WASHINGTON -- The uncertain economy, food safety and security, emerging forms of competition, shifting labor markets, and maximizing the use of technology will continue to be issues of discussion at industry conferences this year, said Michael Sansolo, senior vice president, Food Marketing Institute, in an interview with SN last week.
As FMI hosts its first conference of the year this week -- and its first as a combined organization with the former Food Distributors International -- Sansolo said the merged organizations would be able to bring a broader perspective to the issues facing the industry.
"They bring us as an organization a number of interesting meetings and educational formats," he said, citing the upcoming Leadership Conference and the Productivity Conference later in the year as examples. "It is our hope that we will be able to identify more issues of concern in the logistics and distribution system, and we will be able to make that conference even more robust.
Attendees at this week's Mid-Winter Conference in Boca Raton, Fla., will see one of the results of the merger in the form of the Clarence Francis Lecture, sponsored by Kraft Foods. That event, in which a distinguished speaker addresses attendees, previously had taken place at FDI's Mid-Year Conference.
Other areas in which the two organizations will merge their resources include research, such as the annual Trends, Speaks and Facts reports compiled by FMI.
"[The merger with FDI] allows us the ability to do benchmarking on a much broader scale than we could do in the past," Sansolo said.
Some of the issues that Sansolo said he sees evolving in terms of industry discussion this year include labor, as higher unemployment has shifted the focus from finding and retaining employees to maximizing training and recruiting to make sure the best employees are in place.
In the area of technology, Sansolo said there are increasing pressures on these departments to show that investments in technology systems can bring additional benefits and additional sales.