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Five standouts from Southern Exposure 2024

southern exposure standouts

TAMPA, FL — There are a lot of booths to cover, and a lot of new products introduced every year at the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure.

Thankfully, everyone’s got a 10-foot by 10-foot booth to make it easy on the feet.

The show drew an estimated 3,500 attendees, which included about 700 from the buying community. The expo featured close to 300 booths, and included Innovation Stations, a sized-down booth area with a smaller table and chair for exhibitors who weren’t able to get a one of those coveted 10×10 spaces on the main floor.

For the first few hours of the expo, both the show floor and Innovation Stations were a bee hive of activity.

As the show started to wrap up, I made my way through to booths that caught my eye.

Here are five new items that got me to stop:

Mastronardi Produce/Backyard Farms’ new full-head romaine. Is this the golden goose of indoor lettuce? Have we finally found the holy grail business lettuce we’ve been looking for, a tightly-packed, flavorful, and crunchy experience. I’m not sure if this has the exact same density as outdoor lettuce, but it is a step in that direction.

Fresh Solutions Network’s new Amazables! oven-crisp style microwaveable potatoes look really interesting. In six minutes in the microwave, they promise that oven-like experience, and feature a sauce packet by Litehouse. I definitely want to get my hands on one of these to test it out in my kitchen.

Red sun Farms is offering the new Empress tomato from Norfolk Healthy Produce. This is another genetically engineered item approved for the U.S. market. It was developed using genetics from snapdragons and offers a dark purple, almost black color with higher antioxidant content and a deep tomato taste. I tried it. It was delicious.

WP Rawl Farms developed a new alternative to the standard spinach artichoke dip. Collard dip is launching in this spring at Wegmans. It had a nice green veggie flavor and is great for snacking.

Gourmet Garden had a new Zesty Lemon paste that packs that lemon zest punch in a ready-to-use format. They weren’t offering a sample at the show, but I’m really curious about this now so I’ll have to get my hands on one.


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.