Friday, March 5, 2010

Food marketing conference to focus on operating in the new economy

Food industry leaders will gather to discuss customer service, the future of retailing and the deployment of social media tools at the 45th Annual WMU Food Marketing Conference on Wednesday and Thursday, March 24-25.

Hank Meijer, co-chairman and CEO Meijer Stores, will share his thoughts on serving customers as part of the conference, which annually draws more than 400 food industry executives to Kalamazoo. The event will be held at the Radisson Plaza Hotel. This year’s theme is “Essential Business Lessons for the New Economy.”

Kicking off the event at 4 p.m. on Wednesday is Kevin Hunt, president and Co-CEO, Ralcorp Holdings Inc. His presentation and the follow-up executive forum at 4:30 p.m. will examine the customers shifting need for value. Moderated by Michael Sansolo, author and retail food industry consultant, the panel will include Brian Audette, vice president of independent sales for Supervalu; Denny Belcastro, senior vice president for Kraft Foods Inc.; Carole Bitter, president and CEO for Friedman’s Freshmarkets and Michael Malenfant, vice president of customer business development for Procter and Gamble.

Wednesday evening will feature Sansolo along with co-author Kevin Coupe, founder of MorningNewsBeat.Com. The two will draw upon stories and lessons from their new book “The Big Picture,” which examines how popular films provide a treasure trove of lessons large and small, profound and simple, to share and study how to become a better marketer, partner and leader.

On Thursday morning, two concurrent presentations begin at 8:15 a.m. Dan O’Connor, president, CEO for Retail Network Group, will discuss “The Future of Retailing” and Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of digital strategic services for The Nielsen Company, will discuss “Using Social Media Wisely.”

Four concurrent, one-hour morning breakout sessions run from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and include the following topics:

• “Leadership by Investing in People"
• “Tracking Trends That Matter – Consumer & Shopper Insights to Drive Trips and Sales”
• “Manage the Most Diverse Workforce Ever”
• “Private Brands Aren’t so ‘Private’ Anymore”

Additional breakout sessions run from 11:30 a.m. 12:30 p.m. with topics including:

• “Reinventing Retail: How Consumers’ Shifting Values are Changing the Face of Retail”
• “Making a Sustainable Difference in Our World”
• “Understanding the Mindset of the Customer”
• “Optimizing Center Store Meal Shopping: A Focus on Shoppers and Convenience Meals”

At 2 p.m. Hank Meijer, co-chairman and CEO for Meijer Stores and the third generation to lead the Michigan-based retailer, will close the conference by offering his outlook for the future with his talk: “Customers Don’t Need Us, We Need Them.” The title is based on the foundation of the Meijer organization, a philosophy held since 1934.

The Annual Food Marketing Conference is presented by WMU's Food and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) Marketing Program in the Haworth College of Business. Proceeds from the conference support Food and CPG Marketing scholarships and related program operations.

For more conference information, including cost and registration details, call the event hotline at (269) 387-2132 or visit