CHICAGO -- Food Marketing Institute is "very far along" in discussions with the Snack Food Association, Alexandria, Va., and the Organic Trade Association, Greenfield, Mass., to co-locate those groups' trade shows with the FMI Show beginning next year, FMI officials said at this year's version of the conference here last week.
The moves are part of an effort to increase attendance, reduce costs and provide more "one-stop shopping" for FMI's retailer and wholesaler members, an FMI spokesman told SN.
FMI, based in Washington, also recently said the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington, would co-locate its annual show with FMI beginning in 2004, and FMI also will co-locate its Supermarket Pharmacy Conference with the FMI Show starting next year.
A spokeswoman for SFA said that organization had no plans at this time to co-locate its annual Snaxpo show with FMI, although she said the two associations had discussed recruiting SFA members to exhibit at the FMI Show. Officials at OTA could not be reached for comment.
One observer said the combination of shows is a natural outgrowth of the difficult operating environment for associations.
"I think it's a practice that makes sense in some industries, especially when you have overlapping memberships," said Chris Vest, spokesman, American Society of Association Executives, Washington. "We're all trying to be a little more ingenious about ensuring attendance at association events."
He cautioned that FMI would have to work to preserve the identity of its conference, however.
Karen Brown, senior vice president, FMI, said the association had not yet compiled attendance figures for this year's show as of late last week, but she said international attendance was down because of the war in Iraq, fears about severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and the economic turmoil in Latin America.
"We anticipate that the international attendance will return," she said.
Several attendees said the event seemed less populated this year than in the past.
The show floor itself appeared consolidated this year, with the equipment and nonfood vendors grouped together in the same hall with the food vendors, while the Fancy Food Show was in an adjacent hall.
Retailers for the most part told SN they thought co-location would be beneficial.
"Co-location is appealing," said Darrell Jensen, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Harmon's, Salt Lake City, who noted that the incorporation of the pharmacy conference would be especially attractive to his company.
"Pharmacy is getting to be a bigger part of our business all the time, and I think it would be nice to involve them in the rest of the business, and for the rest of us to get more involved in pharmacy."
"Because companies are beginning to look at the sales floor as a total department, it will help for the pharmacy managers to see the other parts of the business," said Brown of FMI.
Dennis Hatchell, president, Alex Lee, Winston-Salem, N.C., parent of the Lowes Foods supermarket chain, said co-locating shows "will make it easier for everyone."
"I liked it that the Fancy Food Show has been combined and is in the main exhibit area," he added.
Both Hatchell and Jensen said their companies had not reduced their attendance at this year's event.
Dennis McIntyre, group senior vice president of marketing, Stater Bros. Markets, Colton, Calif., said he favored the combining of other shows with FMI.
"It is a time of consolidation, and bringing possibly five shows together will make the show more of a one-stop shop," he said.
Casey Suarez, district manager, Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., said he appreciated the co-location of the Fancy Food Show and thought it was "about time" that FMI combined with other shows like the UFFVA.
"We'd like to have all of our buyers here together," he said. He noted that Publix sent a contingent of 50 people to this year's FMI Show, and was honored for having the highest attendance.
He said he was disappointed that some major equipment vendors were not at the show, however.
Tom Hembree, senior vice president of marketing, K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., also said he was disappointed that some large vendors did not exhibit this year. He said he enjoyed the proximity of the Fancy Food Show, however, and noted that K-VA-T would bring more people if FMI combined more related association exhibits into one event.
Bob Fleming, co-owner of Sentry Foods, Waukesha, Wis., said the combination of shows could become "overwhelming."