FMI FORMAT REVAMPED FOR 21ST CENTURY

WASHINGTON -- The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) will cast its model for a 21st century trade show in Chicago, May 5 to 7, 2002, by offering attendees "enhanced quality, greater flexibility and depth of coverage," said Michael Sansolo, senior vice president of education, research and industry relations.This will be accomplished with new features designed to add value to the convention or components

WASHINGTON -- The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) will cast its model for a 21st century trade show in Chicago, May 5 to 7, 2002, by offering attendees "enhanced quality, greater flexibility and depth of coverage," said Michael Sansolo, senior vice president of education, research and industry relations.

This will be accomplished with new features designed to add value to the convention or components that have been fine-tuned to make the meeting more productive and efficient for attendees.

"It is much more fragmented than it use to be," Sansolo told SN. "We are laying out the component parts and attendees will decide how they want to design or consume the show."

Sansolo outlined some of the changes for the 2002 convention. These include fewer workshops during the traditional workshop time period but sessions featuring dynamic and relevant industry speakers such as Jim Donald, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Pathmark Stores, Carteret, N.J., who is scheduled to present his personal outlook on leadership.

Last year's popular category close-ups will be expanded to include more workshops in the South and North buildings.

New are educational learning labs where groups of up to 150 can get an in-depth presentation on topics ranging from loyalty to perishables marketing. These sessions will run about three hours and include visits to exhibitors that do business in specific areas of interest.

Brian Tully, FMI's senior vice president of convention services, refers to next year's convention as a "21st century trade event" because FMI is making an effort to customize the show for attendees.

"We are inserting ourselves into the process and taking responsibility to build group participation for chains and independents," said Tully. To accomplish this FMI will prepare agendas, set appointments and offer customized educational workshops all coordinated from "team rooms" set near the front of each exhibit hall.

FMI officials said they are expecting a strong turnout despite being caught in an uncertain period where some industry events were canceled and travel curtailed following the events of Sept. 11.

"This might be the kind of year where the events and opportunities that we are providing for the industry become more important than ever," said Sansolo.

Aiding FMI's attendance will be the Fancy Food Show, sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, New York, that will run for the first time concurrently with FMI's convention. The show will bring some of the 12,000 to 14,000 Fancy Food attendees to FMI. The last day of the convention will be a free day open to registrants of both shows. Tully said it's another way that FMI is building more value into the convention.

With FMI's 2002 convention, FMI will mark its 25th anniversary. It was in 1977 that two organizations -- the Washington-based National Association of Food Chains and the Chicago-based Super Market Institute merged to form FMI.

While this milestone and some of the founders involved will be recognized during the convention, FMI's anniversary celebration will be secondary to the convention program and issues of the day, said Tully.

As to the issues impacting supermarkets, Sansolo said he has yet to nail down a theme for next year's Speaks presentation. "I am struggling with the theme because the world has become so changeable lately. In the wake of Sept. 11 this industry really demonstrated its tremendous heart and what an important part of the community we are...There will be some element of celebrating how well the industry responded at a time when we were all challenged."

Sansolo said an exciting technology developing in the industry and one that holds the key to a new consumer experience at the front end is the potential of the electronic product code (EPC).

The third installment of SuperTechMart will showcase the EPC that is more sophisticated than the universal product code (UPC). The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, possessing one of the top EPC research teams in the world, will assist FMI in producing this event.

The 2002 Marketechnics convention, in San Diego from Feb. 3 to 5, will compete on Sunday's opening day with the Super Bowl and will run concurrently with FMI's Loss Prevention Conference.

The Marketechnics event will be focused on what is available today to plug in rather than what is cutting edge and in the future, said Sansolo.

Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, will open the program with his presentation on leadership, teamwork, creativity, relationships and the liberation of the human spirit. The closing presentation will feature Michael Heschel, executive vice president, information systems and services, Kroger, Cincinnati, and a top executive from C&S Wholesale Grocers, Brattleboro, Vt. Both executives will give their views on what their companies need to do to succeed going into the future.

Tully said registrations for Marketechnics are running behind last year. The event has been moved up to the early part of February rather than running later in the month. With the holiday season, Tully said he doesn't expect people to focus on the show yet. "We aren't taking seriously that there may be a drop-off. It's an incredibly important and popular event and once the holiday turns people will give it their attention and they'll get the registration forms in," he said.

Kicking off FMI's conference and meeting season will be the Midwinter Executive Conference, an invitation-only event, in Scottsdale, Ariz., Jan. 13 to 15.

Sansolo said Midwinter invitation returns are running about 2% ahead of last year. The program will examine the state of the economy and national security.