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The first Food Marketing Institute FMI Show held outside of Chicago since 1982 certainly was a different FMI Show. The city was Las Vegas, the venue was the Mandalay Bay Convention Center (not the Las Vegas Convention Center), and 11 of the top 15 food processors were missing.
The changes were inevitable, FMI officials and some of the processors in attendance admitted privately. “Chicago’s great,” said one exhibitor, “but going to the same town for 26 years gets old.”
Others criticized McCormick Place management and its labor unions. Another said big companies had painted themselves into a corner with ever-larger exhibits. “They were getting too expensive, but companies feel exhibiting with a smaller booth than you had last year sends a negative signal to people. It’s better to not show up than to show up small.”
Eleven of the 15 largest food processors were missing from this year’s FMI Show, but attendance was 17,543.
Among the companies exhibiting were Kraft Foods, Nestle USA, Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola and Campbell Soup. Among those missing were Tyson, Pepsico, General Mills, ConAgra, Kellogg and Unilever.
New products galore
As a clean slate, FMI 08 provided a great venue for Kraft to launch 90 – that’s right, 90 -- new products (although not all were on display). Just a taste includes DiGiorno and California Pizza Kitchen For One, great single-serve microwavable pizzas; DiGiorno Ultimate Focaccia Pizza, which features Italian herbs, cheeses and olive oil mixed into a light focaccia crust and topped with classic toppings; and Nilla Cakesters Soft Snack Cakes, building on the momentum of Oreo Cakesters with a vanilla variety. They also put Cool-Whip in an aerosol can.
A visitor to the Glory Foods booth learns of the company’s savory canned, frozen and fresh Southern-style foods.
A visitor could drink lime cactus, Tuscan orange grapefruit, pomegranate raspberry, blueberry, goji berry and acai – and that was just in the Anheuser-Busch booth. Not to mention the new Bud Lights in lime and Clamato. A-B also was promoting a distribution-only agreement with Borba Skin Balance Water. There are four nutraceutical-based varieties in the line: Age Defying (acai), Clarifying (pomegranate), Replenishing (lychee) and Firming (guanabana). While marketed by the Woodland Hills, Calif., company, the product samples were manufactured by Sparta, Wis.-based Century Foods, now a Hormel unit.
In addition to the big-name companies, the new FMI Show afforded a good portion of the spotlight to some smaller companies. Alamance Foods, a Burlington, N.C., maker of freezer pops, had one of the biggest and most centrally located exhibits.
Mayberry’s Finest has been three years in the making, but the brand finally launched earlier this year by Choice Food of America, Nashville, Tenn. Based on baby boomer nostalgia for the 1960-70s TV show, it focuses on down-home comfort foods that might have been in Aunt Bea’s pantry: cans of black-eyed peas, chicken and dumplings or sausage gravy; baking mixes for cornbread muffins, hushpuppies and peach cobbler. “The brand is 48 years old, and the show has never really been off the air,” points out Phillip Connelly, Choice Food president. So far, distribution is just in seven mid-South states.
Campbell is leveraging the equity in its V8 brand to replace the Select Gold Label line of soups, while retaining the aseptic box packaging.
Some of our other favorite new products included:
- Campbell Soup Co. Camden, N.J., debuted a new line of Campbell’s Select Harvest soups. Available in both cans and microwave bowls, each variety has been formulated to deliver great taste with 480mg of sodium per serving.
- Nestle’s Stouffer’s brand rolled out Easy Express Family Size meals to feed the whole kit and caboodle at home. Preservative-free, the home-assembly meals are ready in only 18 minutes. There are 130 varieties including Fettuccini Alfredo, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Lasagna and Baked Chicken Breast.
- McCormick, Hunt Valley, Md., allows you to use a restaurant-style technique to get a crunchy texture to chicken, fish or pork with McCormick Crusting Blends, made with panko breadcrumbs and specially formulated herb and spice blends. Varieties include French Onion, Pepper and Herb, Italian Herb & Cheese, and Garlic, Lemon & Rosemary. McCormick’s Thai Kitchen brand showed four new 10-minute Curry Simmer Sauces in authentic Asian flavors: Red Curry, Green Curry, Yellow Curry and Panang Curry.
- Ruiz Foods, Dinuba, Calif., goes to the frozen desserts case for the first time with the debut of El Monterey Cheesecake Bites. They wrap creamy cheesecake and either raspberry or caramel topping in an oven-baked flour tortilla, dip the batter and lightly fry it. Voila, a scrumptious hand-held delight.
- Eggland’s Best Inc., Jeffersonville, Pa., rolled out a six-pack of refrigerated Hard-Cooked, Peeled Eggs, perfectly cooked and ready to eat. They last seven days after the package’s opening.
Hershey and Starbucks collaborated on a line of artisan-style Starbucks chocolates inspired by Starbucks flavors. Try the Chai variety.
- Ready Pac Produce, Irwindale, Calif., added four options to its popular Ready Snax line in time for summer snacking: Apples & Cinnamon Crème (fresh sliced apples with crunchy granola and a cinnamon cream dip); Mango Blueberry Tray (fresh mangoes and blueberries complemented by a proprietary lemon chiffon dip); Pina Colada Tray (fresh pineapple with red grapes, coconut and a vanilla crème dip); and the Veggie Cheese Pretzel Tray (carrots, grapes, cheese and pretzels).
Sunsweet Growers, Yuba City, Calif., introduced 60-calorie packs of Pitted Prunes and Dried Plums and 70-calorie packs of Sunsweet Mediterranean Apricots.
Uncrustables Peanut Butter & Honey from Orrville, Ohio-based Smucker’s makes a great lunch for the pint-size members of the family.
Crusting is a big restaurant trend currently. McCormick’s Crusting Blends put panko-style bread crumbs in the hands of home chefs.
- Honest Tea, Bethesda, Md., for the first time in the Coca-Cola family, introduced Honest Kids, organic thirst quenchers in ready-to-go, single-serve pouches with half the sugar of most kids’ drinks, 100 percent of their daily vitamin C needs and no caffeine, high-fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors. Varieties include Berry Berry Good Lemonade, Goodness Grapeness and Tropical Tango Punch.
- Jel Sert Co., West Chicago, Ill., partnered with Fairfield, Calif.-based Jelly Belly Candy Co. to launch Jelly Belly Freezer Pops. These refreshing bars are available in a variety pack in flavors that include Very Cherry, Lemon Drop, Berry Blue and Green Apple.
- Markham, Ontario-based Drink Z beverages rolls out Infusion Flavor Twist, with a sport cap that allows you to twist as much flavor and vitamins as you want into your Red Punch, Orange, Blue Raz or Purple Grape drink, which begin with natural spring water.
The future of the show
This year’s FMI Show shared its space with the United Fresh Marketplace, a produce show. There were 1,100 exhibitors, including 300 from United Fresh. Attendance was 17,543, down from last year’s 19,510, but last year’s show included three other small shows. Peak attendance was 35,000 in 1991.
“As you know, because of new ways of doing business facilitated by technology, trade shows have changed a lot since we first started and formats and expectations are different,” said Brian Tully, senior vice president of conventions and education at FMI. “We believe that bringing the show to Las Vegas created a new and fresh atmosphere with a ton of excitement. There was a lot of good buzz on the floor, filled with vibrant booths and excited exhibitors. There was a real energy at the show this year."
Although the Post unit is being sold, Kraft debuted LiveActive cereals, with Cargill’s prebiotic fiber for digestive health.
For the past several years, FMI and United Fresh co-located in Chicago’s McCormick Place along with the spring Fancy Food Show, All Things Organic and the U.S. Food Export Showcase. This year, those last three shows again shared McCormick Place in late April without FMI and United Fresh.
A number of exhibitors at the United Fresh Marketplace section of this FMI show were unhappy with its separation from the All Things Organic Show.
As if all those changes weren’t jarring enough, Tim Hammonds announced his intended retirement as CEO of FMI. By the time he retires, expected next year, he will have served in that capacity for 15 years. A search committee has begun looking for his replacement.
The FMI Show now will begin the second phase of its transition. No Supermarket Show will be held next year. Instead, Future Connect, FMI’s new leadership development conference, will be held in Dallas May 4-6, immediately followed by three days of Marketechnics, the merchandising and operations technology portion of the FMI Show for the past several years. Those conferences will be paired in odd-numbered years, while Marketechnics will be staged with the Supermarket Show in even years. So the next Supermarket Show with processors as exhibitors is scheduled for May 10-13, 2010, again at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.