Although the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Convention is held every year, the show evolves with the industry and markets it serves. This year’s event includes some new and revamped features and attractions.
The Convention Awards Gala, for example, has been moved to Monday night, a shift from previous years. “We changed it so more attendees are able to take part in recognizing leaders in the industry,” explains Julie Henderson, VP communications at the Harrisburg, Pa.-based National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA).
That evening’s events include inductions into the Frozen Food Hall of Fame and the presentation of the Golden Penguin Awards. Established in 1990 to honor individuals who have helped shape the industry through their hard work and dedication, the Frozen Food Hall of Fame welcomes two inductees in 2015: William P. Boone, founder of Austin, Texas-based Foodservice Management Systems, and Timothy A. Carper, retired president and managing partner of Nashville, N.C.-based Atlantic Natural Food Resources LLC.
The Golden Penguin Awards recognize the best merchandising efforts in support of NFRAs annual promotions for March Frozen Food Month, June Dairy Month, and Summer Favorites Ice Cream and Novelties.
Another change to the lineup is the addition of a new industry luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 13, hosted by NFRAs new chairman, Scott Rouse, of Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods. The luncheon will include the presentation of the Retail Patriot Awards, which recognize companies that have gone above and beyond in support of the nation’s troops and veterans.
An annual highlight of the convention is the opportunity to meet one-to-one with industry contacts. NFRA provides retailer members with complimentary meeting rooms to hold appointments throughout the event. According to Henderson, such prearranged appointments set this convention apart. “Retailers will typically hold 45-minute, one-on-one appointments with manufacturers,” she explains. “These longer, closed-door meetings allow retailers to share their business priorities, while manufacturers can discuss how they can meet those needs. The structure of these meetings allows for a more collaborative approach than can be had on an exhibit hall floor.” More than 80 rooms have been reserved for this purpose in 2015.
Collaboration also occurs on a wider scale at the convention. Attendees will gather for a general session on Monday, Oct. 12, in which the NFRA will release and discuss its “2015 State of the Industry Report.”
Todd Hale, former SVP of consumer and shopper insights at The Nielsen Co., in Schaumburg, Ill., will present key findings of the nearly 200-page report, covering topics such as economic factors, consumer buying trends and category sales to show how frozen and refrigerated foods can be positioned for sustained growth.
Convention-goers will also get the chance to put their money where their mouths are, so to speak.
The Taste of Excellence reception kicks of the convention on Sunday, Oct. 11, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., during which nearly 50 manufacturers from A–Z (in this case, Advance Pierre Foods to Zatarain’s) will provide samples of their newest products to retailers before meeting with them later in the convention. NFRA offers an exclusive retailer preview of the Taste of Excellence, from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., so participants can more easily connect with their customers. “The Taste of Excellence is a sell-out every year,” Henderson notes.