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Aiming “to design new occasions more appropriate to the faster paced rhythms of food retail,” the Food Marketing Institute will discontinue its annual conference, FMI Connect, which was scheduled to be held in Chicago next June.
FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said the decision came “after much deliberation and guidance” from the group’s executive committee and board of directors to cancel the show, which was revived in 2015 as an annual gathering in Chicago. Sarasin said the show in its present form “doesn’t meet the goals” of the organization.
“We continue to believe that events designed to bring together the entire food retail industry and their partners for meaningful conversation, education, exploration and networking are desired and needed, but we have concluded these gatherings should occur in a framework that differs from the current FMI Connect design,” Sarasin said during a Wednesday morning conference call with trade press. "We also recognize that in recent years this event has fallen short of achieving the precise formula necessary for meeting today’s industry needs, particularly as the industry continues to change and evolve so quickly.”
With a goal of better serving "the needs of our members as well as the broader food industry,” Sarasin said FMI must pursue events “in unique formats more attuned to the specific needs of our industry. With the elimination of having to fill football fields’ worth of space as ‘The Show’ configuration required, FMI will be liberated to explore new, focused and more flexible events.”
To that end, she continued, plans for an event scheduled for 2018 “will be designed with feedback of constituents,” including FMI members, industry partners and trade media.
FMI Connect 2016 included a tech-focused "show within a show" Pulse, hosted by Progressive Grocer and its sister EnsembleIQ publication, Retail Leader. PG's 2017 Pulse event will continue as planned, with additional information scheduled to be released shortly.
Focus on Leadership
As it regroups on next steps, a key area of focus for FMI will center on creating a future leaders program, according to Sarasin. “Leadership development is an important component for our member companies to ensure they’re doing everything they can for the future leaders. We’re very enthusiastic about that opportunity,” she said, adding that there will be “a few other components for the 2017 gathering.”
Other key areas of focus will include technology and private brands, Sarasin said. “There are a number of areas we’ll be looking at, how they fit with our strategic plans … and the growth and development our member companies are looking for,” she said.
As the industry it services must redefine how it does business with changing times, Sarasin said, FMI likewise “must adapt and look with fresh eyes at the opportunities this new frontier holds, even when it requires letting go of old methods that hold places in our hearts.”
Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute represents members that operate nearly 40,000 retail food stores and 25,000 pharmacies, representing a combined annual sales volume of almost $770 billion.