By Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, FMI

Fresh Forward Action Guide 2022

When leaders gather for a major industry conference there’s generally a short window of time to turn insights into action steps. That’s because insights can quickly be forgotten in the rush of day-to-day challenges. How often have we attended events, listened to great information and then returned to our own organizations to continue doing the same old thing? How can leaders become action heroes by identifying actionable steps in real time?

I want to share the unique approach fostered by FMI’s annual FreshForward conference. The conference makes a priority of helping attendees —senior-level retailers, wholesalers, suppliers and service providers — identify potential action steps on-site to create roadmaps for progress. In other words, let’s not just discuss issues, let’s see what we can do to move forward on these issues. Strategies are brainstormed by attendees at facilitator-led breakout groups after each track of the fresh-focused speaker presentations. The attendee takeaways are captured and recorded.

This leads to the second part of the approach. A follow-up Action Guide is produced that identifies all the key steps the industry can take on the issues discussed at the conference. For example, this year’s guide addresses steps to make progress on the three fresh topics covered at the conference in August — collaborative partnerships, health and well-being and sustainability in fresh foods. This guide has been exclusively available to attendees until now and just became accessible to a wider audience for download.

Examples of Actionable Strategies

What kinds of action strategies are showcased in the guide? These include industry-facing, consumer-facing, and employee-focused strategies. While the solutions were developed for specific fresh topics, many of the strategies are relevant to a broad range of fresh foods challenges and opportunities. Let’s look at a few of the action steps identified.

  • Leverage “Five to Thrive” Framework: This strategy promotes a framework outlined by Deloitte called “Five Keys to a Thriving Collaborative Partnership.” Those keys include having a common goal; making sure value and ROI are mutually beneficial; setting clear expectations and roles; emphasizing frequent two-way communications and prioritizing trust and accountability.


  • Optimize the Use of Search in Ecommerce: This approach underscores the importance of making health and well-being information more accessible through online tools. The focus is on enhancing ecommerce search functionality so that shoppers can filter items by nutrition needs and eating approaches.


  • Standardize Key Industry Metrics: This strategy addresses the need to standardize sustainability-related metrics and scorecards across the industry. The goal is to reduce complexity, streamline messaging and make it easier for companies to communicate efforts and get credit for achievements. An industry task force could be formed to help build consistency by identifying key metrics and standards.
Follow-ups Need Strong Execution

Even the most robust action steps won’t be useful unless leaders take advantage of them. That’s why the Action Guide also includes a checklist on how to make progress with internal teams and partners in advancing efforts. These steps include:

  • Choose at least one action step to consider pursuing in the coming months for each of the three areas – health and well-being, sustainability, and collaborative partnerships.
  • Explore what levels of internal and external expertise and collaboration are needed to make progress on each action step.
  • Create timelines and measurement strategies.
  • Evaluate initial results and adapt strategies to optimize outcomes.
Diving in for Success

We hope you’ll download and benefit from the Action Guide, which contains a lot more information. It also incorporates top insights from speakers at the conference. The information will be useful in planning fresh foods strategies for the coming year and beyond.

FreshForward is how the fresh sector comes together collaboratively to push the industry forward. Deloitte is FMI’s collaborative partner for the conference.

Positive change is possible when senior leaders engage with each other to help create the next generation of fresh foods opportunities.

Download Action Guide