The 2013 installment of Food Marketing Institute’s Future Connect conference got off to a good start Monday, even though the meat of the event really gets served on Tuesday and Wednesday.
For an appetizer, some early arrivals went on what was described as a successful store tour, visiting local Winn-Dixie, Publix and Wal-Mart locations, while others did store tours of their own, including visits to a nearby Whole Foods.
The first presentation of the conference featured a well-attended discussion of social media, presented by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council and featuring candid insights from Mark Irby, vice president of marketing at Publix Super Markets, and Tim Massa, vice president of talent development at Kroger Co. Although some of the research has been presented in the past, Irby and Massa were able to highlight the real-world challenges — and opportunities — of communicating in a society in which consumers increasingly control the conversation.
Read more: Publix, Kroger Discuss Social Media
In the evening, as a thunderstorm approached, things heated up at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Fla., where the conference is taking place, with a “FunDay Night” concert. It seemed as if most of the 1,400 or so registered attendees took part in the festivities.
Those were just warm-ups for Tuesday’s heavy schedule of sessions and activities, however, with David Dillon, chairman and chief executive officer, Kroger, and chairman of the Future Connect event, set to deliver welcoming remarks, and Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI, set to the deliver the Speaks presentation of industry data.
Also, the FMI Store Manager of the Year Awards will be presented at the end of the day — some of the nominees were at the FunDay Night event, and for many it was their first FMI conference.
Photo gallery: FMI Store Manager of the Year Finalists
“This is a great event to bring people who you want to have exposure to training and development tools,” said Jerry Golub, president and CEO of Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., which brought 12 employees to the conference. “They always come away energized, and they bring that energy back with them. They also appreciate that the company is investing in them.”