Former PepsiCo CEO, industry leaders to speak at Food Marketing Conference

Contact: Stacey Anderson

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—More than 35 leading experts will speak about “Reimagining the Marketplace: Embracing Change and Transformation” during the 56th annual Western Michigan University Food Marketing Conference. The event, presented in on-demand and in-person formats this year, will take place on Tuesday, March 22, and Wednesday, March 23, at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. Last year’s event drew more than 1,000 participants, and this year’s lineup promises a great mix of dynamic speakers and relevant sessions.

“Each year, the WMU Food Marketing Conference serves as an important link between the food industry‘s current trends and challenges and our students entering the industry upon graduation,” says Dr. Russell Zwanka, associate professor of marketing and director of the conference. “We at Western Michigan University see our role as one that can assist industry retailers and wholesalers, consumer packaged goods companies, and data analytics providers in discussing and collaborating on shared issues and trends, ultimately helping us all connect better with our ever-changing food customer.”

Keynote Conference Presentations

  • Indra Nooyi, former chairman and CEO, PepsiCo, will present “My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future.” For a dozen years as one of the world’s most admired CEOs, Nooyi redefined what it means to be an exceptional leader. The first woman of color and immigrant to run a Fortune 50 company—and one of the foremost strategic thinkers of our time—she transformed PepsiCo with a unique vision, a vigorous pursuit of excellence and a deep sense of purpose.
  • Tony Sarsam, president and CEO, SpartanNash, will speak about “Creating a People-First Culture.” Sarsam has three decades of leadership experience in the food industry and a deep understanding of every facet of the consumer packaged goods and food distribution business, holding previous positions at Borden Dairy, Ready Pac Foods, Nestlé, Dreyer’s and PepsiCo.
  • Jason Dorsey, bestselling author and motivational speaker, will enlighten the audience with “Inspiring and Leading in Unprecedented Times: New Insights and Actions to Drive Results Across Generations.” Dorsey applies insights from his 65-plus research studies and experience working with over 700 clients to uncover new solutions that drive measurable results. Noted for his unique approach, Dorsey has appeared on 60 Minutes, 20/20, The Today Show, The Early Show and hundreds of other programs.
  • Mel Parker, bestselling author and motivational speaker, will create a customized experience for attendees with “Emotional Intelligence: The Power to Feel, Respect and Connect.” Author of “The Parker Principles: 10 Leadership Force Multipliers,” he is highly sought-after for sessions about leadership, trust, culture, productivity and success, which derive from his decades of military and corporate experience.

CEO Forum

A staple of the conference, the CEO Forum returns with Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO, Food Marketing Institute, moderating. The forum regularly tackles some of the most challenging issues facing the industry with key leaders from food and consumer package goods companies.

Panelists include:

  • Brandon Barnholt, president and CEO, Kehe Food Distributors
  • Rick Keyes, president and CEO, Meijer
  • Jim Snee, chairman of the board and president and CEO, Hormel
  • Deborah Weinswig, CEO and founder, Coresight Research

In addition, the conference will feature dozens of sessions on the digital revolution happening in the food industry, including discussions with Jon Nordmark, CEO of and founder of, who will speak about “Why 2023 is a Digital Pivot Point” and Deborah Weinswig, CEO and founder, Coresight Research, who will detail “E-Commerce Outlook: After the Surge, What’s Next?” Presenting on the retail landscape overall will be Bryan Gildenberg, senior vice president of commerce, Omnicom Commerce Group, who will share “Wet Cement: Getting Beyond COVID-driven Habits Before They Harden Into Permanent Behaviors.”

Additions to the conference agenda will be made often; visit the conference website for the latest updates and for registration and sponsorship information.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.