FMI Seeks to Repeat Success

ARLINGTON, Va. Food Marketing Institute is adding more opportunities for networking among attendees at its second Future Connect conference, scheduled for next month in Dallas. While much of the format of the conference, which took place for the first time in 2009, will remain the same, a new element designed to bring retailers, wholesaler and suppliers to the table literally has been added for the

ARLINGTON, Va. — Food Marketing Institute is adding more opportunities for networking among attendees at its second Future Connect conference, scheduled for next month in Dallas.

While much of the format of the conference, which took place for the first time in 2009, will remain the same, a new element designed to bring retailers, wholesaler and suppliers to the table — literally — has been added for the 2011 version of the biannual event.

The conference will include “idea tables” at lunch that will stage discussions around specific topics of interest to the industry, explained Leslie G. Sarasin [4], president and chief executive officer, FMI, based here.

“We are getting very good reaction to it — I think people are intrigued about the opportunity to participate,” she told SN last week.

FMI identified specific topics for discussion at the tables, such as trading partner collaboration, which will be led by industry leaders.

“There will be discussion about how to do joint business planning, maximizing category profitability, supplier diversity — things that both sides of the equation are very concerned about, but it really creates an opportunity for them to talk in a smaller community about it,” Sarasin explained.

The opportunity for discussion among peers from the retail, wholesale and supplier community is one of the appeals of the conference, which was well-received by the industry in its first incarnation, she said.

“It's an opportunity for these folks to meet each other and develop the kinds of relationships that can grow over time as they move up in their respective organizations,” she said.

The conference focuses on training and development of current and future industry leaders, and consists of three educational tracks: strategic management, geared for top executives; operations management, for store-level managers; and sales/marketing/merchandising.

Attendance is expected to be similar to similar to the 1,800 who attended the 2009 event, which had been postponed from May to October due to concerns about a flu outbreak.

“We had companies that brought large groups to the one in 2009 who are bringing even larger groups this year,” Sarasin said. “I think the buzz that was created by the event the last time has had the effect we had hoped for.”

One change this year is that the even was moved to later in the week — pre-show sessions begin Monday, May 9, and the main conference launches the next day — so it would not clash with Mother's Day, which is Sunday, May 8.