The food industry's history of adapting to sweeping societal changes will serve it well in upcoming challenges, Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI, said in an address to the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference.
Faced with present-day challenges ranging from cybersecurity to managing consumer expectations, the industry can take comfort in how it's mastered lessons from the great waves impacting human development described decades ago by futurist Alvin Toffler, she said. These were the agricultural society, the Industrial Age and the Information Age. Human society may have progressed and moved on, but "food retailing requires swimming in the waters of all three waves," she said.
As a result, she added, "The food retail industry — with its experience of riding the three waves of societal development — is uniquely positioned to help bring order out of the current state of chaos."
Sarasin cited recent examples of how food retailers are adapting to changing needs, including providing healthier choices to consumers, experimenting with formats, and addressing new shopper convenience needs.
"You have successfully led the industry through multiple changes, consumer styles, and generational growth," she said. "And you have managed to accomplish this, all while courageously and cautiously fighting the battle of the bottom line through all sorts of economic conditions."
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