WMU News

Conference draws food execs from around the country

March 23, 2001

KALAMAZOO--Food industry executives from around the nation will assemble at Western Michigan University next week to discuss issues such as continued consolidation in the industry and the future of e-commerce.

"2001: A Food Industry Odyssey" is the title of the 36th annual Food Marketing Conference to be held Monday and Tuesday, March 26-27, at WMU's Bernhard Center. More than 500 food executives are expected at the event, which features speakers from industry heavyweights such as Procter & Gamble, Meijer, Unilever/Best Foods and Kroger. The conference opens with a reception and dinner program beginning at 6 p.m. Monday and concludes the following day at 3:30 p.m.

"The consolidation trend we've been seeing for the last few years is definitely still on the table," says conference coordinator Dr. Frank M. Gambino, associate professor of marketing and adviser to WMU's Food Marketing Program. "Unfortunately, many of the small retailers are simply disappearing. Those who survive, even mid-size companies, are asking themselves how they can achieve the same efficiencies as a Wal-Mart or Kroger. And of course, with the recent turmoil in the tech sector and dot-com industry, everyone is wondering what the future of e-commerce will be."

Following Monday night's opening reception and dinner, an awards ceremony will honor several top industry executives who have contributed to WMU's Food Marketing Program. Ted File, senior vice president of retail services at Information Resources Inc., will be honored with the 2001 Adrian Trimpe Distinguished Service Award. Frank Eckstein, division vice president of Acme Markets, and Wendell Christoff, co-owner and vice chairman of Litehouse, will receive WMU Food Marketing Outstanding Alumni Awards.

Featured speaker Marnette Perry, president of the Kroger Co.'s Columbus Marketing Area, will address the conference crowd at 8:30 p.m. Monday. Her speech will focus on "Changing Retailer Priorities," including discussion of consolidation and growth, competition, and changes in how retailers go to market.

Tuesday's three featured speakers include Duane Knapp, president of Brand Strategy, who will lead off at 8:15 a.m. with "Think Like a Brand," a discussion of ways to stimulate and reinvent a business by creating distinctiveness in the minds of consumers; George Shaheen, chairman and president of Webvan, who will address "E-Commerce and the Food Industry: the Webvan Model" at 9 a.m.; and Meijer Senior Vice President Dave Perron, who will close the conference with his 2:30 p.m. speech on "Meijer - the Brand Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow."

Also on Tuesday, a series of 10 workshops will focus on issues of concern to the industry, ranging from loyalty marketing and the productivity of part-time workers to the future of e-commerce.

Topics and speakers include:

"B2X: The NeXt Generation of eOpportunity," Jeff Smith, senior partner, Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting);

"Whose Shelf is it Anyway?" Craig MacDonald, vice president customer and industry development, Unilever/Best Foods;

"Best Practices in Loyalty Marketing," Joann Dickson, director of analytical insights group, Information Resources Inc.;

"A New Vision for the Center Store," Frank DiPasquale, senior vice president, National Grocers Association;

"Learning at the Speed of Light," Chris Laske, manager of multimedia development, Meijer;

"Best Practices in Whole-Health Merchandising," Dave McConnell Jr., president and CEO, General Merchandise Distributors Council;

"Winning in Today's Retail Environment," Jim Gilliam, executive vice president, SUPERVALU Stores, Central Region;

"New Item Speed-to-Shelf," Mike Maurer, director of industry affairs, Procter & Gamble Co.;

"Solving the Part-Time Productivity Dilemma: Team Senior Citizens with the Teenage Worker," Norine Larson, author and industry consultant; and

"Strategic Growth Initiatives for Manufacturers," Dan Swander, principal, Swander Pace & Co.

Following the morning workshops, two of the conference speakers will be honored by the University's marketing faculty. WMU alumni Dave Perron of Meijer and Duane Knapp of Brand Strategy will receive Outstanding Alumni Awards from WMU's Department of Marketing during Tuesday's luncheon.

Later that afternoon, an expert panel will be "Exploring Pressing Industry Issues." Panelists include Michael Gorshe of Accenture, Craig MacDonald of Unilever/Best Foods, Frank DiPasquale of the National Grocers Association, and John McMillin, a Wall Street analyst.

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.

The cost of attending the conference for both days is $275. 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

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400