The New FMI Show …or the last?

As I’ve said many times over the years, I’m a creature of habit. I like things in order and am methodical in my approach to life and business. Now, I’m being thrown for a loop.

It’s the end of February, 2007 and my thoughts are already turning to May, 2009. It’s more than two years away, and I’m utterly confused about what I’m going to do the first Sunday through Tuesday of that month. You see, the FMI Show will not be taking place at that time. It is going to an every-other-year format. I am not dealing well with this change.

For more than twenty years I have booked my flight to Midway in Chicago, reserved a room at the Holiday Inn City Centre, and headed to the McCormick Center to be dazzled by the latest and greatest endeavors the finest packaged goods marketers have to offer. FMI has always been a feast for the eyes and palates of the attendees. I’ve always marked the conference as the start of the serious business cycle for beverages, as the summer sell-in began.

It is hard to disguise how important FMI has been for me. I would cover my corner of the show’s universe, beverages, over the course of the three days. I used to visit with more than 60 companies vying for the retailers’ and distributors’ attention. I caught up with old friends, sampled until I dropped, and enjoyed the heck out of the event. Now, May 2009 will signal a void in my life. But I could see it coming.

For the past few years, the number of beverage exhibitors at FMI dwindled dramatically. The dynamics were changing. With consolidation, cost constraints and the distribution paradigm evolving, many marketers were faced with tough choices, and it appears that the FMI Show drew the short straw. The continued strength of NACS and NBWA, the emergence of Expo East and Expo West, and the power of the Fancy Food Shows and regional events that dot the landscape demonstrates that trade shows are still important, but not FMI, which has even had to co-market with Fancy Foods in the past few years. What was it, I wonder, that caused beverage marketers to desert FMI?

I strongly believe in the importance of these meetings. I also believe that marketing has drastically changed and it is imperative to keep up with these changes. There is no such thing as business as usual anymore. What is it about the other shows, that they have retained their relevance while FMI’s has faded?

While I cannot give an answer for the desertion of FMI, it is a prime example of the evolution and revolution of business. I’ve always enjoyed the event and took much away from it. Hopefully, in its every other year format, the marketers will return, and I’ll be dazzled once again. Meanwhile, I am inviting you all to submit suggestions as to what I should do with myself in May, 2009. Please email me at bnathanson@bevnet.com with your ideas, suggestions, or sarcastic remarks. We’ll print the best ones next month.