Fueled by a record-breaking turnout, retailers and vendors took advantage of business meetings to renew relationships, discuss merchandising ideas and meet emerging brands May 6-10 at the Western Association of Food Chains’ annual convention.
WAFC Chief Operating Officer Pat Posey told The Shelby Report’s Bob Reeves that the show drew rave reviews.
“Overall, I think everyone was really happy with the outcome of the convention, the exposure that their brand got and, more importantly, the exposure that the educational programs that the WAFC supports got,” Posey said.
“My main mission for this convention is for everybody to have a good time, but to expose everything that we’re doing in WAFC to the industry and everything we’re doing at USC, everything we’re doing with the Retail Management Certificate program, all the different initiatives we’ve got going on. Anyone can throw a party, but it’s all about what we’re actually working on, which is education in our industry.”
During the last three days of the convention at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert, California, retailers were able to hold business meetings to talk shop and meet emerging brands.
Retailers taking part included Albertsons Cos., Bashas’, Bristol Farms, Brookshire Brothers, C&S Wholesale, Cardenas Markets, Cub, Costco Wholesale, Food 4 Less/Foods Co., Gelsons, Lazy Acres, King Scoopers, New Leaf Community Markets, New Seasons, Northgate Markets, QFC, The Raley’s Companies, Rosauers, Ralphs, Smart & Final, The Save Mart Companies, Stater Bros., Sprouts, Sullivan Family of Companies, Superior Grocers, UNFI and WinCo Foods.
“The WAFC convention is the perfect balance of introducing and creating new business opportunities and pushing business forward while fostering and strengthening personal relationships with those in the industry,” said Jackie LaPointe, director of retail (grocery) at Upside.
“Especially on the supplier side, being a part of The Illuminators and volunteering to support the convention through various committees allowed me to both serve our retailers, build new connections, all while supporting furthering education in our industry.”
The association also held three town hall sessions a day, all of which drew capacity crowds. The Sunday sessions were put on by Gelson’s, The Save Mart Companies, Raley’s and Albertsons. The Monday sessions were led by Stater Bros., Costco and Northgate Markets, while Tuesday’s were held by Food 4 Less, Superior Grocers and King Scoopers.
For the first time, the WAFC put a focus on produce by holding a “Fresh Connection” event May 8. Manufacturers displayed their products and engaged with retailers from across the West. The companies included Bland Farms, Chelan Fresh, Del Monte Fresh Produce, Grapery, Grimmway Farms, Melissa’s World Wide Produce, Mission Produce Inc., Mariani Nut, Organic Girl, Oppy, Wonder Veggies and Wonderful Sales.
“We learned a lot from this first ‘Fresh Connections’ experience and hope to take it to new levels in the future,” Posey said.
The association hosted several nightly receptions over the course of the five-day convention. The kickoff reception May 6 in the lobby atrium of Marriott Desert Springs was hosted by E&J Gallo, Pacific Seafood, Ajinomoto, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Anheuser Busch, Perdue, Phillips and Kinder’s. Appetizers and an open bar prepared guests for a sixth-floor balcony greeting from WAFC President and Chairman Scott Drew and his wife, Kelly, along with Illuminator Headlite Joe and Annabelle Perez.
The May 7 “Hotel California” reception was set on the tennis lawn and featured an Eagles cover band. Attendees were also surprised with a flyover of vintage World War II fighter planes, sponsored by DAOU Wines. The event was hosted by Pepsico, Kimberly-Clark, Diageo, Poste Consumer Brands, Sargento, Anheuser Busch, GWFG and Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits, along with Madison Brown ice cream.
The May 8 “Moonlight in White” event encouraged attendees to wear white, traveling between several ballrooms enjoying various refreshments and entertainment. The event was hosted by Bimbo Bakeries USA, Tyson, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Kellogg’s, Purina and DAOU, while P&G provided attendees with Tide to Go pens.
“We expected to see about 30-40 percent of our delegates in white and it ended up being closer to 95 percent participation,” Posey said. “This group came prepared and displayed an amazing willingness to be part of our WAFC family and displayed it through this common bond unity. The outfits were amazing and the pictures were even better.”
To view the photo gallery of the event by The Shelby Report, click here.
The receptions culminated into the association’s Annual Banquet/Changing of the Guard event May 9. Illuminators Headlite Joe Perez said his goodbyes and introduced his successor, Greg Siegel.
The WAFC President and Chairman Scott Drew of Smart & Final also introduced Paul Gianetto of Raley’s as the next WAFC president and chairman. After the formalities, comedian Kathleen Madigan took the stage, drawing laughs with humor designed for the grocery industry.
“We had to add 250 seats last second. We had to place people in the front corner, there just wasn’t enough room as no one wanted to leave. It was a great problem to have,” Posey said.
For more information, visit wafc.com.