The 2018 IFMA Presidents Conference explored at the future of foodservice into 2025 and beyond.

Last week, we hit the ground running at the 57th annual IFMA Presidents Conference in Phoenix, AZ. As always, the event connects foodservice leaders from some of the largest operators, manufacturers, and distributors within North America. And this year, there was no shortage of great connections and conversations.

Focused around the future of foodservice into 2025 and beyond, speakers like Chuck Templeton, S2G Ventures, and Larry Oberkfell, IFMA underscored key changes in today’s ever-changing landscape. It’s clear, the future of foodservice is reliant upon us focusing on the 3 T’s: Talent, Technology and Tough Competition.


Within foodservice, we are somewhat incestuous when it comes to keeping knowledge and talent within the industry. As previous generations are now starting to retire, there were many discussions around the need to bring in new talent and the next generation. During the ‘Recruiting the Next Generation of Leaders – The How!’ session, John Flood, elevate and Hugh Roth, PepsiCo highlighted three major takeaways foodservice needs to implement when it comes to future talent and recruitment: engage students early and often, the need for influencers to champion our industry, and bringing foodservice employers together to engage and rewrite our hiring journey.

A great example of fresh blood in the industry is Nick Klein, Demand Creation Program Manager at Rich Products. Nick co-presented the session ‘Does Your CRM Know Who Your Customers Are?’ Nick entered the industry 5 years ago and has been making waves ever since. He is passionate about ratcheting up the Sales Operations function at Rich’s bringing together business stakeholders to refine Sales and Marketing processes, data and reporting.

We’re funding this function as are a lot of other companies. I think this position can be the start of a great career path to sales leadership so we need to hire with that in mind. This might mean even recruiting talent from other industries. But one important thing I might add is that millennials need a tech stack to work with. – Nick Klein



When we talk foodservice technology, we’re talking tech stack, data, and more informed decision making. The conversation around data insights has been a journey over the past couple of years during the IFMA Presidents Conference. Its clear foodservice is now comfortable working with fact-based data, but also, more importantly, focused on having the information and insights to make data-driven decisions.

A great example of this was the ‘Consumer Technology Experience’ presented by Chuck Templeton, S2G Ventures. Chuck explained that on the retailer side of things, technology and big data are being harnessed to blend costs, personalize consumer offers and track the in-store experience.

While over on the foodservice manufacturer side of things, our colleague, Chris Martin, explained how we are now seeing a growth in manufacturers wanting to better understand their sales orders, including not only where they the purchase decision was made, but also where they were shipped to. Based off our blog, the session Does Your CRM Know Who Your Customers are?” explained that without proper ‘Ship-To’ and ‘Sell-To’ details manufacturers risk the following challenges:

  1. Understanding what was purchased
  2. Inaccurate business reviews
  3. Untraceable new orders
  4. Difficulty with defending the business due to unavailable purchase data
  5. Low impact sales calls

Tough Competition

Distributors continue to up their game when it comes to private label offerings. Private label/signature label platforms such as Sysco’s Block & Barrel, or US Foods’ Glenview Farms in the eyes of many operators are often quality products to offer their patrons.

To better understand why this might be the case, Chuck Templeton, S2G Ventures, explained that end buyers are putting more focus on the attributes of the food, rather than the brand of the food. A clear shift in our industry, where the brand has always been king. Attributes such as organic vs. not, grass-fed vs. grain fed are now aligning closer to operators preferences and values, than a particular name brand.

This Nielsen article explains that while private labels have been experiencing 3x the dollar growth of branded products, the key lies with premium products, likely with specific attributes, not always related to price.  “But this doesn’t spell the end for manufacturers; it just signals heightened competition and the need to evaluate all levers for growth in 2018, price points included” according to the author.

2025 and Beyond

The future is bright for foodservice. As we each continue to define and develop the 3 T’s – talent, technology, and tough competition – we must also continue leveraging one another to help drive the industry forward together. That’s what IFMA’s all about!