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WILMETTE, Ill. -- Michael O'Connor, who played a major role in the creation of the Food Marketing Institute, has died at a hospice near his home here. He was born in 1919.
O'Connor joined the industry in 1962 as chief executive of the Super Market Institute (SMI), a forerunner to FMI. Under his leadership, SMI developed world-class research and educational programs that enabled supermarkets to keep pace with fast-changing consumers and share best-in-class innovations. He fostered the growth of the association's Information Service into the world's largest collection of resources covering all subjects related to food distribution.
SMI's research and educational programs came together at its annual Supermarket Industry Convention and Educational Exposition, known today as the FMI Show. This event grew into one of the world's largest food industry conventions, attended by tens of thousands of executives from more than 100 countries.
In the late 1960s O'Connor was among the first to recognize the potential of scanning using the Universal Product Code (UPC) -- a technology now used today in more than 100 countries by over 20 industries as diverse as package delivery, nuclear waste tracking, and aerospace.
In 1977 he left his post at SMI when it merged with the National Association of Food Chains to form FMI. Before departing, O'Connor then played an instrumental role in the founding of FMI, particularly through his 1976 tour of 47 cities, during which he sold the benefits of the merger to food wholesalers and to retailers ranging from one-store operators to the largest chains.
In later years he discovered innovations abroad and shared them with U.S. retailers, as well as introducing the supermarket concept to executives in such areas as India, the Pacific Rim, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.
O'Connor shared his discoveries and advanced industry knowledge in numerous educational forums. He was a key player in the development of Coca-Cola Retail Research Councils in the United States in 1978 and later in Europe. These groups retained world experts in the industry to explore such diverse topics as selling prepared foods in supermarkets, food retailing in a greener Europe, and serving Hispanic shoppers, electronic marketing.
For 17 years O'Connor contributed articles to the journal International Trends in Food Retailing. He also was worked as an instructor at the Food Industry Management Program at the Graduate School of the University of Southern California; Cornell University; and the Peter F. Drucker Graduate Management Center at the Claremont Graduate University.