2010 Power 50: No. 44 Leslie G. Sarasin

Blank - Power 50 Profile

When Leslie Sarasin became president and chief executive officer of Food Marketing Institute in late 2008, she wanted the association to excel as a “forward-focused, friendly and idea-seeking” industry leader. Collaboration is one of the ways she’s sought to achieve this.

“I have always believed that there are added benefits when groups collaborate,” she said. “We have worked diligently to meet that goal, seeking opportunities whenever and wherever possible to work together across associations, industries and the marketplace.”

Take FMI’s new working relationship with the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Working together as the Trading Partner Alliance, the groups hold joint conferences. The first-ever joint Supply Chain Conference was held in February and this December, it will host the 2010 Sustainability Summit.

“We are shaping the future of our industry by leading efforts on sustainable business practices relative to packaging, carbon footprint, water footprint, sustainable consumption and sustainable seafood, and other environmental and social issues that help address customers concerns,” she said.

Sarasin put in place a CEO-level Strategic Thinking Committee to look at all aspects of the organization.

As part of its work, the committee crafted a new vision: FMI provides leadership to retailers and wholesalers of food and consumer products, as well as to their supplier partners, by fostering their growth and promoting their role in feeding families and enriching the lives of their customers.

“By focusing on the role of supermarkets in feeding families and enriching lives, we’re drawing attention to the services, food and products retailers sell so that customers can improve their well-being,” said Sarasin. “It’s an important evolution of FMI.”

So much so that FMI has added two new areas of focus: health/wellness and sustainability/social responsibility. Adding health and wellness to FMI’s mission reflects the everyday concern of supermarket customers, she said.

“We are much more than simple purveyors of food,” Sarasin said. “We are in the business of promoting healthy lifestyles, enabled by eating the right foods and providing the right products for a safe environment.”

To help achieve this, the Arlington, Va.-based association created a CEO health and wellness task force and an executive-level advisory council to guide the planning of all of FMI’s programs and services moving forward.

As for other areas of focus, FMI is addressing credit-card interchange fees, by pressing for legislation that will give retailers the right to negotiate fees with credit-card companies and banks, she said.