WMU News

Food marketing conference focuses on 'industry in transformation'

March 25, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Continued industry consolidation, the growing power of superstores, the sluggish economy and the impact of excessive cost-cutting measures will be among the hot topics at Western Michigan University's 38th annual Food Marketing Conference.

The CEOs of Dean Foods Co. and the Food Marketing Institute, along with top executives from Save-A-Lot and SuperTarget Stores will headline "An Industry in Transformation: What Lies Ahead" Monday and Tuesday, March 31 and April 1, at WMU's Bernhard Center. More than 500 food industry executives from around the nation are expected at the conference, which opens with on-site registration at 4 p.m. Monday and concludes the following day at 3 p.m.

"We've seen a tremendous shift in power among retailers over the past decade," says conference coordinator Dr. Frank M. Gambino, associate professor of marketing and director of WMU's Food Marketing Program. "Today, just five retailers control more than 42 percent of the food volume in the United States, whereas 10 years ago, we might have had 20 companies controlling that same percentage. This consolidation trend remains the single biggest issue in the industry.

"Further, we're seeing the continued rise of supercenters that combine groceries with nonfood items common in mass retailers like Meijer, Wal-Mart and Target. As the economy remains sluggish, the industry has seen an increase in the popularity of value brands like private label and value retailers like Save-A-Lot and dollar stores. The excessive cost-cutting measures taken by retailers and manufacturers are beginning to affect performance and profitability. Executives are beginning to realize they cannot continue to make budget cuts without taking care of critical components of the shopping experience."

Three "early bird" workshops and presenters are slated for 5 to 6 p.m. Monday. They include:

"Mapping Your Customer Experience: Build a Unique Customer Experience to Drive Growth," Julie M. LaNasa, managing director and founder, Collaborative Consulting;

"How to Evaluate the Impact of Your Hispanic Marketing Campaign," Anne Berlack, executive vice president, Analytic Insights Group Information Resources; and

"Looking for Quality College Talent to Grow Your Business," Dr. Frank M. Gambino, director of the food marketing program, WMU.

Following the Monday night reception and dinner, an awards ceremony will honor three WMU alumni for their accomplishments in the marketing field. Paul E. Boyer, president and chief operating officer of Meijer Stores; Robert P. Hermanns, president and CEO of Associated Grocers; and Paul Madura, senior vice president and general manager of H-E-B Food/Drugs, will be inducted into the WMU Marketing Alumni Hall of Fame.

Gregg Engles, chairman and CEO of Dean Foods Co., will address the crowd after the awards presentation. His 8:30 p.m. address will focus on "Changing Consumers and Industry Structure Are Reshaping the Food Industry." He will discuss how dramatic structural changes in the industry and altered consumer perceptions of what constitutes healthy eating have transformed the basic fabric of the food industry. Dean Foods is at the forefront of those changes, Engels says, and he'll describe what his company is doing to stay on top.

Tuesday morning will begin with an address from Dr. Tim Hammonds, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute, who will discuss "What Happens When Your Retail Business Model No Longer Works?" at 8:15 a.m. "Retailers are being challenged on many fronts: mega-stores, food-service operators, supercenters and value retailers," Hammonds says. He will examine competitive strategies that retailers can employ when cost-cutting measures and efforts to "get back to basics" are inadequate. The Food Marketing Institute represents more than 2,300 member food retailers and wholesalers in the United States and around the globe.

Following Hammond's talk, Bill Shaner, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Save-A-Lot Stores, will give a speech titled "The Growth of Extreme Value Retailing." Extreme value stores like The Dollar Tree and Deal$ represent the fastest growing segment of retailing, with growth projected to more than double over the next decade. Shaner will share how Save-A-Lot, the nation's largest limited-assortment grocery chain, is expanding its position in the extreme value segment with its recent acquisition of Deal$, a single-price-point retail chain where nothing costs more than a dollar.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday, participants will have a choice of five workshops. Topics and speakers include:

"Competing With the Giants," Fred Martels, president, People Solutions Strategies;

"Creating a Winning Culture," Linda Ryan, vice president of human resources, Dierbergs Markets;

"Optimize Inventory Levels to Meet Shopper Needs," J.P. Brackman, global retail presence manager, Procter & Gamble Co.;

"ePC and RFID: The Next Tech Wave," Jeffrey Smith, managing partner, Accenture; and

"Neighborhood Markets - Alternatives to the Supercenters," Ed Thomas, vice president of retail merchandising, Spartan Stores.

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

"Training Via Technology: Myths, Buzz Words and Reality," Jamison Gray, manager of instructional technology, and Rick Tate, manager of corporate training support, Wal-Mart Stores;

"Using Technology to Optimize Price and Promotional Decision Making," Jim Burt, director of professional services, Demandtec;

"The Competitive Power of Using Alternative Store Formats," Paul Madura, senior vice president and general manager, H-E-B Foods/Drugs;

"The Differentiating Power of Corporate Brands," Perry Seelert, vice president of marketing, Daymon Associates; and

"Using the Internet to Gain Cost Efficiencies," Glenn DuBois, executive vice president and COO, UCCnet; and John Terwilliger, vice president of market development, Uniform Code Council.

The conference will close Tuesday afternoon following a luncheon and 2 p.m. address from Greg Duppler, senior vice president and general merchandise manager for Target Consumables. Duppler's talk, "Hitting a Bull's Eye with a Moving Target," will explore how Target has succeeded with its differentiated product offerings, winning brand strategy and merchandising strength. The company has built a compelling business model and strategy, experts say, that has allowed it to successfully co-exist with discount-savvy Wal-Mart. Duppler, who has responsibility for Target's Supercenter division, will share his company's business philosophy and plans for growth, which include expectations over the next five years for 400 more stores, an additional $20 billion in annual sales and becoming a major player in the U.S. food industry.

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 $295 if reservations are made before March 24, or $325 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, or participants may register at the door.

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

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