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Two into One

The conference I am about to attend -- the FMI Energy & Store Development Conference, taking place at the Hilton Minneapolis -- is the latest example of the predominant trend in trade shows and conferences, which is to merge or co-locate them. What used to be two conferences – the Energy & Technical Services Conference and the Retail Store Development Conference, both courtesy of the Food Marketing Institute – is now just one.

I am a longtime attendee of the Energy & Technical Services Conference but have never attended the Retail Store Development Conference, so I’m glad to have an opportunity to get a taste of the latter.

The Energy Conference has always been one of FMI’s better events. For one thing, there is usually a great deal of retail participation in this event. I find that retail energy and refrigeration people are usually very willing to share best practices with other retailers. Many of them have taken this willingness over to the EPA’s GreenChill program, making it one of the true success stories in the industry. And I am co-moderating a refrigeration roundtable event later this week in Baltimore with SN’s sister publication Contracting Business that will feature brainstorming among five supermarket refrigeration executives and five contracting folks.

Of course, energy, sustainability and environmentalism have become very big issues in food retailing – so much so that FMI and GMA created a separate Sustainability Summit that runs in December in Arlington, Va. (home of FMI). Meanwhile, this week’s show focuses on the nuts-and-bolts of refrigeration, lighting and other energy-related topics.

I’ll be particularly interested to hear about how the industry plans to deal with HFC refrigerants, whose high global warming potential is putting supermarkets on a collision course with federal regulation or however society ends up dealing with global warming.