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Trade Show Participation Bridges Talent to Industry

May 01, 2006

During the spring semester, Arizona State University students gain firsthand knowledge of the food industry at trade shows held throughout the United States. The latest trip will take a group of four students to Chicago for the annual Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) trade show for food retailers and manufacturers May 6-9.

Three Agribusiness majors and one Business Administration major from the Polytechnic campus 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. This is her fourth 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.

“It will be interesting to see the new products that supermarket executives are considering for their stores and to try to understand what items they feel will help them improve their shrinking profit margins,” says Michelle Wolfe, a graduate student in the Agribusiness program. “I am also interested in seeing the marketing approaches of the exhibiting firms who are promoting their products.”

In February a separate group of four students participated in the National Grocers Association’s (NGA) annual trade show called Supermarket Synergy Showcase held 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.

“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.”