NPFDA's Spring Exchange in Review

Posted By: Carol Lanham Industry News, Member News,

Each spring, the National Protein and Food Distributors Association holds a Spring Exchange, a 2–3-day meeting that includes a tour of an industry related facility, networking opportunities, and round table discussions.  For 2023, NPFDA held the Spring Exchange in Savannah, Georgia’s oldest city.

On Wednesday, March 22, the 3-day event got underway with dinner at the iconic Olde Pink House, circa 1771.  Members and guests reconnected with old friends and met new members while enjoying southern coastal cuisine.

Thursday morning, attendees gathered for a networking breakfast buffet and then climbed aboard a tour bus for a short ride to the Port of Savannah.  Bill Barrs, Manager of Market Research and 18-year veteran of the Georgia Ports Authority, met the NPFDA group for a presentation about the port including its history, capabilities, and projected outlook before heading out for a tour of the enormous facility. 

The tour bus, escorted by a Georgia Ports Authority Police Officer, transported NPFDA members throughout the port where they saw numerous rows of stacked shipping containers.  The group saw varying sizes of ship-to-shore cranes, four of which had arrived on February 9, 2023, and are the largest cranes on the east coast of the United States.  Barrs gave a thorough explanation of how each container was accounted for whether awaiting pick-up or being offloaded from a cargo ship.  The group observed cranes lifting containers and then being set down precisely onto stevedore trucks where they were whisked away to pre-determined locations at the port.

The Georgia Ports Authority, GPA, is the 3rd busiest container gateway in the United States, after Los Angeles and New York/New Jersey.  It is the number one gateway for the export of agricultural products including poultry. “What sets Savannah apart is the room to grow,” said Barrs.  Other U.S. coastal ports do not have the luxury of future expansion like Savannah does.   Having U.S. Customs onsite to expedite inspections for both imports and exports is another important asset.  Touring the Port of Savannah and seeing firsthand how goods enter and leave the country from the southeast coast was an invaluable experience for all.

Following the port tour, attendees participated in their choice of optional activities including golf, a private trolley tour of downtown Savannah, and a Segway tour.  These activities provided fun as well as networking opportunities. 

Evening festivities began with a poolside reception at the Andaz Savannah, the host hotel, and concluded with another reception at Vic’s On the River, circa 1865.  Many guests took advantage of the views from the private dining room balconies and observed loaded cargo ships on the Savannah River heading to the port.

Wrapping up the Spring Exchange on Friday morning, NPFDA members met for another networking breakfast. It was followed by a presentation by Deepak Iyengar, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Parker College of Business at Georgia Southern University.  Dr. Iyengar’s agenda included Supply Chain Management versus Operations Management versus Logistics Management, Disruptive Technologies, Mapping Your Supply Chain, Incoterms 2020, and Process Improvements.  The presentation was not only informative but certainly relevant to the association.  It tied together what members already knew and experienced daily, with what they had seen at the Port of Savannah and technologies that impact supply chains.  Most interesting was talk about the improvements of 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and artificial intelligence. 

Twenty years ago, these topics would have belonged in Sci-fi books or movies and not reality.  The fact that Logistic and Supply Chain Management is an available curriculum in colleges and universities is critical in a world where everything comes from somewhere else. 


The next in-person NPFDA event will be the Fall Meeting at the Hard Rock Hotel, Universal Orlando Resort September 17-20, 2023.  The NPFDA Annual Convention 2024, will take place at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta January 29 – February 1, 2024.  Please click on the QR code to be directed to NPFDA’s upcoming events page.

For information about joining the National Protein and Food Distributors Association, call 912-439-3606 or visit

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