NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In this year's Food Industry Productivity Convention & Exposition, self-distributing retail chains have played a greater planning role and will have a larger representation than in the past, reflecting the Food Marketing Institute's larger presence in the show.
Following the merger of Food Distributors International into FMI in January, FMI, Washington, has become the primary co-sponsor of the convention, with the International Foodservice Distributors Association, Falls Church, Va. The convention will be held Oct. 26 to 28 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center here.
Whereas FDI, the previous co-sponsor, slanted the convention more to its membership of wholesale food distributors, FMI has brought in some of its traditional retail chain membership to complement the wholesaler component, noted Paul Schulz, senior vice president, wholesale division, FMI, and formerly with FDI. FMI played a smaller role in past years in the Productivity Convention, which was launched in 1976.
"Because of FMI, more self-distributing chains are registering for the show, including some that hadn't in the past," said Schulz, adding that overall attendance is "running ahead of last year." About 2,000 attendees are expected, he said.
Wayne Breckenridge, director of education, FMI, pointed out that self-distributing chains were more involved in planning this year's convention. Rather than a single convention chairman, there are three co-chairs this year, one from each of the show's main constituencies: wholesalers, chains and food service. They are Mark Foster, vice president, supply chain, Supervalu; Sheila Laing, assistant vice president, human resources -- distribution, Hy-Vee; and Robert Slotnick, senior vice president and chief information officer, Performance Food Group.
In addition, for the first time a chain executive is exposition chairman -- Andy McCann, president of PDI, a division of Hy-Vee.
This year's Productivity Convention will feature around 40 educational sessions; some are taking place for the first time on the exhibition floor in what is being called the "Staging Area," an effort to "tie the exhibit and the educational sessions," said Breckenridge.
But that represents a drop in the number of sessions at the show, known in the past for its very extensive educational program. Breckenridge said that a smaller number will allow more time to be spent on individual sessions.
Major areas to be covered in the sessions include RFID (radio frequency identification), security, transportation technology, voice-directed distribution systems and human resources.
Retailer and wholesaler speakers will include Denis Duker and Greg Heying, Supervalu; Eric Nadworny, Shaw's Supermarkets; Paul Winn, Sobeys; Paul Jones, Associated Food Stores; Kenneth Allen, H.E. Butt Grocery; and Serge Chevalier, C&S Wholesale Grocers. Breckenridge said the level of participation by distributors in sessions has not decreased.
Schulz said many former FDI executives had moved over to FMI, helping to create a "seamless transition" for the show. "The culture of FDI is here to bridge the gap, as well as use the resources of FMI," he said.
As in the past, the show will include facility tours of local distribution centers. This year, the focus will be on facilities outside of food distribution, including Federal Express Ground Nashville Hub; UPS Whites Creek Hub; Cumberland Swan Manufacturing; Gaylord/Opryland University; Ozburn Hessey Logistics; Roadway Express and Robert-Orr SYSCO. Schultz said this approach will enable attendees to learn about new best practices in logistics. Roadway express and Robert-Orr SYSCO. Schultz said this approach will enable attendees to learn about new best practices.