After the NRF Big Show in New York, the Invafresh team travelled directly to the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Orlando, Florida. If you missed it, we’ve got you covered! We took away some of the most valuable information and have broken it down for you here.
FMI’s Midwinter Executive Conference is one of the leading events for all in the grocery industry. The conference is an invitation-only event, which means that all in attendance are key stakeholders directly connected to the industry’s growth and changes. The forum provides the opportunity for high-level dialogue where members can focus on the issues and the future of grocery.
Some of the key imperative issues impacting the food industry discussed at FMI were:
- Supply Chain Disruption
- Labor Shortage and Workforce Challenges
- Accelerating Technology Transformation
- Changing Marketplace and Societal Dynamics
- Evolving Consumer Behaviors
- Rising ESG Expectations
These themes have been discussed in FMI’s grocery trends report, and most in the industry would already be aware of them, but the speed at which they have become pressing issues has been quicker than expected.
Now that we’ve taken a brief look at the broader themes, let’s focus on the topics that stood out to us at the conference.
The Great Shopper Shift of 2020 is Still Here and Here for Good
The pandemic and surrounding situations have changed consumer behaviors and their shopping habits for good. It may come as no surprise that the online experience is here to stay, but there is still some friction with this way of shopping. People are already omnichannel consumers and want to interact with and leverage all channels that a retailer can provide. It’s important that we focus not only on the omnichannel, but also the omni shopper – someone who shops both in-store and online and utilises both options interchangeably and sometimes even collaboratively.
Now more than ever, we must think about our customers holistically. Customers still want what they want, when they want it, but are still willing to travel in-store for the experience.
Technology Transformation vs. Transforming Technology
Conference speakers and industry experts tell us repeatedly to embrace technology, but according to a statistic mentioned at the FMItech Talks, retailers feel that technology investments in 2021 had a 20% negative impact on business. But with the right tech investment, there is true value to be realized. This statistic goes to show how important it is to be intentional and purposeful in where companies invest their time and money. When partnering with tech solutions, the value that it will add to your business should be very clear and aligned with your own strategy. It is no longer a question of embracing technology but transforming with it. As Craig Boyan, of H-E-B, put it in Saturday’s keynote session, “Grocers need to become good tech companies before tech companies become great retailers.”
A strong infrastructure and a solid foundation are required to reap the full benefits of evolving with technological advances. A strong foundation includes both good people and a positive culture surrounding new tech. Embracing technology doesn’t have to mean fewer people either – if anything, when done right, these systems can help to enhance your best performers and increase productivity and customer satisfaction.
Rising ESG Expectations
Data presented by Laurie Demeritt, The Hartman Group, at the conference showed that most consumers believe that science and technology can help solve global issues, and that this sentiment is growing rapidly.
- 64% believe scientific and technological innovations can make food more sustainable.
- 63% believe science and technology is our best hope to address climate change.
- 60% believe science and technological innovations can make food healthier.
- 55% believe modern industrial systems for farming and raising animals are the best way we have of feeding a growing population.
The mounting sense of urgency surrounding the challenges of food production and sales is easing customer resistance to science and technology being involved in their food. Ninety percent of consumers want to make sustainable choices, yet only 2% want to make behavioral changes. It’s up to us, as retailers and organizations, to make these two ideas a seamless combination.
Organizations were asked to incorporate ESG and sustainability into every decision they make, strive for transparency, not just internally, but within their community as well – the consumers.
Another successful event was held by FMI this year. The group of forward-thinking thought leaders continue to provide true value to their industry and solidify their position as one of the key contributors to industry conversation. The conference helped retailers come together and identify issues, think ahead, and collaborate – creating a unified and stronger industry that can be prepared for the critical years ahead.