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Southern Exposure offers ‘home-field’ advantage for Always Fresh Farms

Always Fresh Farms won’t have to travel far to attend this year’s SEPC Southern Exposure Conference, as the Winter Haven, FL-based company is less than an hour’s drive from this year’s Tampa-based show.

“We love this show as it offers a lot of exposure to retail buyers and a chance to showcase the best of Florida right in our own backyard,” said Matt Sumner, a member of Always Fresh’s sales team. “This show gives us a chance for face-to-face meetings with current customers and a chance to meet new ones.”

Always Fresh Farms will exhibit at Booth No. 747, where it will highlighting its ever-growing berry program.

IMG 9519-002 “Florida strawberries will be in peak production so this is a great time to showcase those,” Sumner said. “Florida blueberries start in March and come on strong in April. With imports coming down, the market has seen a decrease in supply, so it’s a chance for us to show what’s coming in 4-6 weeks. It’s a nice way to showcase something coming in the future.”

And with the company’s growing operations so close, retailers who want to check out the fields can easily take a tour when taking a break from the convention. In fact, Sumner noted he welcomes anyone to come on by and see the strawberries and blueberries in the fields.

“Our berry programs will be hot topics at the show, as strawberries and blueberries will be transitioning growing regions and should be strong markets,” he said. “If they want to come see our strawberry fields, we can drive 30 minutes and see them, pick the fruit, and take a tour of the facility. This plays right into our strengths.”

Always Fresh has been attending SEPC since its beginnings, and has enjoyed seeing it evolve through the years.

“When that show was first launched, it was a very small show, intimate and literally different than the other big shows. The buyers could take their time and you have more time to develop relationships and be more memorable when making introductions,” Sumner said. “That still remains true. This show is focused on retail buyers and regional vendors, and for us, being from Florida, it’s a great fit and a good way to focus on what we do and it’s a bit of a home-field advantage.”

Getting ready for the show takes some work, however. Sumner said the game plan going in starts with setting up a meeting calendar for all attendees and preparing talking points for the berry program.

“Generally, everyone has a customer list that they deal with on regular basis. We touch base, ask them to come by the booth, maybe have lunch or dinner and go beyond the sales order delivery,” he said. “It helps us get to know people in a disarming environment. There’s no pressure negotiating and allows for more personal conversations.”

In 2020, Always Fresh expects increased volumes of blues, blacks and raspberries from its South American farms, and the company will be making this known to all at its booth.

“We signed a new grower in 2020 that has farms in South America, Chile, Peru and Mexico, and this allows us ability to expand our footprint with blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. We traditionally have been geared towards domestic programs and this guy has completed the 12-month, year-round supplier so we can go in and tell people we have fruit coming from all regions.”