Home » FMI Midwinter Executive Conference ‘Premier Forum’ For Industry
Association News National

FMI Midwinter Executive Conference ‘Premier Forum’ For Industry

FMI Midwinter Conference logo

FMI – The Food Industry Association will hold its Midwinter Executive Conference Jan. 18-21 at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Florida. Exclusive to FMI members, the conference allows attendees to come together to navigate ever-shifting currents and focus on the most critical issues affecting the industry.

FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin talked with The Shelby Report about the 2024 event.

Q: How has FMI Midwinter grown and/or changed post-pandemic? 

A: FMI’s Midwinter Executive Conference has historically enjoyed strong attendance from the food industry C-suite. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen our attendance increase and diversify. We continue to have more companies attend and see a wider breadth and depth of the food industry represented. Companies are also sending more of their C-suite to the event, including more health and well-being, food safety, government relations, fresh foods, private brands, supply chain and technology talent. 

One of our big additions to Midwinter has been our FMItech program, which includes sessions, business meetings and exhibits dedicated to discussing timely topics such as e-commerce, customer experience, inventory management, and automation strategies. Our popular FMItech Pitch Competition will be back this year, which is a chance for food industry executives to hear from emerging technology companies about their visionary ideas. Our three contestants for the competition this year include in-store e-commerce with wearable cameras, personalized healthy shopping tools and shoppable recipe solutions – all emerging technologies I’m interested in learning more about.

Q: What are your expectations or goals for this year’s conference?

A: I’m hoping attendees walk away from the Midwinter Executive Conference with three things – a new opportunity to embrace, a new solution to support operational efficiencies and a new business connection.

Our industry is facing several challenges from workforce issues to supply chain efficiency to regulatory changes. Our Midwinter program is designed to help our industry be informed and address these challenges with innovative solutions. It’s only when we work together that we are strongest – so collaboration is key to success. This isn’t just about trading partner collaboration – which is essential in the food industry – but also collaboration on major issues facing our industry like credit card competition, pharmacy benefit manager reform, food traceability and more. Our goal is to foster strong industry collaboration so we can take on these challenges together.

Q: Various aspects of technology are on the agenda. Why is it important to address these topics at FMI Midwinter?

A: Nearly one-in-four food retailers and two-out-of-three suppliers are currently using AI for their business solutions. These numbers will continue to grow in the coming year, necessitating food industry executives to know the ins and outs of current and future AI opportunities so that they make informed business decisions. That’s why we’ve focused on technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) in particular, throughout our Midwinter program.

I’m particularly interested to hear from our keynote speaker Jose Luis-Gomes, managing director, retail and CPG with Google Cloud. Luis-Gomes will explore the types of AI, what is already in use, future applications, and how generative AI could transform organizational structure, workforce management, productivity and costs, and consumer expectations. I’m sure his session will be the spark that ignites conversation among our attendees.

Q: How do you decide on the topics for the conference?

A: We receive guidance from our FMI Midwinter Advisory Committee led by Chairman Omar Jorge, chairman at Compare Foods. Omar and the Advisory Committee have been hands-on with our program, offering topics suggestions and speakers that address critical issues facing the food industry. We built a program that informs our attendees about the issues, arms them with innovative solutions and also factors in some networking and social engagement. The Midwinter program is unique in that the topics covered come from our members’ needs and the agenda is guided by industry leaders. It’s a program built by the industry, for the industry.

Q: Why is FMI Midwinter of such importance to the industry?

A: The FMI Midwinter Executive Conference has always been the premier forum for the food industry, but I think more than ever before, it’s become the tradition the food industry most looks forward to.

We talk a lot about the benefits of family meals at FMI, and I would argue that Midwinter is our industry’s family meal occasion. It’s where we break bread together, share stories, reconnect, collaborate, form ideas and share innovation. Just like a family meal, Midwinter is essential to the well-being of our industry, our business relationships and for the customers our industry serves. 

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: One event at Midwinter that I’m particularly proud of is our Executive Leadership Awards program. We’ll be announcing seven Executive Leadership Award recipients at our board members’ luncheon during Midwinter. These recipients represent our industry’s finest and historic careers in the food industry. I’m excited to share these executive’s stories and celebrate the legacy of these industry leaders. Details about our 2024 recipients will be online at FMI.org/Legacy and shared on social media.

Of course, there is also Stir It Up! our opening night social event that celebrates the culinary skills of our member companies through a friendly – but intense – cooking competition. And competition is entirely appropriate as this year’s theme is “Feeding the Fans,” celebrating the glorious intersection of sports and food.

You can find our program and more information at FMI.org/Midwinter.

About the author

Treva Bennett

Senior Content Creator

After 32 years in the newspaper industry, she is enjoying her new career exploring the world of groceries at The Shelby Report.

Featured Photos

Featured Photo IDDBA Annual Convention
George R. Brown Convention Center
Houston, TX