Conferences are funny things.  

At their worst, they’re merely an opportunity to get together to see the same people we see every year, socialize over free food and drink, and get a few more flights and hotel nights that let us rack up reward points.  

At their best, they provide great opportunities to network, make new contacts, pursue new sales leads, spot new trends and see what’s coming to market. Great conferences offer perspectives from experts who challenge us to think differently using examples from other industries. We walk away with a spark of an idea that could generate extra revenue, help reduce expenses, or create a new way for us to connect with and be relevant to our customers. We go back to the office, fired up and ready to change the world. 

Great conferences become soul-crushing experiences when we fail to act on that inspiration in the days and months that follow. The paperwork we left behind, the mountain of email that piled up and the calls we have to return let the air out of our balloon. If we do find the time to schedule that meeting to pitch our new ideas and how they will improve things for the company and our customers, we’re told, “no,” and given 15 reasons why it won’t work. 

So what’s the verdict on Annual Meat Conference 2020?  

We got great content.  

Story Arc Consulting’s Steve Lerch made a pretty compelling case about the impact of technology. More importantly, he provided powerful case studies on how a corporate culture that invites and encourages collaboration and the sharing of ideas, while also rejecting silos and (to some degree) hierarchy, is a corporate culture where innovation and risk taking can move the business forward faster and more nimbly. 

The meat industry’s “Lady Gaga,” Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics gave us her 15th “platinum album” with this year’s Power of Meat presentation. There were far too many data points to outline in one newsletter, but it was clear that consumers are looking for different things from retail grocery, specifically the meat department.  

While the three economists shared stats that show meat consumption remains steady to growing, Anne-Marie’s data seems to indicate it’s a bit of a “Bad Romance.” Consumers want us. Consumers need us. But they don’t always feel great about the relationship, and those “flexitarians” could be very easily persuaded to move on. Make no mistake, there are those who are courting them aggressively, so we can’t take them for granted. 

Supporting many of the Power of Meat’s conclusions, The National Pork Board offers up The Shopper Journey. This brief YouTube video, based on our own custom research and trusted third-party research, further outlines the changes and decisions impacting consumer purchasing in the meat department. 

Will we, as AMC asked us, embrace change? That’s not something three days in Nashville is going to answer. That will only be determined when we go back to the office.  

Do we go back to our routines? Do we take “no” for an answer? Do we put our heads down and get caught up in the tasks of the day, the month, and the quarter? 

Or do we take advantage of the data we’ve been given, and turn those insights into meaningful, transformational action? Do we keep our heads up and on the horizon, with a focus on the next five, 10 to 20 years? 

It’s not one or the other, it’s both. If we want to remain relevant in the long term, we must do more of the latter. 

We’ve spent the last year sharing insights from our Dinner at Home in America and Time to Tango: Latinos are Pork’s Future reports, that build the rationale for change. 

Now, it’s time to build the case for change. The retail meat case (and the entire meat department), that is. 

Later this month, we’ll release our Heads Up! Building the Case for the Future position paper, and we invite you to come along this journey with us. Led by industry experts in animal production (farmers), processors, retail meat and affiliated industries, Heads Up! will advance the case for change through insights and research. It won’t provide all the answers, but it can guide you toward decisions that increase your odds of success, or at least (in the words of Steve Lerch), help you fail well – and fast.  Come along with us. We may even help you turn a great conference into one that puts you on the edge of glory.

Angie Krieger

Angie Krieger

Assistant Vice President, Channel Outreach

National Pork Board Cell: 319-594-4000 akrieger@pork.org