FMI MIDWINTER

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The matter of whether the Washington-based Food Marketing Institute and Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va., should merge and, if so, how that should be accomplished is to be considered by a special committee drawn from the boards of both trade associations.The decision to form the joint committee was made during last week's meeting of the FMI board. The board convened

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The matter of whether the Washington-based Food Marketing Institute and Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va., should merge and, if so, how that should be accomplished is to be considered by a special committee drawn from the boards of both trade associations.

The decision to form the joint committee was made during last week's meeting of the FMI board. The board convened during FMI's Midwinter Executive Conference here. John Block, FDI president and chief executive officer, attended the FMI board meeting.

SN learned of plans to form the committee during an interview here with Tim Hammonds, FMI president and CEO, and Block. The possibility of a merger between the two associations has been known for several weeks, and has been reported upon earlier by SN.

Last week's decision to form a committee to investigate the possibility would appear to move the matter forward.

Hammonds told SN the committee's purpose will be to advise the boards of FMI and FDI concerning the advisability of a merger, and, if it's deemed to be the way to go, how FDI would be structured within FMI as well as what synergies might result and what governance should pertain.

"A merger has not actually been approved," he said. "What this means is that we're now looking at the details and what a merger would look like if it happens."

Hammonds said that as of last week, the membership of the committee hadn't been decided upon, but that it would most likely have 10 to 12 members. The committee will be directed to proceed quickly, relying on conference calls in lieu of in-person meetings so its work can be quickly accomplished.

"The committee doesn't have a timetable to report to the boards, but there's no desire to drag this thing out," Hammonds said.

Indeed, two critical board meetings are upcoming. FDI's board will meet in early March in conjunction with an FDI conference in Dallas, and FMI's board meets in early May at its show in Chicago.

"We will know if we're going to do this or not by the time the May meeting is over," Block told SN.

Asked if the International Foodservice Distributors Association, a unit of FDI, would also be merged into FDI if the deal proceeds, Block said there's a "reasonable chance" that IFDA would become an independent entity. It has been speculated that should IFDA spin off from FDI, a union between IFDA and the International Food Manufacturers Association could eventuate.

The possibility of a merger of FMI and FDI is further indication of the growing reluctance of trade association members to expend time and money on multiple associations that could just as well be combined.

FMI and FDI are seen as having agendas that would easily fit together, giving the membership of both better ways to direct their resources.