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FMI 2010 Take Away

The big food show has ended.

As the Food Marketing Institute wrapped up its FMI 2010 educational and exhibition event yesterday, it is hoped that what happened this week in Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center doesn’t stay there.

It would be a shame if all the hours of meetings, shared ideas and discussion on how to best serve shoppers who have significantly changed their food consumption gets forgotten when retailers get back to their daily operational grind.

So what happened in Vegas besides lack of sleep, overindulgence of food and drink and losses at the casino?

FMI 2010 was about the realization that the consumer has changed quite dramatically and fast since the last convention in 2008. An overload of information and statistics — more than one could absorb — was presented on what is popularly referred to as the ‘new norm.’

FMI presenters, retailers and the 544 exhibitors generally believe consumer spending, consumption patterns and lifestyles have permanently changed mainly due to the severity of the recession.

While spending appears to be loosening up, consumers will want low prices and value for some years to come. That means it will take more than traditional incentives — BOGOs, coupons and loyalty card offers — to lure food shoppers. Ingenuity and understanding of exactly what the shopper wants must be applied to the promotional and marketing mix more than ever. The old ways of doing business, including promotional trade allowances, won’t work in winning shopper loyalty.

Added to the new norm is a shopper base that is dramatically changing demographically. No one store format can serve all. The ability to personalize the offering, as in “I want my Starbucks just to suit my taste,” will determine who wins in a new retailing marketplace.

The digital revolution has altered how consumers shop, receive information and communicate with each other. Retailers must learn to harness the power of digital information in order to survive.

Food shoppers today are well informed and self directed. They are concerned about their health and the health of the globe. To make a difference with shoppers, supermarkets must be leaders in social responsibility — health care, sustainability, food safety and community outreach.

Connecting to the consumer, which was FMI’s theme this year, generated a lot of buzz, enthusiasm and excitement among the delegates for new opportunities potentially worth billions in new revenue.

Supermarkets’ development of health care services is a huge opportunity for new revenue and savings on health care costs. Supermarkets with their fresh food offering and pharmacy are natural leaders in the health care reform movement. They can make a difference in the health and well being of their shoppers, employees and citizens living in their communities.

These are opportunities that shouldn’t be left on the table in a now silent convention hall. Food retailing these days should be a lot more than a crapshoot.