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LAS VEGAS -- In these times of economic strain and business uncertainly, the industry is perhaps at its most hungry for input and education -- and the American Wholesale Marketers Association (AWMA) is one association ready to dish it out.
Speaking at the AWMA Show, the association's new chairman, Jonathan Burklund, told the opening-day audience his chairmanship theme is education and his goal for the year is to help strengthen educational programming for the sake of member success now and into the future.
Proof of that theme started right at the show, where educational programming was up to 15 hours, compared to only three hours offered last year.
Burkland, who is also president and chief operating officer of Burkland Distributors Inc., in East Peoria, Ill., urged attendees to support the association's Distributor Education Foundation so it can offer a more robust program for key distribution company employees, as well as expansion of the popular STEPS Program sponsored by The Hershey Co.
At the show's educational sessions, continually improving foodservice was a recurring theme.
Timothy Powell, senior manager at Technomic in Chicago, acknowledged in one session that c-stores such as Wawa, Sheetz, Rutter's and Quick Chek spearheaded foodservice in the channel, but additional opportunities were heating up, so c-stores should continually strive to improve upon the quick-service restaurant (QSR) concept.
Citing Technomic research, Powell identified the most significant foodservice consumer trends:
-- Portability and transportability, particularly of one-handed meals.
-- Continuation of deals, even after the recession has ended.
-- Upscaling of convenience stores to more "fast casual" restaurants with taste, freshness, appearance and aromas highlighted.
-- Convenience and stress-free lifestyle integration in-store, including ease of ordering and checking out.
-- Cost negatively impacting sales of healthy items, at least for short-term.
-- Connecting with consumers in new technological ways, including call-ahead ordering, online text ordering, ordering via TiVo/cable service provider.
-- Increasing social responsibility.
Another AWMA session focused on strategies for building foodservice sales, led by Ira Blumenthal, president, Co-Opportunities, and addressed by a panel featuring Andy Revella, chief culinary officer, The Fuzion Food Group; Steve Shing, corporate vice president, sales and marketing, GSC Enterprises Inc.; and Ray Johnson, operations manager, Speedee Mart, a Las Vegas c-store chain.
"People have no time," said Blumenthal. "Convenience retailers are poised to take advantage if they do foodservice right. Every quick service restaurant operator is hoping convenience stores do not get foodservice right."
Other sessions addressed core brands affecting candy/snack profits and how to market and sell tobacco post FDA.
Next year's AWMA show will move from its traditional Las Vegas Hilton venue to the Paris Hotel & Casino on the strip.