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IFDA Embraces the Future at 2017 Distribution Solutions Conference

10/26/2017



At the opening of the 2017 IFDA Distribution Solutions Conference (DSC), John Tracy, vice chairman of the IFDA Board of Directors and executive chairman of Dot Foods, Inc., briefed attendees about a new long-term strategic plan that IFDA will implement over the next three years and beyond.

Tracy said that while IFDA has been working on long-term initiatives since 2003, only recently was IFDA in a position to formalize those initiatives.  “That is primarily because when we broke away from NAWGA (National-American Wholesale Grocers Association), our primary mission was to get financially stable enough to make long-term investments,” said Tracy.

Thanks to IFDA member companies and other partners, said Tracy, IFDA reached a point in 2016 to work with Deloitte on a strategic plan that includes six pillars.

Events
Tracy said that IFDA has been putting on leading industry events since its founding with a goal of putting members and other industry partners together to help participants improve their business.

“Events are going to continue to be a big part of what we do, and DSC is one example,” said Tracy. “What we have concluded is that we are in a position to make even bigger investments — to think bigger. We want to make sure we not only put on an event where you come away feeling good about the information and value you have received, but that you go away with so much value that you reserve that time for next year, and tell others to attend.”

Moving forward, Tracy said there will be significant added investments in speakers that elevate DSC as well as all IFDA conferences. He also said the goal is to make the Distribution Solutions Conference not only the go-to event for operations education in foodservice distribution, but the go-to operations event in all food distribution.

Technology
Tracy said the second pillar of the strategic plan is helping IFDA members in the area of technology. “Everyone in this room spends a lot of time trying to sort through and filter all the technology options, the technology disruptions, and information around it,” said Tracy.

IFDA, he said, needs to help. “We need to put you in a position where you can share and network member-to-member so that you can understand and can talk to people that have gone through the very technology decision that you are trying to make now. We think IFDA is in the best position to create those networks, to provide you with that information, and to put you in a position where you can make a very good decision on what can be a high-risk investment.”

Talent
Like technology, Tracy said talent is a fundamental consideration in any current strategic plan. In relation to the strategic plan, IFDA has made investments in new personnel in both insights and communications. But the larger focus, said Tracy is to help members in their efforts for talent.

“We need to help you not only attract and retain talent, and use best practices to be able to keep that talent — but we also need to raise our industry profile so that we are not always facing an uphill battle about explaining to potential employees who we are and what our industry does,” said Tracy.

“We have not only great jobs with great benefits, but we also have great career paths,” said Tracy. Through IFDA, efforts will made to clarify those opportunities, raise the industry profile, and provide IFDA members with tools to do the same.

Insights
“Information is power,” said Tracy. “We need to put into your hands more information, more insights, and more research.” In some cases, he said, that will mean supplying insights where the sorting and filtering has been done by IFDA so that members receive information that is more immediately actionable.

Tracy said these efforts would include original research as well as measuring the economic impact of foodservice distribution. “We want to provide facts and figures to help you make decisions, but we can also use that information to heighten the profile and understanding of foodservice distribution. Those efforts have already begun with the hiring of Annika Stensson as the Director of Research and Insights.”

Government Relations
Tracy said that government relations is a bedrock function of IFDA, and has been since 2003. “We are the voice of foodservice distribution in Washington, D.C., and that needs to continue,” Tracy said.

But there are challenges. “There’s a lot more clutter, a lot more noise, and it’s getting harder to be heard in Washington,” said Tracy. “We need to be in a position where we not only amplify our voice, and really get to the critical legislative and regulatory issues that impact us — but we need to provide you with information and tools so that you can be part of that voice, so that you can take that message to your local legislator. That way when they come back to D.C., they know a lot more about us, they know a lot more about our industry.”

Tracy discussed a new monitoring effort of state level legislation by IFDA to keep members ahead of the curve, saying that as states and certain areas of the country enact local legislation, regulations, or tax policies, it’s sometimes only a matter of time before it can have a national impact.

Communications
Tracy said the final point supports all five of the other pillars, and that is communications. To that end, IFDA has added a new position of Director of Communications, and recently hired Meghan Cieslak in that role.

“We have to really educate everybody about who we are, what we do, what opportunities we have, the economic impact we have, and to do it in ways that people can best receive it,” said Tracy.  For IFDA members, he said industry data and other information needs to be provided in a way that can easily be sorted and filtered without investing too much time. Across the board on all communications, Tracy said there will be strong efforts to become more digital and social media friendly.

For more information on the new strategic plan, contact IFDA President and CEO Mark Allen at 703.532.9400, or by email at mallen@ifdaonline.org.