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FMI Show exposes students to inner workings of food industry

May 02, 2007

MESA, Ariz. — Four Arizona State University students will be heading to Chicago this weekend for the largest food retailing show in the country. Thousands of people from around the world usually attend the Food Marketing Institute Show May 5-8, and the ASU students from the Polytechnic campus get to play a role in it.

Food companies and retailers from 133 countries participate in the event that provides students with opportunities to network and rub shoulders with CEOs of Fortune 500 consumer products companies.

This year, Kenya Knight, agribusiness senior, freshman Ashley Karner, as well as agribusiness graduate students Michelle Wolfe and Craig Halfpop from the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness will be joined by students from top food marketing programs offered by universities, such as Purdue, St. Joseph’s University, Texas A&M University and University of Minnesota.

“FMI is a great opportunity for students to network with their peers as well as professionals from industry,” says Renee Hughner, assistant professor in the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness and faculty mentor for the trip. It is her fifth year taking students to the show.

FMI assigns students with various tasks to help keep the show going, but it’s not all work. Students are able to attend educational information sessions, a networking reception as well as tour the exhibits.

“Integrating the students into the show gives them a sense of belonging in the industry and at the show,” says Hughner.

For students, they see their participation as a way to learn more about the industries they are studying in school.

“The education sessions at FMI are a great chance to learn about the challenges and opportunities in the food marketing industry,” says Wolfe, who attended for the first time last year. “The exhibits by food companies from around the world are fabulous. I really like seeing the creativity in new products and identifying new trends that are hitting the supermarket shelves.”

In February a separate group of four students participated in the National Grocers Association’s (NGA) annual trade show in Las Vegas.

ASU and other select universities with food marketing programs sit on the NGA’s University Coalition of Academics, providing ideas and feedback from the academic perspective to help grocers attract future employees. Including students in the NGA annual trade show was just one of many recommendations made by the coalition.

Both the FMI and NGA provide a portion of the funding for students to attend their annual trade shows, and the Morrison School supplements expenses, making it easy for faculty and staff to encourage students who might be interested in the food industry to apply to be considered. 

“It’s a great opportunity to interest young students in the food marketing industry,” says Hughner. “Both professional organizations realize the importance of providing a bridge between the food industry and top students,” says Hughner. “It’s a good way for these industries to attract the brightest talent.”