College producing Food Marketing Conference downtown


The WMU Food Marketing Conference is a nonprofit that benefits the school's food marketing program. Courtesy WMU

A college in the region is hosting a conference for the food marketing industry downtown this month.

The 53rd-annual Western Michigan University Food Marketing Conference, with the theme "Retail Reinvention: Making the Customer Hero," is scheduled for March 19-20 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, at 303 Monroe Ave. NW.

The event is expected to draw 800 professionals and will feature presentations on trends in the food and consumer packaged goods industries.

The conference keynote address will feature Fred Morganthall, an industry “statesman” with a 31-year career in the food and consumer packaged goods industry. He will provide a perspective on the challenges facing the retail industry. Morganthall retired in 2017 as an EVP of retail operations at Kroger Co.

The event will also feature three other keynote presentations.

Kevin Coupe, founder of, will discuss the challenges facing retailers and suppliers in 2018 in a talk titled "Retail Reinvention: The Innovation Imperative."

Retired Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody will give a presentation titled "A Higher Standard: Leadership Lessons from America's First Female Four-Star General." Her presentation is sponsored by the Network of Executive Women.

John Phillips, PepsiCo SVP of customer supply chain and global go-to-market, will discuss "Retail Reinvention: Bits and Bytes That Will Disrupt Your Supply Chain." This presentation earned the best presentation of the year accolade from Supply Chain Digest.

The executive forum will be moderated by Michael Sansolo, a retail food industry consultant, speaker and expert, and feature executives from IRI Global, Meijer, Nestle Waters, Wakefern Food and

Additional conference sessions will cover a multitude of topics, from the future of brick-and-mortar shopping and the millennial impact on the industry, to cybersecurity, analytics and industry trends.

The conference is a nonprofit event supporting scholarships and programs for WMU food marketing students.

People can register and view a full lineup of the event online.

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