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In Another Move To Court Retailers, United Fresh Joins FMI And American Meat Institute To Co-Locate Event in 2012

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, May 11, 2010

For 5 years, from 2004 to 2008, United co-located its trade show with the Food Marketing Institute event, with four shows in Chicago and one show co-located in Las Vegas. United worked hard to sell the value of being in a venue that focused on the bosses of the trade’s largest customers.

Rather unceremoniously, the Food Marketing Institute, at the behest a few large members, severed ties with United and other co-locators and became an every-other-year trade show after the 2008 Las Vegas event. FMI is currently conducting its own trade show again in Las Vegas.

It left some bad blood, but business makes strange bedfellows and now United and FMI are friends again, and they added in the meat folks as well:

American Meat Institute, Food Marketing Institute and United Fresh Produce Association to Co-Locate 2012 Education and Trade Events in Dallas, Texas

Side by Side Shows Offer Added Value, Increased Opportunities for Attendees and Exhibitors

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Meat Institute (AMI), the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and the United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh) today announced the co-location of their premier trade shows — the FMI Exhibit and Education Event, the AMI International Meat Poultry and Seafood Convention and Exposition, and United Fresh — beginning in 2012 at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.

The AMI Expo will be held April 30-May 3, 2012, and the FMI Exhibit and Education Event and United Fresh will be held May 1-3, 2012.

The three shows will offer their own exhibit halls, as well as unique education programming for their own attendees. The partners will explore potential joint programming and networking events.

This marks a reunion between the FMI Show and United Fresh, but it is the first co-location of either group with the AMI Expo. This co-location creates an event that connects the meat processing, fruit and vegetable, and retail industries to create synergy for all exhibitors and attendees.

“We are thrilled to launch an event that will encompass all aspects of the industry in one location to provide a continuation of our commitment to bring trading partners together, foster collaboration and build a strong industry community,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and chief executive officer, FMI. “This co-location provides the opportunity to foster leadership education opportunities that span across the industry and bring more depth and increased value to retailers from the front-lines to company headquarters.”

AMI President and CEO Patrick Boyle welcomed the partnership opportunity. “Now, in addition to state-of-the art technology and cutting-edge education, AMI packer processors have a third compelling reason to attend the AMI Convention and Exposition — thousands of their retail customers in one place,” Boyle said. “Attendees will benefit from a wide array of joint educational programming. Exhibitors at all three shows will take advantage of the expanded marketing opportunity and additional traffic on the show floor.”

“We’re pleased to once again co-locate the United Fresh 2012 Fresh Marketplace and FreshTech expos with FMI based on the very positive experience of attendees at both of our shows in the past,” said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. “With AMI, we’ll now have an even stronger platform for increasing the attendee value proposition for all three events.”

“The FMI Education and Exhibit Event is the largest and most comprehensive food industry conference and exposition in North America, attracting approximately 450 exhibitors and more than 10,000 attendees from close to 100 countries representing the retail industry, including supermarket retailers, independent operators, wholesalers, mass merchants, distributors and suppliers. The AMI Expo attracts more than 450 exhibitors and 10,000 attendees from 100 countries at all levels of the meat and poultry industry, including executives, plant managers, purchasing agents, engineers, researchers and operations managers. The United Fresh show will attract 300 exhibitors and 5,000 individual attendees.

In our recent piece, “A+ For United’s Las Vegas Convention Effort; Will New Orleans Be A Winner?” we made this statement about United’s plan to move the show to New Orleans in 2011:

Whether or not the event will get enough retail traffic to make it a worthy investment for exhibitors focused on selling retailers fresh produce is very much an open question.

This co-location is an attempt to answer that question. Although the meat show, which is geared toward meat processors, is more similar to the old IFPA show, the FMI show is focused on retailers — though not the produce-specific personnel.

So it means that United plans to stay in the business of doing a trade show designed to attract exhibitors who want to sell to retailers.

We wish United well and understand the sense that this is both where the money is to fund the association and that the convention and trade show is key to keeping marketers engaged with United. We are still not certain it is the right approach.

United is on something of an upswing in the long competition between PMA and United. Although credit goes to staff and the board for making some strong decisions, most of the credit has to go to President Obama and the heavily Democratic Congress.

A more activist administration and Congress, a government more interested in regulating, legislating, taxing, funding initiatives, etc., makes an organization focused on lobbying and government affairs more important and relevant.

Although PMA has upped its commitment to being an important information resource for government agencies and Congress, United, with is D.C. location and outright lobbying emphasis, is almost inevitably going to rise in the perception of its importance to the industry when the government is more activist.

We can expect to hear some dissatisfaction from big exhibitors who don’t want to have the burden of exhibiting at two shows. Our advice to those exhibitors has been that if they don’t think a show will be profitable, they shouldn’t exhibit there. After all, if the goal is to support an association, there are a lot of ways to do that more efficiently than buying a booth. Do a sponsorship, make a donation, etc. To spend a few thousand dollars buying a booth and twenty times that putting it up, flying staff in, wining and dining, makes no sense unless you think that is profitable for your business.

This is all true, but not the whole truth and so we understand the feelings of the big marquis companies that want to support United. Although financially it seems to make sense to send a check, trade shows depend on people, and important names attract important attendees. So an exhibitor contributes something intangible to a show, something beyond money.

The bigger issue, though, is simply this: In a time of activist government and when government lobbying has become a crucial activity, how will the produce trade finance its government relations efforts?

Most of the interest in a PMA/United merger is an attempt to address this fundamental issue: PMA has a highly successful business model and much of this is reflected in its very successful Fresh Summit event. This has produced surpluses that have allowed PMA to fund initiatives such as the Center for Produce Safety and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, to which PMA just donated another $250,000.

But maybe the urgent need now is more funds to lobby inside the Beltway. One wonders if a deal couldn’t be struck… what if United gave up its retail-oriented event and PMA gave it some money for lobbying? Then United could boost its DC event that was once called the Congress of Committees and is now called the Washington Public Policy Conference into its national annual meeting.

PMA would eliminate its only national competitor in the trade show business, United would both get money to enhance its lobbying effort and be able to focus on its DC mission and the big exhibitors wouldn’t feel obligated to support two national shows.

Short of merger, that might be a direction to consider.

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