WMU News

Food industry leaders converge on WMU campus

March 9, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The consumer is the focus of a two-day conference this month that will bring food industry executives from around the Midwest to Western Michigan University.

"Keeping the Focus on the Consumer" is the title of the 34th annual Food Marketing Conference to be held Monday and Tuesday, March 22 and 23, at the Bernhard Center.

More than 500 retail food executives are expected to attend the event and interact with students, faculty and industry leaders. The conference opens Monday evening with a reception and dinner and concludes Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. Among the highlights of this year's conference are four key speakers, an executive roundtable and the presentation of the Adrian Trimpe Distinguished Service Award.

Four featured speakers will address topics including building brands, customer loyalty and brand equity. Jack L. Stahl, president of Coca-Cola USA, will launch the conference with his opening address "Building a Brand by Being Customer Focused" at 8:45 a.m Monday. Dr. J. Walker Smith, vice president and partner of Yankelovich Partners Inc. and author of "Rocking the Ages: the Yankelovich Report of Generational Marketing," will speak on "Keeping the Focus on the Consumer," at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ron Marshall, president and chief executive officer of food wholesaler Nash Finch, will address "Retail/Wholesale Strategies for Building Customer Loyalty" at 2 p.m. on Tuesday followed by Ted Garcia, executive vice president of Starbucks Coffee Co., who will speak on "The Keys to Building Brand Equity with the Consumer: The Starbucks Story" at 2:45 p.m.

A popular feature of the conference, the executive roundtable, will address the conference's theme of "Keeping the Focus on the Consumer." Slated to participate are Don Sokolnicki, vice president of Nestle USA; Jeff Gietzen, president and CEO of D&W Food Centers; Linda Cullen, vice president of The Pillsbury Co.; and J. Walker Smith. Michael Sansolo, senior vice president of the Food Marketing Institute, will moderate.

On Monday evening, Craig Sturken, CEO and Chairman of Midwest Operations for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. and president and CEO of Farmer Jack Supermarkets will be presented with the Adrian Trimpe Distinguished Service Award. The award, named for the founder of WMU's nationally-recognized food marketing program, will recognize Sturken for his contributions to the program. (See related story in this packet).

In addition, the conference will feature a variety of workshops on topics including American eating habits, fresh foods, and marketing to African American and Hispanic consumers. Among the workshops to be presented are:

"The Value is Not in the Card," Liz Ferguson, director of measured marketing, D&W Food Centers;

"How America Eats...and Why," Linda Cullen, vice president for consumer knowledge, the Pillsbury Co.;

"The Fresh Food Consumer," Todd Hale, vice president national sales and service, and Michael J. Donorivich, senior corporate account manager, retail services, ACNeilsen;

"How to be a Magnet for Attracting a Quality Workforce," Mel Kleiman, president and CEO for Humetrics Inc.;

"Marketing to African Americans: The Ultimate in Consumerism," Patricia Bailey, vice president of marketing, Pro-line Corp.; and

"The Benefits of Reaching Today's Hispanic Consumers," Lupe Sierra, senior marketing manager for business development, Telemundo Network Group.

The annual food marketing conference is sponsored by WMU's Food Marketing Program in the Haworth College of Business and by Sigma Phi Omega, a professional business fraternity. All proceeds from the conference go to support scholarships and program operations. Last year, more than $50,000 was raised.

The cost of attending the conference for both days is $250. Single day registrations are also available at reduced prices. Reservations may be made by calling (616) 387-2132 or by faxing them to (616) 387-5710. For more information about the conference, call Dr. Frank M. Gambino, WMU associate professor of marketing and conference coordinator, at (616) 387-6119.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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