By: Steve Markenson, Director of Research, Food Marketing Institute

The first ever The Food Retailing Industry Speaks (Speaks) report appeared in 1949. Seventy years later, this report continues to provide the food retail industry with important benchmarks, facts and figures that are used in our advocacy work on Capitol Hill, in conversations with the media and by our members desiring to make informed business decisions. 

As FMI reported last year in the 68th annual edition of the Speaks report, the food retail industry was riding a number of positive trends, while grappling with unprecedented challenges to their businesses. But food retailers have shown themselves to be resilient by taking proactive approaches and fine-tuning their strategies. Last year, FMI reported an improved financial picture and renewed optimism for this year and the future.

What will we learn about our industry this year? The Speaks report will of course continue to trend key financial and operational benchmarks, while incorporating questions about new industry issues and challenges. Some of the new areas included for this year’s Speaks study include:

  • The survey has continued to develop its look into the impact of technology and ecommerce. From efforts toward using technology to personalize the shopper experience to the role of artificial intelligence, the survey has expanded its exploration of the role of technology throughout various aspects of the industry.
  • The food retail industry pulse issues will continue to assess the impact on the industry of health care costs, interchange fees, upward wage pressures and recruiting/retaining employees, but will also assess the impact of pharmacy DIR fees, transportation capacity, trade/tariffs and other emerging issues.
  • New areas of inquiry have been added to our look into space allocation, labor allocation, product differentiation strategies and service differentiation strategies based on how the industry is evolving.
  • Speaks will continue to assess the impact on the food retail industry of the tax reform passed by Congress.

How is FMI able know all of this about the food retail industry? Directly from the food industry, when your company responds to The Food Retailing Industry Speaks annual survey. In 1949, an amazing 64 percent of the industry responded to the first survey. We need your help to get your company to respond this year. Contact Steve Markenson ( to learn how your company can participate. We want as many voices as possible to Speak.

Learn more and download the full 2018 Speaks report at