WMU’s Food Marketing Conference to draw over 700 industry leaders

contact: Stacey Markin
| WMU News
Photo of a panel discussion at a WMU Food Marketing Conference.

WMU's Food Marketing Conference is now in its 51st year.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University’s acclaimed Food Marketing Conference unfolds Monday and Tuesday, April 11 and 12, and is expected to draw more than 700 industry executives to DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.

Once again this year, the conference is packing "a stellar speaker lineup," says Dr. Frank Gambino, professor of marketing and director of the food and consumer package goods marketing program.

The two-day conference will feature presentations on current trends in the food and consumer package goods industries and will explore this year's conference theme "People, Purpose and Passion: The Pathway to Success." Registration is ongoing at foodmarketingconference.com, but a preregistration discount ends March 25. Rooms are blocked at the Amway Grand hotel and the conference rate is available until March 23, subject to availability.

An industry standard, the conference's growing attendance precipitated its move this year to Grand Rapids. Conference organizers expect attendance to reach more than 700 people, and possibly up to 1,000, as a lineup of sought-after speakers takes the stage.

Providing a keynote address at the event is Hank Meijer, co-chairman of Meijer, Inc., who joined the family business first at age 11 as a grocery clerk and then again in 1979 as assistant advertising director, after a stint as a newspaper reporter and publisher. As co-chairman, he oversees the strategy for Meijer's more than 200 self-service combination supermarket-discount department stores located in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. His presentation, titled "Minding Our Customer," will offer insights for retailers and manufacturers alike.

Conference Presentations

  • Jason Dorsey, best-selling author and Millennials expert, has been featured as a generational expert on 60 Minutes, 20/20, The Today Show, The Early Show and more. Adweek calls Dorsey a "research guru" and The New York Times featured him in its cover story on marketing to Millennials. Dorsey helps companies and business leaders solve tough generational challenges and will bring his message "Unlocking the Power of Generations to Grow Your Business" to the conference.
  • Rich Wolowski, president and chief operating officer, Gordon Food Service, will dive into culture and its impact on a company in a presentation titled "It's All about People and Culture." Wolowski will explore how simple concepts can transform an organization’s culture, engagement and bottom line and how passion for people and employees can become a sustainable competitive advantage through actions, ideas, service and spirit.
  • Neil Stern, author, retailing expert and senior partner at McMillanDoolittle LLP, will speak about "Disruptions in Food Retail: How to Respond" and will offer a fast-paced overview of key trends that are disrupting the market, and most importantly, innovative ways in which retailers can respond. An expert on the consumer of the future, Stern has co-authored two books, "Winning At Retail" and "Greentailing and Other Revolutions in Retailing."
  • A conference favorite, the "Executive Forum," moderated by Paul Madura, former senior vice president and general manager, H-E-B Food-Drugs, features executives from Kroger, Trader Joe's, 7-Eleven, Rite Aid, Kellogg and H-E-B Food-Drugs.

About the conference

Now in its 51st year, the WMU Food Marketing Conference brings leading industry experts from around the country to West Michigan to share the latest developments in the industry. The conference is a nonprofit event that supports scholarships and programs for unique educational experiences for WMU food marketing students.

For more information about the event, visit foodmarketingconference.com or call the conference hotline, (269) 387-2132. To arrange media coverage, contact Stacey Markin at (269) 387-6936.