By: Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, FMI

fresh-forward-logo-w-no-dates-337x137The level of excitement felt like it was off the charts.

FMI recently marked an important milestone in the return to normalcy by hosting our in-person Midwinter Executive Conference in Florida, preceded by our Fresh Foods Leadership Council meeting.

Members of the industry were excited to be interacting without the aid of a computer screen. The opportunity to regather sparked highly productive discussions.

Going Round the Horn on Fresh

As FMI’s vice president of Fresh Foods, I’m especially proud of how the fresh council meeting turned out. Fresh industry leaders addressed a packed agenda, including presentations and discussions on supply chain, transportation, industry research, government affairs and consumer trends.

One of my favorite segments was our highly interactive “Round the Horn,”  in which industry fresh leaders in attendance speak in turn about what’s on their minds and what their companies are up to. It’s almost impossible to count the large number of important topics raised in that go-round, from sustainability and workforce issues to price inflation and omnichannel imperatives. There’s nothing like going Round the Horn live and in person.

Looking Ahead to FreshForward

On a related note, we’re excited about the return of FMI’s in-person FreshForward annual conference, set for August 16 to 18 in Denver. This executive thought leadership event, presented along with our partner Deloitte, brings together senior retailer, supplier, and service provider leaders in the fresh foods arena for education, networking, and collaborative discussions.

This year’s FreshForward is the most important one yet. It offers a unique opportunity for industry leaders to regather and discuss the myriad of fresh foods issues that have impacted the industry in the past couple of years, while looking ahead to new challenges and opportunities.

Eyeing Topics From Sustainability to Food as Medicine

The 2022 FreshForward education program will focus on highly relevant topics identified by  our advisory board of retailers and suppliers. These topics include: 

  • State of Fresh: A look at findings from an exclusive industry survey. This first annual FMI State of Fresh report will be presented by Leslie Sarasin, FMI’s president and CEO.
  • Food as Medicine: A deep dive into how consumer health and well-being needs are impacting fresh foods strategies, with a panel led by Krystal Register, FMI’s senior director, Health and Well-being.
  • Sustainability: A view of sustainability opportunities in the fresh sector, including for packaging, waste and best ways to communicate initiatives.
  • Collaborative Partnerships in Fresh: A look at the latest directions in collaborative fresh foods partnerships, on topics ranging from solving consumer needs to overcoming supply chain challenges.

We will continue our popular tradition of having one "virtual" element to FreshForward. Each of the key tracks will be briefly introduced through videos created exclusively for the event by select top food retail executives, including Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s CEO, and Susan Morris, Albertsons’ EVP and chief operations officer.

Taking Action on Key Issues  

One of the most unique aspects of FreshForward is the focus on actionable takeaways. We drive solution-based discussions in facilitated breakout groups. After the event, attendees receive a followup report that recaps insights and relays actionable steps.

There’s at least one action-oriented step I would advise right now. That is to learn more about FreshForward and register to reserve your place by going to the conference website at

I hope you are just as energized as me about the return of in-person meetings and the opportunity for the fresh industry to gather at FreshForward.