2004 Sept Issue
Cover Story
The FMI Show under revamp: Offering buyers five trade shows under one roof
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Cover Story
The FMI Show under revamp: Offering buyers five trade shows under one roof

If you think all trade shows are the same, think again. Retailers invest substantial time and money to attend an international trade show, and being at the right show can have a positive and profitable impact on their businesses.

This is why the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has embarked on a two-year revamp of its well-established, well-attended annual show for supermarket retailers — the International Supermarket Industry Convention and Education Exposition (popularly known as The FMI Show) — to make it more relevant than ever.

The FMI Show has grown over the years to become one of the most comprehensive of its kind. However, like the industry that it serves, the show is facing new competition and challenges to meet the changing profile of the world’s dynamic food industry.

Come 2005, The FMI Show will have new features to make it more relevant and accessible to buyers worldwide, Brian E Tully, FMI’s senior vice-president, conventions, tells RETAIL ASIA from his office in Washington DC.

To begin with, the FMI has added two new co-located events this year — the United Produce Expo & Conference, organised by the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association (UFFVA), and the All Things Organic Show, organised by The Organic Trade Association (OTA).

The new alliances, together with the FMI’s existing partnerships with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s (NASDA) US Food Export Showcase (USFES) and the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s (NASFT) Fancy Food Show, bring together five shows under one roof.

Tully says one of the most notable benefits of this multi-dimension partnership is the synergy created. “They bring things to show what the FMI does not have. The United Produce Expo & Conference, for example, brings that part of the store that was not well served at The FMI Show in the past. It brings an important product line that consumers say is one of the most important or valued reasons for going to their supermarkets, their shops.”
The inclusion of All Things Organic is also timely as the organic-food community is a growing product category. “People are becoming more health-conscious and concerned about what they are putting into their bodies. Organic products are a growing product group, or interest of consumers, and our stores want to make them more a part of their product mix,” says Tully.

The expansion of the trade fair is just the beginning of more changes to come. Visitors can expect a different show format in 2005. “Most notably, we are changing the exhibition floor. Instead of having international brands up front as in years past, we are going to replace this with some featured segments,” says Tully.

“If you look at the show in totality, there are well-defined centres for fresh, organic and fancy foods, and a dedicated centre for US products tailored for the export market. On top of this, we will identify three to five new product areas or ‘communities’ each year, such as a community for private labels, another for meal-replacement solutions and yet another for non-food merchandise.”


Newness every year:

“The most exciting part of the changes that we are implementing is that The FMI Show will be different every year. There will be newness to each [show]. What the buyer will see each year will be delightfully different parts of the store,”
says Tully.

For the first time, the USFES, a regular segment at The FMI Show, will be staged in a prominent and highly visible area in 2005. It will take the front portion of the South Hall and will be located next to the International Trade Centre.

The export showcase is one of the main attractions for overseas visitors because it features some of the US’ most innovative small and medium-sized companies offering a diversity of food products from across the country (see pages 30-31).

Another visible change next year will be the International Trade Centre. A meeting point for the thousands of international delegates, the centre will double in size to 7,200 sqf, and offer more services and features to make the show more convenient and accessible for the international buyer.

The FMI has also introduced an orientation programme where guided tours of the show floor are provided in various languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and French. First-time visitors will find this useful.

These timely changes will certainly help The FMI Show grow its global profile. In an international attendee survey conducted by NASDA at the 2004 event, 57% of the respondents indicated it was their first visit to The FMI Show, a clear signal of overseas retailers’ interest in the fair. It has to be noted, however, that 2002 and 2003 were difficult years for the show, with international participation adversely impacted by the threat of global terrorism and the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak.

International attendees surveyed had listed two primary reasons for attending the USFES and The FMI Show — 78% of the respondents indicated “identifying new products” as the primary reason while 72% listed “learning about new trends in the industry” as one of their primary objectives. This shows that the education segment is just as important as product sourcing on the show floor.


Trend spotting:

Indeed, the FMI excels in the education segment. The organisation does a superb staging and presentation of the education programme, say enthusiastic participants who always make it a point to include the convention programme in their FMI Show itinerary. The FMI Show is always spot-on when identifying trends to feature in its conference sessions and workshops, they say.

This year, the event focused on health and wellness, a theme highlighted in the education programme.

Next year’s focus will be on exhibitors of specialised meal solutions, prepared foods and convenience foods, says Michael Sansolo, FMI’s senior vice-president, consumer insights.
Meal solution is an example of a ‘community’ that the FMI will set up at the 2005 show to meet retailers’ needs. “Our stores and supermarkets are becoming more diverse in their merchandise. Their range of offerings is incredible, making it easier for the shopper.

ncreasingly, the busy shopper finds it convenient to pick up a complete meal from his or her supermarket. These meal solutions can be as advanced as a restaurant meal, complete with salad, soup, entrée and dessert,” says Sansolo.

Another feature next year will be a community for non-food, fast-moving, high-margin products that are making their way to supermarket shelves. This category of exhibitors will give the non-food supermarket executive a one-stop opportunity to stock up on a variety of home essentials — batteries, bulbs, health and beauty products, car accessories and so on.

There will also be an area for technology where exhibitors offer products and services that help retailers improve productivity and reduce costs, as well as a small area on ethnic products (featuring Hispanic and Asian communities, for example), a growing segment in the US.

MNCs that have supported the show through the years remain supportive of the new format, and will be back in full force in 2005. The FMI will create an area for general exhibits and MNC exhibitors that do not fit into defined communities.


‘The Power of Five’:

When the revamped show opens on 1 May 2005, it will truly reflect ‘The Power of Five’, the tag line which the FMI has adopted to reflect the multi-dimension of the show — five shows in one location. It will reach out to retailers who are not necessarily supermarket operators. Increasingly, non-retail channels are getting into food sales and the FMI is targeting convenience, drug and other stores.

“One of the big trends we see in the US is food being sold in an enormous variety of outlets. There are drug stores with refrigeration cases filled with milk, fruit juices and even ready-to-eat meals,” says Sansolo.

This blurring of channels is evident not only in the US but also in Europe and Latin America, he adds. And, with more women in the workforce a global trend, there is a move towards one-stop convenience and retailers are changing their profile to cater for these customers’ needs.


Another observation made by Sansolo is that food-consumption trends are crossing borders more rapidly than ever and this will have an impact on the products that retailers bring to their stores.

“Today’s generation of young consumers are growing up in a world that is becoming increasingly borderless. Our shoppers are exposed to many eating trends, clothing trends, lifestyle trends because of the Internet. Retailers which come to the show will have the chance to see and discuss the trends and developments in food business in different parts of the world,” he says.

In the US, the current hot trend is healthy eating. For a very long time, it was difficult to sell health food but this has changed and demand is driving the growth in low-fat, low-carb food products.

“What we have discovered is that if it is important to the customer, it is important to us,” says Sansolo.

Such trends have a way of becoming global. For instance, buyers from China were at the show this year to look particularly for packaged and processed foods, sports drinks and fresh produce, reports Jane Li, US Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service, China, who led the delegation to the show.

This is because people are getting busier in China. With more women working, the focus is shifting towards convenience, says Li. At the same time, Chinese consumers are becoming more health-conscious, with more people working out and taking part in sports.

With over 1,000 exhibiting companies at the show, it is important to formulate a plan to make the most of the time given. “You need a plan, whether you are an exhibitor or buyer,” says Sansolo. He advises the international buyer to plan ahead and make the most of the few days at the show. There are attendees who come every year and “have a wonderful experience” and those who have found it challenging, he says. “Those who have a successful time tell us that they plan for the show,” Sansolo points out.

Is The FMI Show worth the time and effort, particularly for retailers from Asia whose calendars are already crowded with several regional trade shows to attend?

Says Sansolo: “We appreciate the tremendous distances that some of our international visitors have to travel to attend the show. While they can go to their regional shows, I believe that the further they look, the more they will see and learn. What they see at The FMI Show may not be the answer to tomorrow’s problem but it offers opportunities to see and discuss products that may become the trend in their markets in two to three years.”

The FMI Show education programme

Make time to attend some of the workshops at The FMI Show. Each session offers great take-home value that you can share with your associates.

SPEAKS: This is a ‘state-of-the-industry’ address by Michael Sansolo, FMI’s senior vice-president, consumer insights. A fast-paced address that highlights current trends and the future of food business, SPEAKS is a session that decision-makers should attend. There is a simultaneous interpretation of Sansolo’s presentation into Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
Super Sessions: These are lively, moderated discussions led by industry leaders on the industry’s hottest topics and strategies for growth.
Learning Labs: Designed for smaller groups, these labs are interactive sessions where participants can ask questions and learn about key store strategies and operations issues.
Close-ups: Exhibitors take to the podium on the FMI exhibit show floor to provide information and demonstrations on their products and services.



Global opportunities:

The FMI Show presents global opportunities for both buyers and exhibitors. As John Roberts, president of NASFT, points out: “What you see in consumer products in the US this year will be elsewhere in the world in increasing numbers in the next five to 10 years. So if you want the trends of what’s going to be in your own marketplace and if you are not from the US, I think you can come here and see the future.”

Gene Hugoson, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture and president, NASDA, agrees that the annual show is worth visiting for “it is an opportunity to view new trends, [from] … the current hype thing, that could be interesting for the consumers out there, to new technology ... for the distribution of product or for showing a product in a grocery-store setting, for instance”.

He adds: “The food-health issues that are growing every year in importance and popularity are reflected in the products at the show. So, it’s just an opportunity to keep current with what’s going on in society.”

Ultimately, The FMI Show is all about partnership and relationship building — between the FMI and its partners, and among the exhibitors and the show visitors. It is putting together market intelligence, listening to what the industry and, ultimately, what the consumer wants, and then weaving it all into a cohesive event where buyers’ and seller’ needs meet.

The new FMI show is an event for the food-industry professional who is serious about having a finger on the pulse of the global scene, so mark the dates of the 2005 show in your diary.

Editor’s Note: Our thanks and appreciation to the offices of FMI, FAS and NASDA in Washington DC, whose support and contribution made this feature possible.

About the FMI

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) is a non-profit association, located in Washington DC, USA, that is dedicated to serving the entire food-distribution industry — retailers, wholesalers and their customers in the US and the rest of the world. The organisation conducts research, education, industry-relations and public-affairs programmes on behalf of its 2,300 member companies from 60 countries.

The FMI’s domestic members operate approximately 26,000 retail food stores, with a combined sales volume of US$340 billion — 75% of all grocery-store sales in the US.

The FMI’s convention department produces several important US trade events, including the International Supermarket Industry Convention and Education Exposition, better known as The FMI Show.

Contact: Food Marketing Institute
655 15th Street, NW, Washington DC, 20005, USA.
Tel: +1 202 452 8444
Fax: +1 202 429 4519


The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) is a non-profit, non-partisan association representing the commissioners, secretaries and directors of the 54 state and territorial departments of agriculture.

NASDA’s mission is to support and promote American agriculture through a variety of programmes, including sponsorship of the US Food Export Showcase in cooperation with the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture at the annual FMI Show.

Contact: National Association of State
Departments of Agriculture

1156 15th Street NW, Suite 1020
Washington DC, 20005, USA.
Tel: +1 202 296 9680
Fax: +1 202 296 9686


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