FMI, GMA Plan to Align Agendas, Meetings

Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association will more closely link their agendas and meetings, and one likely outcome is the combination of their executive summits within two years. The new strategy was unveiled last week at FMI's Midwinter Executive Conference here, which included an unusual ceremony in which the chairmen of each association signed a document promising

ORLANDO, Fla. — Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association will more closely link their agendas and meetings, and one likely outcome is the combination of their executive summits within two years.

The new strategy was unveiled last week at FMI's Midwinter Executive Conference here, which included an unusual ceremony in which the chairmen of each association signed a document promising greater collaboration.

The developments also came against the backdrop of new top leadership at both associations.

“FMI will leverage the strengths of our organization with those of GMA to find innovative ways to collaborate, eliminate duplication and provide all our members with more robust programs and services,” said Leslie Sarasin, FMI's new president and chief executive officer.

“Collaboration is the key to success when it comes to confronting the challenges and opportunities facing our industry, and GMA has no more important ally than FMI,” said Pamela Bailey, GMA's new president and CEO.

FMI and GMA are aiming to combine their annual executive conferences beginning in 2010 or 2011, Steve Smith, FMI's chairman, who is president and CEO of K-VA-T Food Stores, told SN.

FMI's executive forum takes place each January. This year the GMA Executive Conference is scheduled to be held Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 at The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs.

While the melding of executive conferences isn't a done deal, the associations are trying to accomplish that goal as quickly as possible. The timing — whether next year or the year after — depends on how quickly the logistics can be worked out, Smith said. The joint effort would achieve the goal of eliminating industry duplication and improving trading-partner collaboration, he said.

At last week's FMI event, Smith and GMA's chairman, Douglas Conant, president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Co., signed a “joint memorandum of understanding” for closer collaboration between the two associations and development of a “jointly developed annual industry agenda.” The initiative includes creation of a Joint Industry Relations/Industry Affairs Council called the Trading Partner Alliance, with plans for further exploration of possible synergies on the meetings and conferences front. The TPA will develop a common framework on supply chain efficiency issues, the application of information technology, the adoption of environmentally friendly business practices and other issues.

“While the thrust of this effort [association collaboration] focuses on industry affairs, we are also committed to improved joint work in public policy and science,” the memorandum stated.

Under the agreement, which covers approximately a two-year period, the TPA will create an “annual work plan” that will be presented to both association's boards. Once approved, the plan will be executed by the FMI Industry Relations Committee and the GMA Industry Affairs Council.

The agreement calls for at least one annual joint board meeting, as well as jointly coordinated and co-located supply chain and logistics programs.

In addition, the government relations and scientific and regulatory councils and committees of the associations will hold two meetings a year to target common goals and bolster public policy and regulatory efforts.

Conant, in an interview with SN, cited “unprecedented progress” in collaboration between the associations. “We've gone from talking about it to doing something about it,” he said. “The bias to action is unmistakable, and will be facilitated by new leadership at both organizations.”