By: Angelyn Pinter, Senior Manager, Education, FMI

"June 10 , 2020 FOMC Meeting: _NZ73153CP_FOMC_remote_-20200610-_DSC3291" by Federalreserve is marked with CC PDM 1.0From store directors and managers to designers and marketers, food retail professionals work diligently to ensure their teams are optimized for success. To accomplish this goal, these professionals must be well-equipped with up-to-date industry knowledge and leadership savvy to effectively address the ever-shifting food retail landscape. FMI has taken an active role in helping them foster such core competencies through an interactive and wholistic education initiative, known as the Future Leaders eXperience Program, developed in partnership with Root.

This six-session virtual program provides a rich curriculum food retail professionals can use to build upon their managerial, interpersonal and relationship building skills, while collaborating with a group of fellow industry practitioners. The sessions are bolstered by the Future Leaders eXperience Coach Program, which assigns a Food Retail Leader-certified coach to each group.

Future Leaders coaches are more than mere guides for course material. They also serve as the focal point of their group, helping to facilitate lively communication among participants and a sense of cohesion in a virtual environment. One participant had this to say about his coach, “I could not be more thankful for our program coach, she was very helpful in keeping conversations going and making sure everyone was engaged and actively participating.”

Networking is another key benefit of the Future Leaders eXperience Coach Program. Participants and coaches alike gain new insights on how to tackle complicated issues affecting the food retail industry by sharing their unique experiences and problem-solving strategies with their groups. “The highlight of coaching was to network and get different perspectives, especially on how other companies are navigating COVID” said Jon Taylor, pricing analytics manager at Circle K.

In addition, engaging anew with program course material allows coaches to sharpen their understanding of lessons that may not have been clear to them on their first encounter with the curriculum. “I learned as much or more from being a coach than being a participant. I pushed forward all the learnings I made when I went through it myself. Coaching provided that missing piece,” said Erin Cavender, integrated media strategy coordinator at The Kroger Co.

The future of the food industry is bright with passionate, dedicated and knowledgeable leaders at the helm, and Future Leaders eXperience Program coaches possess these traits in abundance. FMI offers its most sincere gratitude to all 2021 coaches who selflessly volunteered their time and energy to enhance the Future Leaders eXperience program for participants:

Stacy Leeton, Associated Wholesale Grocers
Samantha Wilkerson, Big Y
Jon Taylor, Circle K
Todd Nehls, Festival Foods
Lori Moriarty, Kellogg
Bakary Darboe, Kroger
Erin Cavender, Kroger
Stacey Tolliver, Kroger
Donna Pilarski, Meijer
Erika Murphy, Meijer
Mellisa Fica, Meijer
Rachel Hartwick, Meijer
Josh Barber, Meijer
George Nyarko, SPAR Ghana
Alisha Tarrance, Spartan Nash
Paul Curtis, Spartan Nash

To enroll in the Future Leaders eXperience Coach Program, please contact For more information or to register as a participant, visit