Fresh Foods

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

The fresh industry's story right now might be described as a tale of two missions.

On the one hand, the industry is navigating near-term hurdles related to the economy. On the other hand, fresh leaders are eyeing longer-term opportunities to make progress on meeting consumer needs and accelerating their businesses.

This is a unique and essential time to act on both fronts. Success will rely on capturing the best insights and driving industry collaboration.

I'm excited about the upcoming FMI FreshForward conference set for Aug. 5-7, 2024 in San Diego because it will support these imperatives. The event will emphasize opportunities, showcase the latest industry insights and provide a forum for retailer and supplier collaboration. Let me explain a bit more about the latest fresh dynamics and how FreshForward will help drive progress.

Navigating Near-Term Realities

The food industry has been challenged on the sales-volume front by consumers still feeling the impacts of inflation. I believe we have near-term opportunities to capture more shopper meal occasions if we play up our value proposition. This requires spotlighting the value of meals-at-home and our ability to meet the growing consumer need for convenience — such as through retail foodservice.

Capturing these opportunities will rely on having the most robust metrics and insights. At FreshForward, we'll get the latest look at the fresh industry and consumers from FMI's annual State of Fresh presentation by Leslie Sarasin, FMI's president and CEO. The research findings relayed will shed light on plans for fresh foods space and SKU allocation, trends related to in-store and online shopping, and many other areas. We'll also hear about what's ahead for the economy from Leo Feler, the Chief Economist of Numerator.  

Tapping Into the Future of Fresh

Fresh leaders need to be highly focused on emerging consumer trends, the outlook for technology and AI, and sustainability opportunities to reduce food and packaging waste.

FreshForward will showcase each of these essential topics in separate panels. As one example, the emerging consumer trends panel will feature speakers from Circana, Cargill Protein North America, and Deloitte — which is FMI's industry partner for FreshForward.

Conference attendees will participate in facilitated breakout groups after each panel to identify action steps for the industry.

Emphasizing Industry Collaboration

The fresh industry will rely on collaboration to capture its near-term and longer-term opportunities. Progress will be driven by partners working together to bring more value to the consumer, manage costs and turn future hurdles into opportunities.

FreshForward has an impressive roster of retailers, suppliers and service providers already signed up to attend. On the retailer, wholesaler and distributor sides this includes representatives from Albertsons, Kroger, The Giant Company, Giant Eagle, SpartanNash, Wakefern Food Corp, Associated Wholesale Grocers, Sprouts Farmers Market, UNFI, Circle K, Lidl U.S., IGA, Bristol Farms, Fresh Thyme Market, KeHe Distributors, Schnuck Markets, Big Y Foods, Lund Food Holdings and others.

Eyeing Company Leaders as Fresh Champions

The industry's success has been accelerated by top leaders who champion fresh in their organizations.

At FreshForward, we are fortunate that three top retail leaders will be making presentations to kick off the conference's tracks. These are:

  • Giant Eagle's CEO Bill Artman on Emerging Consumer Trends.
  • Northgate Gonzalez Market's Co-President Oscar Gonzalez on Sustainability and Packaging.
  • Wakefern Food Corp.'s President Mike Stigers on Technology and AI.

I hope to see you at FreshForward as we continue this discussion and identify action steps together as an industry. This is a crucial time to make progress on fresh opportunities.

Register for FreshForward