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Celebrating Superheroes at the 17th CFIC Annual Convention!

CFIC members and their families came together at the CFIC Annual Convention for the first time since 2019. Retailers, vendors, sales agents, and wholesalers gathered at the Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort to celebrate the strength and resilience of the Carolinas’ retail food industry and their employees.

The convention ran from July 19th until July 21st, providing three days of educational seminars, updates on industry trends and networking opportunities.

CFIC made strategic changes to the traditional schedule of events to protect the health and safety of attendees in consideration of the continued challenges of COVID.

Educational Seminars and Industry Insight

Super Bowl winner and sports legend Joe Theismann kicked off the first day of presentations as the keynote speaker with entertaining lessons on overcoming setbacks and adversity. Mr. Theismann’s personal anecdotes and world class storytelling inspired the audience to incorporate his principles on handling change and unexpected challenge during these extraordinary times. Mr. Theismann not only brought the audience to their feet with a standing ovation, but he also sat with attendees during breakfast and lunch in the CFIC Café and mingled with them during the Family Fun Night. CFIC members who couldn’t attend in person were able to stream his keynote address live via Zoom.

On the second morning, the retail executive briefings provided insight into each company’s new initiatives, promotions and focus for the next twelve months. Speakers included MDI’s Sr. Director of Brands and Category Management Tom Sweeney and IGA Brand Director Adam Barnhardt; Lowes Foods President Tim Lowe and Senior Vice President of Center Store Jason Ramsey; W. Lee Flowers President Chris Van Parys and Mike Brooks Senior Vice President of Merchandising; Food Lion Executive Vice President of Merchandising Geoff Waldau and Senior Vice President of Center Store Gene Faller; Harris Teeter Senior Vice President of Merchandising, Operations, and Marketing Tammy DeBoer, Senior Vice President of Merchandising and Marketing Chuck Thompson and Senior Director of Non-Perishable Merchandising Chuck Munn; and Food City’s Vice President of Center Store Ross Purdy. Suppliers had unparalleled insight into the retailers’ short- and long-term plans, allowing them to position themselves to provide the products and services needed in the coming months.

Smaller breakout sessions focused on providing insight to independent retailers. John Ross, President and CEO of IGA shared his acuity on how independents are uniquely positioned to compete in a post-COVID retail landscape. Chris DuBois of IRI presented IRI’s newest findings on shopper trends that developed during COVID but are likely here to stay.

Networking Opportunities

The annual convention brings hundreds of suppliers to meet with leaders from the Carolinas’ largest grocery chains and independent grocers to discuss new products and marketing innovations.

One-on-One Retailer Meetings provided sponsors with dedicated time to meet with retailers to discuss new products, trends, and strategies. Meetings were held both in-person and digitally over the three-day convention, allowing those under travel restrictions to participate.

Bronze sponsors were provided the opportunity to meet with nine retail and wholesale companies during the “Speed Meeting” session. This one-hour event allows bronze level sponsors to quickly meet and exchange contact information with retailers and create an opening for future business.

On opening night, attendees and their families enjoyed the popular Family Fun Night featuring numerous children’s activities, such as a bounce house, surfing simulator, and other games the whole family could enjoy. It was a fun way for everyone, families included, to reconnect after being apart for so long before they got down to business.

On Monday Night, Platinum level sponsors and retailers celebrated together during the Platinum Sponsors Reception and on Tuesday night, CFIC President James Messer was celebrated during the President’s Reception for his work on behalf of CFIC over the past year. Both events gave vendors and their guests a chance to further connect with retailers and wholesalers in a relaxed, social setting.

All attendees were provided the chance to sample new products through two of the most anticipated features of the annual convention: the CFIC Café and Sponsor Sample Sacks. CFIC’s corporate sponsors once again made it possible to provide breakfast, lunch, and snacks at the CFIC Café and attendee welcome bags were filled with myriad products and coupons.

CFIC Awards Outstanding Supplier of the Year

Another highlight of the CFIC Annual Convention is the announcement and presentation of CFIC’s Outstanding Supplier of the year. CFIC President James Messer announced Post Consumer Brands as CFIC’s 2021 Outstanding Supplier of the Year. Presented annually, the Outstanding Supplier of the Year award recognizes the vital role of the Council’s supplier companies and their continued support. It is based on criteria such as innovation, customer-service and support for CFIC. Senior Account Manager Melanie Gove accepted the award on behalf of Post Consumer Brands. It also happened to be Melanie’s birthday, so later in the program Joe Theismann and the CFIC audience celebrated by singing Happy Birthday to her!

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