President Bush Highlights SNAXPO 2014

World's Premier Snack Food Event Concludes in Dallas

March 7, 2014

SNAXPO 2014, highlighted by a March 4 closing breakfast conversation with President George W. Bush, drew rave reviews from attendees and exhibitors alike as the event in Dallas, TX provided attendees to experience SFA’s “three pillars of success.”

In his appearance before the SNAXPO audience that was moderated by incoming SFA chairman Mark Singleton, Rudolph Foods Company, shared many of his experiences as President, and the years following, in a discussion that for many in the audience was a “once in a lifetime experience.”

In response to questions Singleton, President Bush’s candid remarks included discussions of his experiences during the 9-11 crisis and the events that followed. He was invited to the stage by Craig Hatfield, Bryce Corporation, who sponsored the event with Heat and Control/Ishida Co., Ltd. and Rudolph Foods.          

“I want to thank you for letting me come and visit with you,” President Bush said. “My area of expertise is what it’s like to be President. And, how great it is to be from Texas.”         

His remarks, in answer to Singleton’s questions, discussed activities at the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU) and he related his experiences in context with the Library, which promotes what the President said “are the values that made us great that need to be defended.”          

One after another, attendees left the ballroom where the breakfast meeting took place realizing that they had just been treated to insight that few Americans are privileged to experience.          

“I thank President Bush on behalf of SFA,” said outgoing Chairman Chip Mann, Pretzels, Inc. “What a wonderful way to start the last day of SNAXPO before we head to the floor.”

SFA’s Pillars of Success

Saying that SNAXPO brings together in one location the three primary purpose of SFA, government affairs, education and networking, SFA President & CEO Tom Dempsey was pleased with the results of SNAXPO 2014.         

While the appearance by former President Bush was the “absolute highlight” of SNAXPO, Dempsey also emphasized the importance of the opening day presentation by Frito-Lay’s Anindita (Ann) Mukherjee, the state of the industry report by IRI’s Sally Lyons Wyatt, and the six educational sessions held in trade show floor pavilions.          

Two of those educational sessions focused on government affairs, noted Dempsey, as did a SnackPAC reception. “We were brought up to date on the key legislative and regulatory issues facing the industry, and the trade show floor was an outstanding place for networking – in addition to other social events that have been held in conjunction with SNAXPO,” he said.          

“Ann Mukherjee’s insightful and uplifting presentation on the industry and opportunities for growth for all of us was one of the finest opening sessions in a long time,” Dempsey declared. “In spite of the weather, we had a successful show. The proof will be in next year’s attendance, how the exhibitors and non-members who attended react, and whether they come back next year.”

Looking to the Future

As SNAXPO opened March 2, SFA Chairman William “Chip” Mann, Pretzels, Inc., turned the gavel over to Singleton, the association’s 2014 chairman.

Expressing his appreciation to members of the SFA Board of Directors and Executive Committee, as well as his family and his team at Pretzels, Inc. and the SFA staff, Mann recalled the challenges of the association’s leadership transition over the past year. He credited Tom Dempsey, SFA’s new president and chief executive officer, with having the vision and the leadership skills to help SFA provide the value that every member company deserves.

“We are, as an association, exactly where we want to be,” he said. “We are doing it. We’re right there. That excites me. We’ve set the foundation and we’re ready to roll.”

Taking a page from famed SMU basketball coach Larry Brown, Singleton said SFA would “play smart, play hard, play together, and have fun.”

He noted that Dempsey recommended to the Board, and the Board approved, a plan to provide much of the association’s educational programming without charge to members. That, he said, illustrates “playing smart” because it will allow SFA to “better navigate critical issues that face us in production, commodity costs and of course, food safety. We are going to provide more opportunities at more locations and make it affordable to send people for training and education.

 “With recent FDA proposals calling for significant changes in nutrition labeling, it is imperative that we grow our physical presence on Capitol Hill this year at Day in DC and we need to increase our presence in DC financially by tripling our SnackPAC budget.” He pointed out that registration for the Day in DC Legislative Summit would be waived to “fill the Hill.” “If we are to maintain a voice of reason on matters that effect us, we need to play hard on these issues.”

Singleton said no group plays together better than the SFA. “I have learned everything I know about the industry from the friends and mentors in this room. From shared best practices to extraordinary assistance during fires and floods, this group comes together.”

“For those who know me, having fun is something I can handle,” SFA’s new chairman added. “Thanks for joining us in Big D and if you have any thoughts on how we can improve SFA give me a call. Now let’s have some fun this year.”

Facing Challenges in a Changing World

In her keynote address March 2, Anindita (Ann) Mukerjee, senior vice president & chief marketing officer, Frito-Lay North America, urged the industry to work together in a challenging environment where consumer needs must be met in the instantaneous world of technology and social media.

“The real competitor in the marketplace is our consumer,” she said. “Consumers are more empowered than ever before.” That, she explained, is due to consumers’ ability to pre-shop using their mobile devices and to instantly find what they want the instant they want it.

She pointed out that today’s trend is for frequent smaller meals and said snacks can fill that need. “We need to think more broadly than the world of yesteryear,” she said. “Consumers are not the same as we once knew.” Today, 76 percent of shopping decisions are made before consumers ever set foot in a brick-and-mortar store, she noted.

Frito-Lay has a “playbook” for creating demand for the snack category, Mukerjee explained. She said her job “is to create category demand, to create penetration for our category, keep this category vibrant, make sure it continues to grow and that we are delivering for our retailers and consumers in a way that creates value.”

Showing some of Frito-Lay’s famed Doritos Super Bowl commercials in which a $1 million prize was awarded to the consumer who developed the winning ad, she emphasized the importance of social media in spreading the word about snack products.

She called on the industry embrace the “Facts Up Front” program that places nutritional information on the front of packaging. Consumers want the information, she said. “It is time to work together to create the transparency the consumers are looking for and that the government is demanding.”

State of the Industry Report Presented

The state of the snack industry is strong and vibrant, but there is plenty of room to grow if snack makers respond with products, packaging, advertising and in-store merchandising that meet the needs of today’s dynamic on-the-go consumer.

That was a key message offered March 3 at SNAXPO 2014 by Sally Lyons Wyatt, IRI executive and general manager, client insights as she presented the 2014 Snack Food State of the Industry Report.

With core snack sales last year outpacing CPG sales by 2.9 percent to 1.6 percent, Wyatt stressed the impact of today’s busy consumer who is increasingly eating more frequent, but smaller, meals throughout the day. While indulgent snack sales are still strong, she said sales of healthier-for-you snacks are continuing to increase.

Wyatt advised snack manufacturers to take advantage of all day parts, tailoring products to the types of occasions they wish to target, from early morning to late at night, keeping in mind the snacking habits of age groups and other demographics.

“Try really hard not to treat all consumers the same,” she advised. “If you are trying to innovate and attract consumers who go to quick serve restaurants for example, go to the demographic groups who go there.”

Increasing numbers of health-conscious consumers are paying close attention to health claims on packages, with healthier categories like yogurt, nutritional snacks and trail mixes, and carob/yogurt coated snacks showing exceptional growth. Overall, 62 percent of healthier snack categories grew volume sales, Wyatt said.

However, the industry analyst cautioned there is plenty of action on indulgent snacks, noting that 68 percent of consumers look for snacks that are fun to eat. Some leaders, she said, include chocolate covered salt snacks, up 15.2 percent, dried meat snacks, up 4.6 percent, and frozen handheld non-breakfast entrees up 3.4 percent.

While Wyatt advised companies to leverage social media as well as other forms of advertising, she stressed the importance of in-store merchandising. “Tout it in-store,” she said. “If it’s about indulgent, that’s OK, but getting the message in-store is absolutely essential.”

Educational Programming

Informative sessions in the educational pavilions on the trade show floor Monday morning covered hiring and retaining employees, legislation and regulations affecting the industry, while two Latin American sessions focused on preventing acrylamide in snacks with Asparaginase and the impact of Mexico’s recently enacted taxes on food and beverages.

On Sunday, educational programming focused on Strategies to Establish an Effective Hedging Process, a Law and Regulation Update and a Latin American Educational Session, a panel discussion on Business Challenges for Latin American Snack Companies.

The human relations session included a discussion of effective tools that can be used for attracting and hiring good employees and retaining them, while the governmental affairs session provided a detailed update on specific issues affecting the industry as well as what action SFA is taking to help minimize the impact on member companies.

Joshua Zars, DSM Food Specialties USA, Inc., a sponsor of the Latin American educational track, was pleased with the attendance in those sessions. “We talked about acrylamide mitigation and that is really important,” he said.

 

About the Government

Meanwhile, in the government relations session, industry lobbyists Mike Torrey and Earl Eisenhart walked attendees through a long list of legislative issues and SFA’s efforts regarding them.

They included fighting off restrictions on food purchases under the food stamp program, opposing possible new limits on the use of independent contractors, dealing with proposed new nutritional labeling requirements, and opposing unreasonable transportation regulatory proposals that could impose additional burdens on member companies.

“The food industry is a hot topic in Washington,” said Torrey, now in his ninth year representing SFA in Washington. “Some would say it’s an effort at death by a thousand cuts.”

Late in February, First Lady Michelle Obama announced proposed new FDA labeling requirements on food packages that are designed to provide clearer, easier to understand information for consumers. SFA’s primary concern with the proposal, said Dempsey, is the high cost of producing new packaging containing the revised information. So the association’s focus will be on convincing the government to provide sufficient time for the changes to be made, as well as an opportunity to sell out products containing the outdated information.

Transportation policy consultant Earl Eisenhart outlined numerous regulatory initiatives emanating from the U.S. Department of Transportation, including a proposed rule on sanitary food transportation requiring companies that transport non-packaged foods to take specific precautions to prevent adulteration. While the rule would not affect packaged snack products, it would affect raw ingredients and would make the manufacturer liable if the supplier’s product proved to be adulterated, Dempsey said.

“We are doing everything possible to prevent a negative impact on our member companies,” Dempsey asserted, stressing the importance of member involvement in the political process.

He urged all members to participate in SFA’s upcoming Legislative Summit in Washington April 9 and 10. “We will arrange meetings for you with members of the House and Senate and will provide you with a briefing on the issues so you will be prepared.” The traditional registration fee for the Summit is being waived to encourage broader attendance.

On the Show Floor

More than 1,135 attendees participated in SNAXPO 2014 and some 188 companies exhibited the finest equipment, ingredients, products and services that the industry has to offer.

A Snack Tasting Area provided an opportunity for companies to present their latest and greatest products. and several cash prize drawings were held throughout the show, with a grand prize winner drawn just at the show’s close March 4.

What They Said

Dan Staker, Plastic Packaging Technologies – “SNAXPO is a great place to reconnect with folks and get caught up on current activities, investments and technology, and to spend time together in hopes that you can walk away with new ideas, new concepts and at the same time reaffirm that you as a company are headed in the right direction.” 

Jeff Higgins, Savor Seasonings – “It was good to see more people at the SnackPAC reception the other night. We need their support. Mike Torrey (SFA’s government affairs consultant) did an outstanding job of bring us up to speed on all the legislative issues. I encourage every member to support SnackPAC.”

Julie Tiatia, Kraft Food Ingredients – “We’ve had good traffic and we’ve seen a lot of good clients. Especially on the international side we’ve seen a lot of new people and have gotten a lot of new leads. We always appreciate the manufacturers taking care of their suppliers. They make a personal appearance, and we appreciate their support.” 

Vance Allred, Cereal Ingredients, Inc. – This was our first time exhibiting here, but for the last 18 months we’ve experienced a lot of interest from this industry so we decided to come. We’re glad we did. It’s been great our friendly everybody has been – people coming over introducing themselves. They have made us feel really welcome. We have really enjoyed the show so far.” 

Jeff Delenikos, LAKOS Separators and Filtration Solutions – “We’ve had a lot of conversations with vendors who we’ve been doing business with. We’ve had lots of networking opportunities and developed good leads from that. Overall, it’s been good. It is good to show yourself here.”

Paul Bluman, LifeSpice Ingredients – “The best part of SNAXPO is the face to face interaction and the chance to meet with customers outside of the workplace, and a chance to learn more about them on a personal level. That’s what LifeSpice is all about and SNAXPO gives us an opportunity to do that.” 

Stuart Carrico, Wenger – “We’re seeing a lot of our existing customers and meeting a few new ones. It’s good to connect with all of the folks within the industry, the other manufacturers and ingredient suppliers.”

Jeff Martin, Utz Quality Foods, Inc. – “It’s been great. SNAXPO gives you an opportunity to try new things. Suppliers keep bringing out different flavors every day for you to try. It gives you a chance to build solid relationships between manufacturers and suppliers. I have seen a lot of great collaboration going on here. There is a strong international presence, so you get to see international partners who you wouldn’t normally see. The education has been very informative, especially the regulatory and legislative sessions. That is great stuff.”

Joshua Zars, DSM Food Specialties USA, Inc. – “We have had excellent booth traffic. As you can see, we’ve been engaged in meetings pretty much routinely. It’s been really good.”

Mike Page, Hood Packaging Corporation – “It’s not the amount of traffic but who stops by the booth that’s important. At SNAXPO we get to see current customers and make new contacts, and that’s important. The State of the Industry session was right on target. She hit on a lot of things that are relevant to our customers, and that helps us understand our customers’ needs.”

Jeff Higgins, Savor Seasonings – “The presentation by Ann Mukherjee was outstanding. I’ve been helping with the new member’s mentoring program and have a couple of companies that I’ve been touching base with. These companies are coming back. They really appreciate that somebody is available to check on their needs.”

Megan Gilmartin Boell, Commercial Creamery Company – “SNAXPO is always a great place to connect with international customers and prospects and we absolutely have done that here – as well as our domestic customers and prospects. I also enjoy catching up with my friends in the industry. It is a great meeting for spending time with your snack food friends.”

 

Mark Your Calendars Now for SNAXPO 2015, March 28-31 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Orlando, Florida.