The annual gathering of the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association in Buffalo is more than just a brainstorming of ideas from top industry executives.
It is also a showcase, not only of Buffalo, but of the nearly $20 million Rich Products Corp. invested in renovating its headquarters. Some 250 foodservice industry executives are at Rich's headquarters of a multi-day conference that wraps up Wednesday afternoon. For many, it is their first trip to Buffalo.
The gathering is being led by Richard Ferranti, IFMA board of directors chairman and Rich's chief operating officer.
"It's all about sharing best practices," Ferranti said.
In previous years, the meetings were held the Coca-Cola world headquarters in Atlanta and the Pepsi/Frito-Lay headquarters in Dallas. Getting the executives to Buffalo was an easier than expected task, Ferranti said.
"They wanted to see what we did with our building, but they were also curious about what is happening in Buffalo," Ferranti said.
But, what's really on the executives minds is trends and expectations among the manufacturers who supply products to the industry. Among those represented at the conference include those from such companies as J.M. Smucker, Kellogg's, Sara Lee, Kraft Foods, Campbell's and Anheuser-Busch.
"We're all looking for the same thing," Ferranti said. "New insights. New perspectives and cutting-edge ideas that lead to best practices."
Panel discussions cover a wide range of topics from consumer dining trends to what foods are hot and why. Research data and long term planning will also be discussed.
"It's a couple of very full days," Ferranti said.