Richter Produce Attends Southern Exposure Expo

SEPC_tenthHOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Produce distributor Richter and Co. helped to spread the word about buying regionally during the Southern Exposure conference, the Southeast Produce Council’s annual expo for the retail and foodservice industry.

The event in Hollywood, Florida, held March 3-5, drew record-setting attendance for the fifth straight year. At least 278 grower-shippers, distributors, marketers and others displayed their products during the expo. Industry insiders said turnout, which has climbed steadily over the last several years, was not a total surprise because The Southeast has become an increasingly important center for agricultural, retail and food service growth.

The conference moved this year to the beachside Diplomat Resort & Spa in south Florida, a new venue for the annual event. And in 2017, it moves again to Walt Disney World Dolphin resort in Orlando to accommodate continuous record crowds and exhibitors because the numbers climb steadily each year.

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Exhibitors often use the expo as a launching pad for new products and a base for announcing exclusive industry news. A major highlight of this year’s event was the introduction of Generation Farms, a new label marketed by Richter and Co. Among produce businesses on the East Coast, Generation Farms is the largest grower, processor, packer and shipper of carrots and sweet onions. It also grows sweet potatoes, green beans, bell peppers, berries and watermelons.

Generation Farms came to fruition when Cotton Wood Agriculture acquired Stanley Farms and Coggins Farms, two legendary produce families. With both families on one team now, Generation Farms is positioning itself as a catalyst for industry change. Part of its mission is to elevate to best in class food quality, safety and sustainability. With farmland now spread across Georgia and Florida, Generation also is positioning itself as the best alternative to West Coast produce, while holding to its promise to act as a good steward of the environment.

The scope of the merger made it a natural to unveil at Southern Exposure. The event draws members of the produce industry to connect, learn and gain a fresh perspective from retailers, growers, food service distributors and wholesalers.

Richter and Co. has participated in the Southern Exposure since it began. The company distributes peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, blackberries, sweet potatoes and Vidalia onions to food chains across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Today, it represents growers in Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia, Florida and Michigan. And its longevity, dating back to 1927, has helped it to become one of the world’s largest peach distributors and a major shipper of Vidalia onions.

As a member of the Southeast Produce Council, Richter and Co. helps promote the consumption of locally grown fruits and vegetables in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia.

The concept is known throughout the industry as buying regionally. Produce purchased seasonally and regionally means that, in most cases, it can be prepared and served within 48 hours of harvest. The result is healthier communities and customers. Buying regionally also ensures the sustainability of family farms, a familiar way of life for those who live in the Southeast.

Strawberries: The New ‘Superfood’

strawberries-superfoodWe’re not far from strawberry season, folks. They are the first fruits to ripen each spring. Besides tasting just plain good, they’re also good for you. Because their benefits are far too many to list — unless you’d rather read a lot and eat a little — we’ll hit the highlights.

  • Strawberries fight wrinkles. The fruit is loaded with vitamin C, which produces collagen, and collagen helps to improve skin’s elasticity and resilience. One serving of strawberries provides more vitamin C than an orange.
  • The heart-shaped fruit is good for your heart, too. Coincidence? Maybe. But it’s definitely a juicy fact that should make you feel good about liking strawberries. They are a perfect choice for heart health because strawberries not only contain essential elements, including potassium that helps the heart function properly, but they are also naturally free of fat, sodium and cholesterol. That means that strawberries help control three of the risk factors associated with heart disease — high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high homocysteine levels. And one serving of strawberries, the equivalent of about 8 berries, contains only 43 calories.
  • Mounting research and positive test results suggest that strawberries help fight cancer, too. The mighty phytonutrient ellagic acid gets the credit. It’s found in berry seeds, and various studies have shown that people who consume foods high in ellagic acid are three times less likely to develop cancer than compared to those who consume very little. Strawberries are also good sources of antioxidants and folic acid, as well as excellent sources of vitamin C, which decreases the risk for esophageal cancer. One cup of strawberries provides 100 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
  • Strawberries are high in fiber. High-fiber foods bring multiple benefits to the body. They’re filling, and they help to control blood sugar and keep cholesterol levels down. Strawberries also enhance digestive regularity, making fiber another key factor in weight control. Research has found that 1 gram of fiber eliminates 7 calories, so consuming the recommended 25 to 35 grams daily could cancel out nearly 300 calories for a 30-pound weight loss in one year.

Need more reasons to like strawberries? Get them here from Eating Well.

Sweet Potatoes More Popular in the U.S. and Europe

sweet-potato-friesSweet potatoes are suddenly giving their white-skinned cousins a run for their money. While we certainly can’t pinpoint exactly why, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that sweet potato consumption increased nearly 80 percent between 2000 and 2014 and sweet potatoes continue to gain popularity here and abroad.

Growing consumer demand for sweet potatoes may be due to mounting evidence that they are one of the world’s healthiest foods. Sweet potatoes are higher in beta carotene than many other vegetables and are a tremendous source of potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, C and E.

>> Read: 5 Huge Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

In October 2015, McDonald’s began trial testing sweet potato fries in Amarillo, Texas. And the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission recently released two surveys that suggest the super food is finding its way onto restaurant menus more frequently. The findings, published in The Packer, showed:

  • About two-thirds of consumers eat sweet potatoes in restaurants — baked, fried, whipped and in gourmet recipes.
  • About 15 percent of a la carte sweet potato sides are upgrade menu options, netting an average of $1.50 more per order.
  • 75 percent of diners believe sweet potatoes are healthy and nutritious. >> Read the full story

Demand for U.S. sweet potatoes is rising in Europe, as well. Exports on all forms of sweet potatoes to Europe reached $92 million in 2015, up 35 percent compared with 2014, according to a news release from the American Sweet Potato Marketing Institute.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the United Kingdom was the second largest export market for U.S. sweet potatoes in 2015, after Canada. Exports of U.S. fresh and dried sweet potatoes to the UK from January through November 2015 totaled nearly $53 million, up 45 percent compared to the same period in 2014.