Omicron surge disrupts retail industry events


FMI-The Food Industry Association announced late Monday that it will “pause” its upcoming Midwinter Executive Conference, scheduled for Jan. 21-24 in Orlando, in the face of growing concerns about COVID-19 and the surging Omicron variant.

The news comes on the same day that the Private Label Manufacturers Association, which previously canceled its January event, will be launching a new online trade show at the end of March.

Related: FMI, NGA back COVID test priority for ‘critical infrastructure’ workers

Since the emergence of COVID in 2020, retail industry trade groups have struggled with the cancellations of in-person live events and the challenges of pivoting to virtual trade shows. By mid-2021, many groups were optimistic that the introduction of the COVID vaccine would signify a return to a more normal business and travel environment, but the current surge of Omicron has derailed event plans that were planned and organized over the past year.

“As much as we would like to host our first in-person industry gathering in nearly two years later this month in Orlando, it does not appear to be in the best interest of the industry to do so,” said FMI president and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin in a statement. “I respect the business and personal challenges our industry continues to face, especially when it comes to their collective health, as well as their operations. I also recognize the tremendous pressures our industry continues to experience regarding the supply chain, which are exacerbated by absenteeism associated with the pandemic. Therefore, we will pause our plans to host the 2022 FMI Midwinter event, at least for the time being.”

Related: PLMA cancels January trade show

She added, “We remain committed to listening, supporting and championing our members’ needs as they continue to keep America fed and safe.”

PLMA, which had already canceled its January trade show in Chicago — previously rescheduled from November – will now launch PLMA Global, a newly imagined, online private label trade show that will combine the exhibitors and buyers from the organization’s in-person Chicago and Amsterdam events. PLMA Global will take place March 28 to 31, 2022.

“The disruptive effects of the pandemic on retailing and the store brands industry continue. Foremost among today’s challenges is the reliable flow of products from source to shelf,” said PLMA president Peggy Davies.

“The platform will support the connection between PLMA member-exhibitors and store brand buyers representing leading supermarkets, drug chains, mass merchandisers, supercenters, specialty retailers, dollar stores, club stores, convenience stores and other formats,” she added. “We believe that during the last four days of March, our platform will become the digital hub of the retailer brands industry.”

PLMA Global will support real-time conversations and meetings, with features like one-on-one or group video calls, product demos, screen sharing, messaging, downloadable documents, and videos, and more.

Exhibitors can sign up by calling 1+212 972-3131 or e-mailing [email protected].

PLMA Global’s format allows buyers to join the platform as it fits their schedule and time zone. Buyers can request video call appointments from exhibitors even before the show opens. Calls can be one-on-one, but they can also be group calls involving multiple participants representing store brand suppliers as well as retail chains.

A preliminary list of registered buyers and visitors will be sent to exhibitors about two weeks prior to the event. At its conclusion, exhibitors will receive an updated list of all the buyers and visitors who registered.

Buyers and visitors can peruse categories they are accustomed to seeing at PLMA’s in-person shows, from food, snacks and beverages to health and beauty, household and kitchenware.

PLMA Global’s search functionality allows visitors to find suppliers by company name, category, description or trend, by country, continent, or by any combination of the above. It will also be possible to search for products using the photo gallery view.

Buyers and exhibitors will be able to meet live online 24/7 during the event and the platform will remain open for another three months for follow-up, or for a new visit by buyers who could not log in during formal show days. During this period, all connectivity tools — including video call and appointment scheduling — remain active, allowing for post-show access.

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