FMI 2004: The Good, The Bad and The Low Carb

May 11, 2004
Ron Margulis

By Ronald Margulis

Last week’s FMI convention was a reminder of many things right about trade shows — there was widespread networking, hundreds of new products and services, and several very good workshops and educational sessions. Michael Sansolo did a great job with Speaks, as usual, topping the session off with a super talk by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. The discussions in the workshops and on the trade show floor about obesity, and the next big issue for food companies to address, trans fats, were wide-ranging and insightful. The addition of the United Produce, Fancy Foods and All Things Organic shows created a cross buzz that may help cultivate ideas to improve marketing and operations across the supermarket channel. And, the Close-up sessions allowed retailers and other attendees to gain a solid understanding of issues like RFID and channel blurring without leaving the show floor.

Unfortunately, it was also a reminder of some things wrong about trade shows. Vendors were disappointed with the traffic on the floor and some were incensed by the fact that there were workshops held during floor hours. Despite a positive vibe on Sunday and Monday, many parts of the floor were practically deserted by noon Tuesday. Most of the workshops featured consultants rather than retailers. And, there is still a need to integrate the messaging between the co-located shows to get better synergies.

From a writer’s perspective, nearly every new product launched at the show was in some way related to the low carb fad. I even saw a knife marketer selling “low carb” knives. It made me ask myself, “Where are the really new ideas?.”

Moderator’s Comment: What does the future hold for trade shows like the FMI annual convention?

I have attended about 20 FMI conventions, going back to when my dad brought me along to one of the (then SMI) shows back in the late 1970s, when I was still
in high school. The conventions of the late 1990s had a buzz to them that has been missing ever since. Still, the good outweighed the bad. FMI now needs to re-invent the show
by concentrating on making the experience easier for attendees to get what they go to Chicago for — Ideas to make their operations better. These ideas are better heard from the
mouths of retailers and manufacturers, rather than consultants.

Ron Margulis – Moderator

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