Cool Connections


Things are about to heat up behind the freezer doors, just in time for the annual NFRA Convention.

Trade show attendees hoping to make connections at the annual National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) Convention need not worry about receiving a chilly response on the show floor. That’s because the show — which is being held Oct. 19–22 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront — is a bona fide networking event that features private, one-on-one meeting rooms for companies. In fact, there is no trade show floor.

This year’s NFRA show promises to be as productive as ever — and that’s a good thing, since the frozen food sector in particular has been challenged by lukewarm sales in recent years.

In addition to complimentary meeting rooms for retailers, Todd Hale, SVP of consumer and shopper insights at Schaumburg, Ill.-based Nielsen Co., will host a must-see presentation on Oct. 21, unveiling key findings from a 2013 update of the “NFRA/Nielsen State of the Industry Report.” Originally commissioned for, and delivered at, the 2011 NFRA Convention, this update is intended to provide association members with new insights on how frozen and refrigerated foods are positioned for sustained growth by staying close to consumer trends and collaborating with trading partners to win consumer and shopper segments.

Following the presentation, Hale will facilitate a panel discussion with retailer and manufacturer industry executives, including Steve Mayle, VP trade and marketing, Frozen Frontier, General Mills; Shawn Buckner, group VP food merchandising, Meijer; and Jim Walsh, EVP of sales, HP Hood LLC.

The panel will address questions on specific findings from the report, including how to leverage frozen and refrigerated foods to engage shoppers and drive sales growth in today’s economy, and how companies can take advantage of new insights to drive better industry collaboration and sales results.

Taste for Innovation

Although the NFRA Convention has no show floor, attendees will have a chance to see the industry’s newest products on display during the Taste of Excellence reception. This special event will kick off the show on the evening of Oct. 20. Starting at 5 p.m., retailer attendees are invited to an hour-long private preview that will provide exhibiting manufacturers more time to build connections with current and prospective customers. From 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., all other convention attendees will be able to sample the newest and best products in the industry. This year, 51 frozen and refrigerated manufacturers will showcase their products.

Last but not least, on Oct. 22, attendees are invited to attend the Grand Awards Reception and Banquet, where three individuals whose lives have been dedicated to advancing the refrigerated foods industry will be inducted into the Refrigerated Food Hall of Fame (see sidebar on page 98 for more information). In addition, some of the industry’s most successful promotional efforts of 2013 will be recognized with the Golden Penguin Award.

These prestigious awards honor the best merchandising efforts for March Frozen Food Month, June Dairy Month, and the June/July Ice Cream & Novelties promotion. The evening will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a reception, followed by dinner and the awards presentation.

Julie Henderson, VP of communications for Harrisburg, Pa.-based NFRA, says registration numbers for the 2013 show have been about 10 percent ahead of 2012. In addition, more than 80 retailer rooms had been reserved by mid-August.

“The benefit to retailers is being able to efficiently meet with dozens of companies in a short amount of time,” she observes, adding that it’s possible to conduct dozens of face-to-face meetings in just a few days. “Some retailers have expressed the value of this convention is being able to meet with a different level/team of people than they normally would in their office, and the meetings are more focused on creating beneficial partnerships and promotional opportunities.”

This year’s NFRA Convention attendees will also get to hear Karl Rove, political strategist and former deputy chief of staff to former President George W. Bush, speak during breakfast on Oct. 21.

Later that afternoon, NFRA’s chairman, John Larsen from Safeway, will give a State of the Association address and introduce the newest elected officers and directors.

The evening will include the Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer and Food Industry Serving Heroes Foundation Retail Patriots Awards Reception, an event that will honor retailers that have gone “beyond the call of duty” in support of U.S. men and women in uniform.

On Oct. 22, Ronnie Lott, former San Francisco 49er defensive back and 2000 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, will address the crowd at breakfast.

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