By: Leslie G. Sarasin, President and CEO, Food Marketing Institute

LGS AFFIThe American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) held its annual conference this week in Las Vegas and I was honored to be invited to participate as the keynote speaker. In a break with tradition, AFFI President Alison Boder and I agreed that an interview format might be a more interesting way to discuss the “State of Food Retail and What It Means for Frozen,” so she interviewed me on stage.

By way of background, I should remind you that prior to joining FMI in 2008, I served for nine years as the President and CEO of AFFI after serving in various staff positions for the ten years before that, so going back to AFFI-CON was somewhat akin to attending a family reunion, with the added twist of being asked to give the spotlight address. It was a tremendous experience and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing long-time friends. But it was also a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how my thinking has been challenged, informed and changed by a decade advocating for food retailers – especially in such a revolutionary-evolutionary ten years for the industry – and to have the opportunity to share some of that thinking with a group of the retail sector’s important trading partners.

 The nature of the interview questions enabled me to share FMI’s emerging issues work, so I was able to talk about:

  • How technology is touching and changing every aspect of our operations, including howretail customers shop and think about shopping;
  • How the new consumer’s desire for a deeper connection to their food emerges in expectations of personalization, cravings for more information, and a desire for options for getting the food in their hands in the most convenient way possible;
  • How a new marketplace is surfacingthat makes use of the digital information available and better serves the needs of the customer;
  • How workforce considerations - succession, retention, training, and hiring - are all being reshaped in order to bring the new marketplace into being; and
  • How new developments in food production will bring new challenges in food defense and food safety.

Later this month, AFFI will move its offices, co-locating in the FMI office space on the eighth floor of 2345 Crystal Drive in Arlington, Virginia. Just to be clear, this move is not a merger, but it does constitute another of FMI’s attempts to bring greater efficiency and deeper service levels to its members, as well as a similar attempt by AFFI. No doubt synergies will emerge from having AFFI and FMI staff members interact as we share office space, and we will explore the ways we can support, strengthen and help each other’s advocacy efforts. We look forward to having AFFI as new roommates and to welcoming them to Crystal City.