WASHINGTON -- Food Marketing Institute officials here said preregistration and exhibitor numbers are strong for the upcoming MealSolutions '96 show.
The meeting, to be held Sept. 8 to 10 in Phoenix, had attracted more than 90 exhibitors as of July 8, as well as several hundred preregistered retailers and wholesalers, according to FMI officials.
Just about every aspect of home meal replacement, from food safety to partnering with suppliers, will be covered during the conference at Phoenix's Civic Center, said FMI spokeswoman Edie Clark.
"We see this as a vital convention for the industry as it comes into the prepared foods area in a big way, and we're pleased with the way things are going. The numbers are excellent," she said.
"We've already sold 86% of our exhibitor space, and a significant amount of the remainder is being held for companies that are interested. Three hundred retailers and wholesalers have preregistered and it's still more than two weeks away from the end of preregistration," Clark told SN.
Another FMI source pointed out that the program, covering so many facets of HMR, has something for everyone involved in putting a meal on the consumer's table.
First on the agenda is a panel that features as its speakers Phil Romano, restaurateur and consultant for new concept development for Brinker International, launcher of the successful new Eatzi's establishment in Dallas; Ron Pearson, chairman and president of Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa, and Mark Willis, vice president of retail marketing at Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark.
The discussion will be moderated by Ira Blumenthal, president of Co-Opportunities, an Atlanta-based business development and consulting firm that works primarily with the food-service industry.
Blumenthal was co-founder of the Supreme Court concept -- a pioneering project that is now defunct -- which bundled restaurant brands into a food court in a unit of Balls Food Stores, Kansas City, Kan.
One session led by Balls Food Stores' executive director of sales and marketing, David Gryszowka, will tackle the labor challenges presented by HMR. Gryszowka will address recruiting people from "nontraditional sources" and integrating current associates and managers into a food-service organizational structure.
Harry Blazer, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Harry's Farmers Market, Roswell, Ga., will moderate another panel on catering and home delivery options. Blazer's spinoff unit, Harry's in a Hurry, is a successful format that's dedicated to prepared food to take out.
Another session will focus on the manufacturer's role in partnering with retailers to help them maximize their profits in the HMR business. That panel includes Domenick Celentano, president of Celentano Foods, Verona, N.J., and Dan Costa, chairman and chief executive officer of Mallard's Food Products, Modesto, Calif. Mallard's Food Products is a manufacturer of chilled meal components. Celentano Foods, a manufacturer of frozen entrees, is poised to launch a line of never-frozen, chilled items.
Other sessions will address food safety, legislative and regulatory codes, design and decor for meal destinations, and recipe and menu development.