By Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO, FMI
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The COVID-19 pandemic places a new level of interdependencies on traditional trading partner relationships. Over the past several months the FMI team has worked tirelessly with our retail and manufacturer partners to help carve a path forward in providing America with a dependable future-facing food supply.

I congratulate the entire industry in achieving the goal of keeping our grocery stores supplied throughout this ongoing crisis. The partnerships we have observed, from all the corners of America, have been and continue to be nothing short of outstanding – notwithstanding the unique challenges presented during this time, to take care of our associates, customers, and communities.

We at FMI believe we can all learn from the efforts made by our members. Clearly, there is an opportunity to accelerate stronger and deeper collaborative partnerships.

Our upcoming Annual Business Conference (ABC) is an ideal forum to set the stage for competing in and collaborating in the evolving retail landscape. I believe this year’s conference will set the stage for a new generation of cooperation where retailers and manufacturers establish “new ways of working together,” simplifying and streamlining how we serve the American grocery shopper.

In speaking with numerous retail and supplier members, the general consensus is that there are five top-of-mind topics that require attention at this conference. Those topics include the following:

1. Addressing the issues of ongoing supply.

“What needs to be done by both trading partners to keep the shelves and/or fulfillment centers stocked?”

2. Understanding SKU rationalization.

Many manufacturers have significantly reduced their assortments to manufacture just the basics. “What is the longer-term assortment rationalization strategy, and how can the trading partners work together better to get on the shelf what the consumer wants?”

3. Reenergizing innovation.

With the recent past and today’s focus on supplying the basics, “What does the go-forward innovation pipeline look like?”

4. The role and impact of digital going forward.

“How can we work together better to more cost effectively support digital  purchasing behaviors?”

5. Reducing the overall cost to serve.

“Where can we jointly improve our costs to offer better values to our grocery shoppers?” With compressing margins in an increasingly complex retailer landscape, this issue was identified as a must-have in go-forward collaborative conversations.

This year’s ABC event will provide the foundational collaborative partnerships on which future generations continue to build and develop. As each of you, both retailers and manufacturers, approach these upcoming meetings there is a renewed opportunity for industry greatness by deepening the new ways of working together.

I am always inspired by the words of one of the greatest collaborators in our history. When the foundation of a new American industry was being established, entrepreneur Henry Ford observed:

 “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

See you at ABC!

Annual Business Conference