By: Mark Baum, Chief Collaboration Officer and Senior Vice President, Industry Relations, Food Marketing Institute
Golden Era 1950 TV

I believe that in years ahead we will look back at this moment in the history of food retail as a true Golden Age of Experimentation.

Food retailers are testing click and collect; home delivery; third-party picking and procurement models; tiered and paid service offerings; and artificial intelligence to leverage automatic replenishment, subscription mechanisms, and real-time decision making. It’s both an exciting and daunting time to be in the business of food because any and all of these innovations could be the new normal in how retailers and their trading partners meet the evolving needs of consumers.

Just as food retailers and CPG manufacturers are making significant investments in their business collaboration models in order to deliver on the promises they make to an increasingly digitally savvy consumer, we, too, at the association for the nation’s food retailers and wholesalers are investing in resources to help create the models and tangible strategies that can be activated and implemented by our members. At the 2018 Midwinter Executive Conference, we will unveil part-two of our digital strategy, in partnership with Nielsen to better understand and serve the digitally engaged food shopper, setting the stage to reveal six areas of opportunity to improve omnichannel readiness.

Ultimately, our goal is to help our industry improve collaboration in a digital world. We predicted that by 2025 the share of online grocery spending could reach 20 percent, representing $100 billion in annual consumer sales – or the equivalent of 3,900 stores – but now that accelerated reality is more like 5-7 years due to the seismic shifts in the marketplace over the last 12 months alone. Year-two of our work with Nielsen will define the critical components of this strategy focusing on the people, process and technology that create an omnichannel-ready organization. We’ll explore how they function as a whole, providing the blueprint for an effective omnichannel strategy and support for organizational transformation.

Notably, many of the retailers and CPG manufacturers we talked to overwhelmingly saw technology as the answer to digital transformation, but it’s not. Technology is an enabler. On its own, technology will not fix a broken process or train under-skilled people.

Just as the Golden Ages of art, literature and even television helped to shape society and stimulate a culture of creativity; this era of digital experimentation will further transform the future of food and enable food retailers to flourish.

Attendees of this year’s Midwinter Executive Conference can listen to a panel discussion hosted by Nielsen that features two manufacturers and their key retailer partners sharing how they have improved speed-to-market, reduced the cost of doing business and, most importantly, focused on real growth. Learn more with the full agenda and visit

FMI also recently announced a partnership with ShopTalk to create GroceryTalk, a new program designed to join the world’s largest conference for retail and ecommerce innovation.