FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Food Distributors International is that rare trade association able to grow in an industry where consolidation is steadily decreasing the number of players.
The group expects to see a significant increase in participation in its Annual Business Conference and Partners Program, scheduled for March 3 to 6 in Orlando, Fla.
"We've signed up four or five new important wholesale members," John Block, FDI president, told SN. "These are established companies that said to themselves this year, 'Hey, we've got to get into this thing."'
Wholesalers who will be making their first appearance at the FDI conference include, according to Block, Affiliated Foods, Amarillo, Texas; Associated Grocers, Seattle; Associated Grocers of Florida, Miami; and Piggly Wiggly Co., Memphis, Tenn.
The theme of the Orlando gather is "Groundbreaking Communications the Old Fashioned Way: Face to Face/Business to Business."
Block explained, "This is primarily a working meeting about bringing members face to face with trading partners. We believe it is the hardest working meeting in the industry.
"That's the way our members like it. They tell us, 'Don't change it. We get so much business done."'
This year, as it has in the past, the conference features two organized opportunities for attendees to transact business. Vendex is a series of face-to-face sessions between whole merchandising executives and their supplier peers, and Business Conference Suites offers senior distribution and supply managers a venue where they can discuss ideas. Block said both will have a "substantial increase" in participation this year.
Block also said the conference will have an update on the retail coverage study FDI presented at the 2000 conference.
General assembly programs at the conference include talks by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulrooney and by Frank Maguire, who, as the original senior vice president of industrial at Federal Express, is widely credited with creating that company's successful personnel, communications and employee relations programs.
"When we're faced with as much turmoil and questions about leadership as we are now, Brian Mulrooney can bring a prospective to that subject. He worked directly with Ronald Reagan," said Block, who served as a secretary of agriculture in the Reagan administration himself.
Attendees at the March meeting might also want to get some tips about traveling to Canada from Mulrooney. FDI's Midyear Executive Conference, co-sponsored by the National Grocers Association, Reston, Va., will be held in Toronto, Sept. 9 to 12.
Earlier in the year, FDI will collaborate with NGA on another event, the Joint Marketing Conference and Creative Choice Awards, scheduled to be held in conjunction with NGA's Jan. 29-Feb. 1 convention in Dallas. The Creative Choice Awards recognize the year's best supermarket advertising campaigns.
FDI will join with the NGA as well as with Food Marketing Institute, Washington, for a Joint Public Affairs Assembly on March 26 to 27, where the industry leaders will present their governmental agendas to the new Congress and new administration.
"Working together we have a better chance to get our message out," Block said. It's a message, he noted, that may be heard more clearly this year than in the recent past. "I believe we will get some relief on the estate tax this year."
FDI's Food Industry Productivity Convention & Expo, which focuses on providing education on logistics and human resources topics, is another event co-sponsored by FMI and NGA, with a host of smaller industry associations as well. The 2001 edition will take place Oct. 21 to 24 in Houston.
"We have a great turnout," said Block. "That's a meeting that continues to prosper. Logistics is such a vital part of the business. We just keep adding more trade associations that want to participate. Nobody's trying to copy that event."