(Only available to those who registered)
On September 17-18, 2020, SNAC International’s 44th Annual Executive Leadership Forum (the Executive Livestream Forum this year) virtually gathered over 70 snack industry leaders, including 17 first-time attendees, 42 snack producers and 31 suppliers for two mornings of education and networking.
Each of the two mornings began with a networking coffee chat where industry friends and new members mingled in small Zoom breakout rooms to either reconnect or to meet new contacts. Attendees were grateful for a space to come together as an industry and to discuss everything from their personal lives to business challenges during COVID-19.
“The strength and vibrancy of our association were fully evident in the success of our Executive Livestream Forum. From highly engaging virtual coffee gatherings, to phenomenal speakers covering everything from snacking in the age of COVID to the very dynamic political landscape, and to recounting the continued strong presence of SNAC on Capitol Hill, we continue to effectively fulfill our Three Pillars of Advocacy, Education and Networking,” said Rob Sarlls, SNAC Chairman and President and CEO of Wyandot, Inc. “The survey results show the event far exceeded our expectations. It also reaffirmed for our members and guests that SNAC International continues to demonstrate a consistently high value proposition and is well able to thrive in everchanging environments.”
In this unique opportunity, SNAC members networked by moving between small group breakout rooms
to start the conference to reconnect with old friends and meet new industry colleagues.
Breakout Discussions: COVID-19 & Business Impact
Attendees participated in facilitated breakout discussions focusing on the business impact of COVID-19. Attendees used this opportunity to share examples of how their companies responded to the pandemic within their companies and within their communities, including supporting local businesses, front line workers and their own employees. Examples of support ranged from providing free lunches for truck drivers to starting in-house facemask and hand sanitizer production to support local hospitals and first responders. Nearly all of the companies started initiatives to support local food service and restaurant industries by offering things like meal vouchers and catered lunches for employees. This provided a way to show appreciation to employees for continuing to come to work and also created new business for local restaurants. All the leaders noted how their companies implemented rigorous health and safety protocols to help their employees feel comfortable coming to work. Members also commonly addressed employee burn out and isolation by hosting weekly check-ins, Zoom happy hours, providing virtual entertainment such as magician acts and exercise classes, inventing new workshops and initiatives like “Mental Health Month” and implementing wellness committees. A common theme of how the pandemic impacted product assortment: snacks with larger package size sales increased, along with smaller pack sales via multi-count variety packs, which helped offset a dip in sales in convenience stores. The pandemic also created a need for companies to maintain a stronger focus on their higher-selling items, and pulling back on promotion of lower-performing products.
Economic Outlook Through and Post Covid-19
Brian Beaulieu, CEO and Chief Economist, ITR Economics™
Back by popular demand, ELF 2020 kicked off with a presentation from the 2019 event’s highest-rated speaker, Brian Beaulieu, CEO and Chief Economist, ITR Economics™. Beaulieu provided analysis and data on consumer trends, state-specific growth trajectories, state death and recovery rates, GDP growth and decline by country, and retail sales. Beaulieu predicts that a vaccine will be approved in the first quarter of 2021, and then in the spring this vaccine will be widespread and available for those willing to take it. Additionally, regarding the snack industry, retail sales are running above year-earlier levels due to stockpiling groceries and will continue to trend upwards. Beaulieu predicted low inflation until post-2023 and suggested waiting for the “dust to settle after the election” for capital investments, but that extremely low interest rates make borrowing today a good option for building a business. Overall, Beaulieu projected a positive future economic outlook and reassured attendees that the worst of COVID-19’s impact on the economy is over. He predicted that the economy will not fully recover until 2022, but that it will recover and continue to grow.
Reputation Management and the American Public
Elizabeth Avery, President & CEO, SNAC International and Dan Bartlett, EVP, Corporate Affairs, Walmart
The first day continued with an interview featuring Dan Bartlett, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Walmart and the longest continuous serving staffer for President George W. Bush. Bartlett provided insights on reputation management and the American public. As former counselor to George W. Bush, Bartlett brought firsthand knowledge to the current political environment and discussed the relationship between policy and business. He touched on the role of corporate America in society, the importance of being a true community partner, how to regain stakeholders’ and consumers’ trust after a public crisis, and how to let core values guide business decisions. After assisting with relief efforts post Hurricane Katrina, Walmart executives decided to embrace public service and embark on a company-wide sustainability journey by forming thoughtful relationships with suppliers and committing to removing emissions from the atmosphere. Bartlett offers this advice when contemplating Corporate America’s relationship to the public and building trust in institutions: “Doing charitable work is not enough. Philanthropy is the price of admission — what you do to help solve community and societal problems is the key. It’s not a matter of if you’ll be tested, but when.”
Artificial Intelligence and the CPG Industry
Taylor Smith, Managing Director & Partner, BCG
Education on the second day kicked off with a discussion from Jim Brennan and Taylor Smith, Partners at the Boston Consulting Group on opportunities for artificial intelligence (AI) and the CPG Industry. Brennan and Smith discussed how companies are attempting to implement AI to measure success, transform their businesses, optimize support services, and build new innovative services. Decision support is currently the most-used AI function in the consumer goods space where internal and external data can be analyzed to help predict the future and determine an optimized resource allocation strategy. In the CPG industry, companies should focus on analyzing trend forecasting data, external retailer sales data and consumer-based data from ads and Google Analytics. Even though CPG is currently on the early end of the AI maturity and adoption curve, there is a growth opportunity and currently 30 use cases to utilize as examples and inspiration. Specifically, the snack industry can use AI to organize promotions, analyze consumer behavior, predict trends, test R&D, personalize transactions, and build loyalty.
Insider Analysis of the Volatile Political Climate and Presidential Election
Moderator Michael Torrey, Principal, Michael Torrey Associates & SNAC Legislative Consultant; Paul Begala,
Political Analyst and Commentator, CNN; and Mark McKinnon, Political Advisor and Television Producer
The conference closed with the keynote panel discussion featuring Mark McKinnon, Political Advisor and Television Producer (republican) and Paul Begala, Political Analyst and Commentator, CNN (democrat) who provided insider analysis of the volatile political climate and upcoming election. Michael Torrey, Principal, Michael Torrey Associates and SNAC Legislative Consultant moderated the discussion. The panelists explained that a driving factor behind the sharp division of voters is that they surround themselves with like-minded peers who do not regularly challenge beliefs and a lack of diversification of news sources, resulting in confirmation bias. In Begala’s opinion, another issue plaguing U.S. voters is the idea of negative partisanship. Begala used the 2016 election as an example, when many people voted against—instead of for—a candidate. Additionally, McKinnon and Begala discussed the responsibility of social media to control the publishing of fake news, violence, and defamation of political candidates and public figures. McKinnon and Begala presented balanced perspectives on current issues, election projections and polling, the media’s relationship to its audiences, mail-in ballots, and COVID-19’s effect on the 2020 election.
What Attendees Are Saying
“As a first time attendee, I enjoyed the event and found the speakers to be engaging and educational. This was well run and easy to navigate.”
*Tyler Cook, SVP, Sales, Shearer’s Foods
“This was an amazing event and opportunity to meet so many great leaders in this industry. I felt that all of the speakers did a fantastic job inspiring positive insight. What a refreshing forum to take part in!”
*Norman Cross, Director of Sales, Unique Pretzel Bakery
“Thank you again for a very nice program. It was a pleasure joining the group for the first time, and I look forward to seeing everyone in person next year! We are happy to have been a platinum sponsor this year, and I appreciated the opportunity to meet so many attendees from the industry and many members of the SNAC Intl staff. I also look forward to staying connected between now and the next gathering.”
*Sean Fox, Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo
“Congratulations to the whole team at SNAC Intl for this event. I was able to connect and reach to some individuals in a productive way. I got to know new people and already have personal connections allowing me to network with attendees after the event. Bottom line, ELF worked this year through the best possible channel.”
Hector Guerra, Chief Operating Officer, Wise Foods, Inc.
“ELF was valuable and fun; despite being virtual. The educational sessions were interactive and delivered perspectives that will benefit our business. The discussion from Mark McKinnon and Paul Begala on the political climate was particularly fantastic. The networking features were effective in helping us strengthen relationships and share industry best practices among colleagues.”
Burke Raine, President, Grocery and Snacks, ConAgra Brands