Coca-Cola, UPS and the International Olympic Committee. In 2009 David was named, “Master of Design” by Fast Company Magazine and in 2012 to Forbes’ “Executive Dream Team.” He is a best-selling author of “Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale and Agility (and How You Can Too)", published in over in 25 languages.

Southern Innovations Digital Toolkit Now Available!

The SEPC is pleased to provide you with our newest digital toolkit. We hope you will take advantage of these digital tools available for you as you prepare to join us in Savannah for Southern Innovations! Customize each graphic for your company's booth number and information.

Email Signature: right click to save
Facebook: right click to save
Instagram: right click to save
Linked In: right click to save
Twitter: right click to save

Short for “Learning, Interacting and Networking with Key players in the Supply Chain,” LINKS is an educational leadership program where exceptional Southeastern growers and shippers can connect with Retail/Foodservice providers in the region in a non-competitive environment. By enhancing each side’s understanding of the retail supply chain, we can facilitate our mutual goals to better service consumers and drive Southeastern produce consumption. The SEPC will provide a meeting space at Southern Innovations to participating Retail/Foodservice members who facilitate the program with invited Growers and Shippers.

LINKS Reservation Options for SEPC Retail/Foodservice members*

  • LINKS Meeting Platform Options: Onsite LINKS Meeting | Virtual LINKS Meeting within the SEPC Virtual Garden
  • LINKS Meeting Description Options: LINKS Meeting(s) with Grower/Shipper Companies (Note: if hosting onsite, due to safety precautions, we recommend hosting separate individual meetings with member companies) | Internal Company Meeting
  • A La Carte Menu: A/V options (projector/screen & PA system) | Food & Beverage Service (at reserving company's expense)

*LINKS Meeting Reservations must be submitted/approved through SEPC by August 9th to ensure we have ample time to accommodate your meeting setup needs.


Cultivating Ideas – Growing Relationships – Producing Results

Each year, the SEPC strives to curate an impactful series of industry programs and networking events for our members. The SEPC Virtual Garden is our newest platform through which we will continue to keep members abreast of the latest developments in produce—whether those are happening in the soil, in the cloud, or anywhere in between.

Through the SEPC Virtual Garden, we have begun planting the seeds from our founding pillars – Networking, Innovation, Community, and Education – so that our members will reap the benefits of harvesting quality experiences guaranteed to increase the value of their membership.

In case you missed them, several sessions are already available on demand!

The key to the success of our SEPC Virtual Garden is the community who tends it, and we are eager to serve alongside our SEPC family to see what we can grow together!


We are now accepting nominations for our Next Generation Award. Nominations will only be accepted for SEPC members 39 years or younger who have been employed in the produce industry for at least four years and have made a significant contribution to the industry.

To qualify for the Next Generation Award, members must also be in “Good Standing” with the SEPC through regular attendance and contributions to our council (SEPC member companies who are in “Good Standing” may nominate an employee who is not currently on the active SEPC membership role).

NOTE: Neither SEPC employees or contractors or their immediate family are eligible for the award. The term “immediate family” includes spouses, siblings, parents, children, grandparents and grandchildren, whether as “in-laws”, or by current or past marriage(s), adoption, cohabitation or other family extension, and other persons residing at the same household, whether or not related.


Community Updates

Our featured charitable partner for July is Palmer Home for Children. The Southeast Produce Council is proud to help sponsor the creation of the Hope Grows Garden benefitting Palmer Home for Children in DeSoto County, Mississippi, one of the council’s chosen philanthropic partners.

For more than 125 years, Palmer Home for Children has provided superior care for children while introducing the love of God through service to each individual child. Palmer Home ensures restorative environments where children feel safe, connected, and supported through campus care, foster care, transitional care, and family care service lines.

This dream garden design will become a reality with help from YOU! Purchase a naming opportunity to honor a loved one or promote your business by visiting support.palmerhome.org/garden. Quantities are limited and will be honored on a first come, first served basis for a period of five years with first rights to renewal.

For any questions, please reach out to development@palmerhome.org.

We were blessed to have our SEPC family on campus to share in the harvest of the "Goodness Garden" and celebrate the graduation ceremony of Blake.” ~ Victoria Shuman, Advancement Officer, Paul Anderson Youth Home

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have gained valuable insight into SEPC’s theme for 2021 – Produce: Powered by People. The produce industry has been deemed essential during this pandemic, and whether companies are serving from the fields or delivering to our tables we have all felt the tremendous impact. We would love for you to share how you have witnessed essential workers from your company or others within our industry who have risen above the challenges to make a difference in the communities we serve.

Share your support of Produce: Powered by People!


Nolan Family Foundation Scholarship

This scholarship was established to memorialize Jim Nolan, who took an ethical stand on a business matter at great cost to himself. As a result of his professional ethics, Nolan was ostracized by colleagues and remained isolated in his efforts to maintain moral integrity in his workplace. It would have taken only a few others with the courage to speak out to change the course of events. Tragically, Jim died before the trial that finally vindicated his actions by a judge and a jury of 13 who found in his favor. Our sincere thanks to Theresa Nolan for providing this scholarship to the members of the Southeast Produce Council. She is a lifetime member of the SEPC and is always available to lend a helping hand wherever needed.

Scholarship Details

One college-aged student (graduating high school senior or current college student) will receive a one-time scholarship of $5,000 to their enrolling college/university. The scholarship will be awarded based on GPA (3.0 or higher), references, and quality of essay.

The application can only be submitted online through our link. The application deadline is July 2, 2021 at 5pm EST.

We are now taking applications for our 2022 STEP-UPP Class.

STEP-UPP gives Retail and Foodservice produce professionals a greater understanding of the industry through an emphasis on strategic orientation, personal leadership, and hands-on field experience. Twelve (12) individuals are selected through an application and interview process based on leadership experience and interest in developing a career in fresh produce. Potential candidates must be active members of SEPC.

2021-2022 SEPC Annual Membership

Join the SEPC Today and Thrive

As an SEPC member, you’ll join a diverse group of like-minded produce professionals, from farmers to distributors and retailers to chefs. It’s about growing your knowledge, sharpening your skills, sharing your passion with others, and enjoying what makes this corner of the country extra special: its long tradition of bringing people together through food that is grown, distributed, and cooked with love.

Please review the membership information on our website and select which annual membership* best suits your company's needs.

*Please note that our annual membership period runs June through May of the following year. We do not prorate our membership fees.

**All conference attendees are required to be SEPC members in order to attend any events. Exhibitors are required to maintain a corporate membership.**

Our Sponsors

SEPC sponsors are a vital part of our existence. Simply put, sponsor contributions help us bring more to the table for everyone. Like better networking and education events, fresh talent, and a broader awareness of best practices throughout our industry. And of course, when you help us promote produce, your organization will gain crucial exposure at our events and engagements throughout the year.

Interested in becoming an SEPC Sponsor?

We thank you for your support and look forward to boosting your business in return.

Check out this month’s Sponsor Spotlights on our social media platforms to learn more about each of our SEPC Level Sponsors!


Congratulations to Phillip Bell of Food Lion for being the first to answer our June SEPC Fruit & Veggie Trivia Question correctly!

July Trivia Question


In celebration of Independence Day, send us a selfie of you enjoying a red, white, or blue treat! Extra kudos if you include all three!!!

Contact us

Please note that our mailing address has changed! See our new mailing address below in the contact information.

242 North Masonic St. | Millen, GA 30442 | 877.720.SEPC (7372) | info@seproducecouncil.com