The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) just hosted their fifth annual Supply Chain Conference in Orlando, FL. Attending the conference were retailers and manufacturers with the stated goal of “establishing collaborations that foster supply chain efficiency, reduce costs and improve the bottom line.”
It was an interesting coincidence that the Wall Street Journal ran a piece called “Indigestion in the Food Industry” during the conference. Quoting from the article, “Mondelez International, ConAgra Foods Inc., and JM Smucker Company all reported uninspiring financial results last week, reflecting the packaged foods industry’s continued struggle with weak consumer spending and competition.” All three of those businesses were well-represented at the conference. The conference agenda addressed worthwhile topics like new government regulation, evolving systems capabilities, and e-commerce.
At the same time I can’t help but feel we missed the forest for the trees. It is tough to connect the conference content to the big issues affecting bottom lines as called out by the Wall Street Journal. There were unstructured discussion groups each day, but participants seemed reticent to engage in substantive debate or sharing. I recall asking one group whether store formats and/or individual categories were actually being pressured by e-commerce…crickets. At the end of the day, I am certainly appreciative that the FMI and GMA host this event, and they afford consultants, like me, the opportunity to attend. I understand that simply networking is a critical part of everyone’s development and that industry standards and solutions make each company a bit more efficient. However, especially at a time when the industry is challenged, perhaps member companies should raise the bar.