TORONTO — The annual Foodservice Interchange Conference was held Wednesday, Jan. 27, at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont., attracting more than 300 professionals from across the foodservice industry. After a year of much fear and cost-cutting, it was nice to see that attendees had an optimistic outlook for the year ahead.
With the theme, “Navigating Business Through Turbulent Times,” the 2010 event assembled some of the top analysts and experts in the areas of foodservice innovation and trends, in the hope that attendees could glean a better understanding of the state of the economy and the foodservice market, while assisting them with strategies for a profitable future.
The conference, organized by the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors and Food & Consumer Products of Canada, featured top-tier speakers, including Robert Carter from the NPD Group Canada; F&H’s own editor/publisher Rosanna Caira; Cora Tsouflidou, founder of Chez Cora’s; economist and author, Benjamin Tal, of CIBC World Markets; Neil Bearse, manager of web-based marketing for Queens University’s School of Business; and Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc. Unfortunately, Ailene MacDougall, senior director, Strategic Planning and Consumer/Business Insights for McDonald’s Restaurant of Canada Limited, missed the event for personal reasons.
Throughout the day, the NPD Group’s Carter, alongside a few of his colleagues, presented in-depth analysis and data surrounding consumer trends in 2009, and what operators and executives can expect in 2010. Not surprisingly, general optimism from both consumers and the industry as a whole was a big focus, seeing as 2009 was such a struggle. “Consumer spending will increase by $1.3 billion in 2010. How will you help capture that share?” Carter asked. Interestingly, he pegged stealing market share as one of the most important issues operators were going to face this year, with value the big buzzword.
Other highlights included Caira’s presentation on the big operator tends of the past year as covered in Foodservice and Hospitality magazine, with issues the downturn, the green movement, sustainable and local food, the revival in butchery and the growing shift toward more casual dining coming to the forefront.
Chez Cora’s Tsouflidou spoke passionately about entrepreneurship, and just how she managed to grow her 29-seat snack-bar store into an incredibly popular and profitable breakfast chain, and CIBC’s Tal let attendees know what they can expect from the Canadian and world economies in 2010.
“The crisis is over, the recovery has started,” said Tal. “This is forcing changes that are positive for your business. But less spending means the new economy will be less volatile. It will grow, but it will grow slowly. That is a good thing.” Tal also cautioned that rising Obama-led protectionism could have a serious impact on the Canadian markets in the future.
Foodservice and Hospitality was a media sponsor of the event.