Retailers, suppliers and other food retail executives will be gathering in Chicago the week of June 8 for the now annual FMI Connect show at the McCormick Place conference center. SN asked Randy Edeker — FMI Connect chairman, and president, chairman and CEO of Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa — to give readers a preview of the show’s highlights and new features.
Supermarket News: What would you say are the major themes at this year’s FMI Connect? How do they address challenges retailers face right now?
Randy Edeker: Our industry is constantly changing and more rapidly than ever before. This year, FMI Connect is going to enable retailers and their employees to come together and discuss solutions and new ideas. It will be a time of collaboration — it will provide opportunities for our business leaders to connect and their employees to advance professionally. In planning this year’s show, we knew it had to have real business collaboration to remain relevant, and we believe the event lineup accomplishes this.
SN: One new addition to this year's show is the Connect Business Exchange program. Can you tell us about that?
RE: Connect Business Exchange (CBX) is going to give us an entirely new experience on the exhibit floor. It’s designed to provide a systemized approach to maximize meeting time among food retailers and their supply chain partners. What I appreciate is that CBX allows attendees and exhibitors to arrive in Chicago with a plan.
CBX will create the forum to allow teams to conduct more meetings over the span of three days than they could manage in a single quarter through traditional meeting avenues. I’ve registered more than 140 team members to participate, so clearly I see value.
SN: What other new features should retailers look for at the show?
RE: I’m enthusiastic about the energy we’ve given to the sensory experience on the exhibit floor this year.
One large feature is our symbolic ‘host country,’ Italy. The Italian Trade Commission is bringing more than 50 authentic Italian suppliers to literally recreate the Italian supplier market in McCormick Center, offering demos and other taste experiences. Italy is the ideal partner to elevate the importance of a key competitive strategy: providing authentic international options.
The Italian pavilion is featured among multiple areas of focus on the exhibit floor, all of which demonstrate competitive categories where food retailers are striving for operational excellence, namely, health and wellness; fresh foods; technology; and private brands.
We’ll see some flavors and trends among the pavilions come to life at the Supermarket Chef Showdown, too, where food retail professional chefs will vie for a title and some amazing prizes that will help them develop professionally.
The FMI Connect planning team has done its best to offer different approaches to the expo and education this year. The conference schedule affords show-goers to customize their education opportunities via subject-matter tracks, Learning Lounge opportunities, and even invite exhibitors to “Meet the Retailer” in sessions aimed to talk big picture trends at the retail level.
SN: Could you share some of the Hy-Vee team's goals for FMI Connect?
RE: We’re looking forward to bringing our people who work in various areas of our company and giving them the access to and experience of FMI Connect. Because of all that FMI Connect has to offer, it spurs excitement for all the changes happening in the industry, and it generates ideas that we bring back to our company and then use to formulate plans to further enhance Hy-Vee’s brand and core strengths. This idea generation is the reason why I bring so many people from our company.
This year, we will have 144 representatives from Hy-Vee, including a dozen of our senior leaders; young people who we hope to move up in the industry and believe are key to our future; and category managers and purchasers. We hope our diverse group of employees at the show will yield a diverse range of ideas that can benefit every facet of our company.
SN: FMI Connect went back to its annual schedule last year; what advantages will retailers see from this frequency?
RE: We work in a competitive environment, but we’re all striving for similar goals to meet changing customer demands. It’s beneficial for us to come together on an annual basis to share and learn from each other. FMI offers us a forum to establish long-lasting business relationships.
SN: Is there anything else that you’d like to say to attendees?
RE: As food retailers, we’re in the business of both food and community. I would emphasize that FMI Connect gives attendees access to the right people, the right products and the right ideas to bring new efficiencies back to our companies.
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