WMU News

Food industry execs to gather for 35th WMU conference

March 15, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Food industry executives from around the nation will converge at Western Michigan University Monday and Tuesday, March 27 and 28, to discuss the new industry order created by the rapid consolidation of the food industry and the emergence of grocery-laden super stores.

"A New Millennium: A New Industry Order" is the title of the 35th annual Food Marketing Conference to be held at WMU's Bernhard Center. More than 500 food executives are expected at the event, which features speakers from such industry heavyweights as Wal*Mart Stores, Borden Foods, SUPERVALU and the Kellogg Co. The conference opens with a reception and dinner program beginning at 6 p.m. Monday and concludes at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

"There has been a tremendous amount of change in the food industry over the last five years," says conference coordinator Dr. Frank M. Gambino, associate professor of marketing and adviser to WMU's Food Marketing Program. "Retailers, wholesalers and brokers are all consolidating at a rapid pace and the emergence of the super center format by Wal*Mart, Kmart and Target has increased the pressure on all retailers. It is increasingly difficult for smaller independents to remain competitive in the face of such powerful competition. The shifting balance of power is dramatically altering the food industry."

Featured speaker Michael W. Wright, chairman, president and chief executive officer of SUPERVALU, the world's largest food wholesaler, will address the conference crowd at 8:45 p.m. Monday. His speech will focus on "Industry Consolidation and the Impact of Food Retailing."

Tuesday's three featured speakers include Peter M. Dunn, president and chief operating officer of Borden Foods, who will lead off at 8:15 a.m. with "Building a Great Food Company," a discussion of how businesses can survive major restructuring and emerge as stronger organizations by becoming more consumer focused; Michael Sansolo, senior vice president of the Food Marketing Institute, who will prompt attendees to "Imagine What the Future May Hold" at 9 a.m. with a futuristic view of what the industry might look like in the next decade; and Top Markets President and CEO Steve Odland, who will close the conference with his 2:15 p.m. speech on "Making Food Retailing a Fun and Exciting Experience."

Also on Tuesday, a series of 10 workshops will focus on issues of concern to the industry, ranging from change management and employee diversity to marketing on the Internet. Topics and speakers include:

Awards ceremonies each day will honor top industry executives who have contributed to WMU's Food Marketing Program. On Monday evening, 1962 WMU alumnus Doug Carolan, president and CEO of Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. of Kansas City, will receive the first WMU Food Marketing Outstanding Alumni Award. The following afternoon, Kellogg Company Chairman of the Board Arnold G. Langbo of Battle Creek, will be honored with the 2000 Adrian Trimpe Distinguished Service Award.

The annual food marketing conference is sponsored by WMU's Food Marketing Program in the Haworth College of Business and by Sigma Phi Omega, a professional business fraternity. All proceeds from the conference support food marketing scholarships and program operations at the University.

The cost of attending the conference for both days is $250. Single day registrations also are available at reduced prices. Reservations and information can be obtained by calling the conference hotline at (616) 387-2132.

Media contact: Jessica English, 616 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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