WMU News

Supermarket Guru to headline food marketing event

March 12, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Are grocery stores, distributors and food manufacturers really paying attention to what consumers want? That question will be on the docket later this month when Western Michigan University plays host to the 37th annual Food Marketing Conference.

The CEOs of 7-Eleven and the Kellogg Co., along with the Supermarket Guru and the author of "The Myth of Excellence," will headline "The Pursuit of Consumer Relevancy" Monday and Tuesday, March 25-26, at WMU's Bernhard Center. More than 500 food industry executives from around the nation are expected at the conference, which opens at 6 p.m. Monday with a reception and dinner program and concludes the following day at 3 p.m.

"A lot of food retailers are struggling right now to position themselves with the consumer," says conference coordinator Dr. Frank M. Gambino, associate professor of marketing and adviser to WMU's Food Marketing Program. "For example, research now suggests that the average consumer shops, at most, just 33 percent of a grocery store. So why are we still building 70,000 square foot stores? And why, when we know that people are cooking less and taking out more, do most grocery stores stock their shelves exactly the way they did 20 years ago? As in any industry, food executives must constantly tune into the consumer mood and adjust products and services very quickly. Those who refuse to reinvent the way they do business, I'm afraid, are going to go under."

Phil Lempert, an analyst and futurist known as the Supermarket Guru, contends that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have also touched the food industry. "Consumers were already nervous before Sept. 11," says Lempert, who will deliver one of four keynote addresses at the conference. "Retailers and brands must go out of their way to build strong relationships with their current and future customers related to issues such as food safety, cost and service. The latest consumer surveys show that people want to buy American more than ever before. The way we serve and treat customers absolutely has to change."

Following the Monday night reception and dinner, an awards ceremony will honor two WMU food marketing alumni for their accomplishments in the field. Bill Bolton, a consultant with Chicago's LJS group, and Steve DeYoung, president and CEO of Steve DeYoung's Big Top Markets, will receive the Food Marketing Outstanding Alumni awards.

Carlos Gutierrez, chairman and CEO of the Kellogg Co., will address the crowd after the awards presentation. His 8:30 p.m. address will focus on "Becoming Customer Relevant: A Manufacturer's Viewpoint." In light of changing consumption habits, fast-paced lifestyles and industry competition, Gutierrez will discuss achieving both retailer and consumer relevancy in the food and consumer package good industry. He'll recount the changes his organization has made to stay relevant and focus on the challenges ahead. Gutierrez, who began his career in the food industry with Kellogg's of Mexico, will provide a unique international and domestic perspective.

Tuesday morning will begin with an address from author and consultant Fred Crawford, who will discuss "The Myth of Excellence: Striving for Consumer Relevancy" at 8:15 a.m. Customers today, Crawford says, are "leading a revolution against business as usual, demanding that companies recognize them as individuals and conduct business on their terms." He will share proven strategies for meeting the demands of these empowered customers, who are "crying out for respect, dignity and service." Crawford is co-author of the best-selling business book, "The Myth of Excellence." A sought-after speaker, he is a frequent guest expert on news shows on ABC, CNBC and National Public Radio. In addition to his writing and consulting work, he is managing director of consumer products for the Retail and Distribution Practice at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.

Following Crawford's talk, 7-Eleven President and CEO James Keyes will give a speech titled "Making Convenience a Component of Your Customer Relevancy Mission." Given the ever-increasing pace of consumer lifestyles, adding convenience to the shopping experience is critical, according to Keyes. He will discuss how retailers of all sizes can become more consumer relevant with the products and services they offer. 7-Eleven, the world's largest convenience store retailer, operates more than 22,000 stores in the United States, Canada and 17 other countries and U.S. territories.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday, participants will choose from among five workshops. Topics and speakers include:

"Making the Most Out of Change," Paul Huckins, vice president of sales, Campbell Soup Foodservice Organization.

"Executing Corporate Vision at Store Level," Jeff Lombardo, executive vice president of store operations, Farmer Jack Supermarkets; and Jim Henricks, trade manager, Ross Products.

"Innovation With Staying Power: Successful Product Innovations," Marilyn Raymond, director of business development, NewProductWorks.

"Will ePC Codes Replace UPC Codes in the Future?" Mike Maurer, directory of industry affairs, the Procter & Gamble Co.

"Ensuring a Safe Food Supply System," Art Shook, training and compliance specialist, Spartan Food Stores Inc.

From 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., a second breakout session will feature the following topics and speakers:

"Future Forces--New Consumers Change the Rules of Retailing," Patrick Kiernan, president, Day/Kiernan & Associates.

Targeting Technology to Reach Consumer Segments," Warren Solochek, vice president, Concept Shopping Inc.

"Store-Specific Merchandising and Replenishment," Mike Neal, chairman and founder, DemandTec.

"The Spirit of a Company: Embracing Work Quality of Life," Dianne Russell, senior human resource manager, H.E.B. Grocery Co.

"e-Readiness: Ready, SteadyGo!" Jacob Jensen, head of consumer goods/retail practice, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants.

The conference will close Tuesday afternoon following a luncheon and 2:30 p.m. address from Lempert, food editor for NBC's "Today" show and a regular on ABC's "The View." In his talk, the Supermarket Guru will discuss "Understanding Consumer Trends on the Road to Being Consumer Relevant." With a multi-media presentation, Lempert will illustrate the swiftly changing demographics of the world market, from the growth of the senior population to the phenomenal power of the teen dollar. The audience will learn how to study and predict trends, and to beat the competition through savvy strategic planning and an empathic understanding of their customers. Lempert's new book, "Being the Shopper: Understanding the Buyer's Choices in the Second Millennium," is scheduled to be published in the spring. He is CEO of SupermarketGuru.com, an online resource that provides consumers with information and tips on food safety, products, trends and shopping.

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 if reservations are made before March 18, or $300 after that date. Single-day registrations also are available at reduced prices. Reservations and information can be obtained by calling the conference hotline at (269) 387-2132.

Media contact: Jessica English, 269 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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