By: Leslie G. Sarasin, President and CEO, Food Marketing Institute
oh the places we'll go

It’s graduation season – a time when merriment, relief, self-accomplishment, trepidation and a host of other emotions all bombard the psyche in quick succession, both for graduates and their parents. It’s simultaneously a time of reflection and for launching a storyline about oneself that will serve as a personal brand to potential employers and even society at large.

I’m feeling like the proud parent of a grad (again) because FMI recently launched a subscription-based online community for emerging food and beverage brands that will offer education, mentoring, nurturing and access to investors. It’s called FMI Emerge, and these brands have unique stories and values to share with your shoppers.

With motivation from consumers’ increased desire for new food experiences, we launched this initiative to make it easier for our retail members to meet shopper demand for new products focused on local, health and wellness, gluten-free and global cuisine interests. FMI wishes to help navigate complex industry issues by creating the opportunity for productive trading partner relationships with food-producing companies that have a product, or product line, with limited grocery distribution and that seek increased sales velocity.

The objective of Emerge is to help brands grow sustainably by expanding their distribution, operations, financing and sales. We will provide a nurturing environment by hosting mentors, offering education, managing supportive outreach and providing access to investors.

I believe FMI plays a crucial role in cultivating partners across the value chain to enable better grocer-shopper relations, especially as it relates to turning a routine errand into a treasure hunt that inspires your customers and helps them discover tasty new products. FMI’s 60 years of tracking consumer trends have monitored shopper tastes that lead to operational changes and the assortment kept in stock. Our recent operations data reveals that the vast majority of retailers expect a continued move toward organic and local, as well as more artisanal items, focusing on managing health and wellness. All this, plus low prices and fresh, less processed goods are topping the list of product attributes that are important to shoppers.

So my hope is that as a retailer you will consider your role in encouraging industry growth with these companies that need a commerce boost, and I encourage you to reflect on some key questions: What story does your brand tell? Is it honest? Is it clear? Does it create emotional connections with the shopper? Does your in-store experience currently engage your customers’ senses? What unique tactics could you consider with an omnichannel offering to better showcase your corporate values? The Emerge network will serve as a connector for companies seeking more shelf space at retail. I hope you will play a role in their success and in answering consumer demands.

My message to our new community of Emerge participants is best conveyed in the words often shared in commencement addresses of the great professor, Dr. Seuss, “You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So... get on your way!” 

Thank you for beginning this journey with us. We’re here to encourage you along the way.

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