It was a memorable moment in the recent history of food industry gatherings.
Retailers and suppliers at last month’s FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Orlando heard a passionate call to action by John Compton, CEO, PepsiCo Americas Foods and Global Snacks Group (see Industry Hears Bold Message on Growth Steps ).
He advocated major industry changes, including new approaches to everything from data practices to supply chain in order to boost growth. He asked leaders to commit to a systemwide inventory reduction, and urged a change in slotting fee practices that would repurpose those monies to be better spent against understanding shoppers and building loyalty in stores.
Compton was aware his points would push the comfort zones of many retailers.
However, the generally positive reaction to his candor and courage indicates he has sparked a healthy debate. This speaks volumes about the industry at a time when collaboration is on the rise. Of course, it won’t be easy to enact Compton’s vision, but even just raising the agenda at this high-level meeting was an achievement.
The message was heard by the largest FMI Midwinter gathering of attendees in 15 years. It’s significance pertains to executives in companies of all sizes, including independent retailers, who gather this week for The NGA Show in Las Vegas.
There were other signs at Midwinter that change is high on the industry’s priority list:
- FMI and the Grocery Manufacturers Association said they will make a big shift by co-locating their executive conferences beginning in January 2013 . GMA will cease operating its stand-alone event in 2013 while co-locating some of the signature elements at FMI Midwinter in that year.
- As FMI commemorates its 35th anniversary, it announced an innovative new program for FMI 2012 this May called “Supermarket Chef Showdown,”  a contest that aims to better associate supermarkets with culinary advances.
- The increasingly important topic of social media took center stage at FMI Midwinter with the introduction of new research that highlights the opportunities .
Where will all this change lead? That’s an assessment to be made in the future. In the meantime, we can agree with the remark of Steve Junqueiro, president and COO of Save Mart Supermarkets, who commented during Midwinter on the impact of the economy, technology and competition on his operation and the industry.
“This is a defining moment,” he concluded.
That pretty much sums it up for everyone.