Former NBA team president highlights WMU Food Marketing Conference

Contact: Mark Schwerin
Photo of Susan O'Malley.


KALAMAZOO--The former president of the Washington Wizards will join a host of top-shelf food industry professionals as featured speakers at the 47th annual Food Marketing Conference Monday and Tuesday, March 26-27, at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo.

Speakers at the conference, which draws more than 500 leaders in the food industry from across the nation to Kalamazoo each year, will include Susan O'Malley, former president of the Wizards and the first female president of a professional sports franchise. O'Malley will share insights on leadership Monday evening in a talk titled "Connecting People, Issues and Solutions." She also will address what is currently an unprecedented era of change in the food industry, the tremendous value of leadership associated with this time of change and share innovative approaches that leadership roles require.

Other speakers include Bill Dankworth, vice president of grocery merchandising for The Kroger Co., who will give his views Tuesday afternoon on environmental and economic factors consumers are facing today in a talk titled "Engaging Customers in a Rapidly Changing World."

The conference kicks off at 4 p.m. Monday with John Phillips, senior vice president of customer supply chain and logistics at PepsiCo Inc. His presentation and a follow-up executive forum at 4:30 p.m. will examine 12 global mega-trends and what it takes to win in today's changing world.

Moderated by Trudy Bourgeois, author, president and founder of the Center for Workforce Excellence, the forum panel will include:

  • Monica Hysell, vice president of Abbott Nutrition
  • Rob Bartles, president and chief executive officer of Martin's Supermarkets
  • Darcey Macken, senior vice president at Kellogg Co.
  • J.K. Symancyk, chief operating officer of Meijer
  • Carla Cooper, president and chief executive officer of Daymon Worldwide

The conference also will offer a variety of breakout presentations from 10 to 11 a.m. Tuesday. Those presentations are:

  • "Blocking and Tackling to Win at Retail Today" by Craig Rosenblum, partner, Willard Bishop Consulting.
  • "How Millennials Will Change Food Consumption" by Marilyn Moats Kennedy, president, Moats Kennedy Inc.
  • "Tracking Trends That Matter as Food Competition Heats Up" by Todd Hale, senior vice president for consumer and shopper insights, Nielsen.
  • "Shopper Engagement in the Digital and Social Media Era" by Kevin Weisberg, chief marketing officer, Lunchbox: Shopper Engagement Solutions.

A general session, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, will feature a panel of food marketing experts. Those on the panel include:

  • Paul Madura, panel moderator, senior advisor, Endeavor Management.
  • Sheila Laing, vice president of human resources, Hy-Vee.
  • Dona Kotzur, regional director of customer service, H-E-B Foods/Drugs.
  • Diana Copland, vice president, Operations, Busch's Fresh Food Market.
  • Tom Urtz, vice president of human resources and community relations, ShopRite

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dankworth will close the conferenceby offering ways to improve relationships with customers at a time when shopper options are increasing and customer needs are changing. He has held multiple positions at Kroger in merchandising and store operations in addition to having worked in three other Kroger divisions.

The WMU Annual Food Marketing Conference is presented by WMU's Food and Consumer Package Goods Marketing Program in the Haworth College of Business. Proceeds from the conference support food and CPG marketing scholarships and related program operations.

For more information, including cost and registration details, visit or call the event hotline at (269) 387-2132.