Skip to main content

Hot Topics at IDDBA 2024

The annual event highlighted technological advances, flavor innovation and a willingness to embrace change.
Angela Hanson
IDDBA 2024

HOUSTON — In today's retail foodservice industry, operators can be sure of one thing: to succeed, they must be ready and able to try something new, according to David Haaf, president of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA).

Haaf discussed the evolving market and key principles such as the power of people and the importance of technology during his keynote speech at the 2024 IDDBA Show, reported Progressive Grocer, a sister publication of Convenience Store News.

"We must be willing to engage the new norm and learnings from the pandemic, not just acknowledge a job well done but build upon those learnings to better our operations," Haaf said. "We must be willing to reshape our workplace culture to embrace and nurture our next generation of workers and, more importantly, leadership of tomorrow."

Advertisement - article continues below

Labor is still the No. 1 discussion topic for retailers, Haaf noted, with the average separation rate at retail above 4% compared to an average of 3.3% across all sectors.

"Though we are starting to see some stabilization in leveling off of turnover, it is still a big opportunity in our industry. Couple this with continued competitive labor markets and we are going to continue facing complicated recruiting and retention of employees in our industry," he said. "In addition, a mass number of those separations involved retirement of older workers, creating real and impactful generational shifts in our leadership."

Haaf added that the grocery industry has a big opportunity to leverage those shifts.

"How we embrace those shifts will be a point of differentiation in our growth and success of our industry," he continued. "Is your company's leadership slipping back into the mindset of 'how we've always done it' or are they embracing an infinite mindset to build a stronger, innovative and inspiring organization?"

The millennial and Gen Z generations grew up in a time of technological changes and uncertainty, cultivating the characteristics of flexibility and resilience, according to Haaf.

"What does all this mean to our companies and our industry? Invest in HR management training to better understand younger mindsets. Extra time and attention must be spent meeting the next era of workforce where they are," he added. "What's important to our young leaders today, in many cases, is different from what our older leaders grew up on. Clearly, communicating our company vision, job tasks and expectations is a must."

Future strategic initiatives at IDDBA will include a focus on creating more leadership development resources. Another priority is a focus on tech trends such as artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, 3D printing and electronic shelf labels.

"Our industry of dairy, deli and bakery and foodservice is a resilient one," Haaf said. "We will continue to meet our members and our industry where they are. We will rise up and stand in the future together."

Change Is Constant 

IDDBA 2024 also featured a panel on the ever-changing dynamics in food retailing moderated by 210 Analytics President Anne-Marie Roerink and featuring Jewel Hunt, group vice president of fresh merchandising at Albertsons Cos.; Josh Bickford, president of Clyde's Donuts; Jody Barrick, senior vice president, entrepreneurship and sales at UNFI; and David Searle, vice president of sales at Land O'Lakes.

The panel discussed the six guiding trends of IDDBA 2024: 

  1. The influence of food not only the body, but also on the mind and spirit;
  2. Sustainability and sourcing; 
  3. Technology; 
  4. Youth and staying young at heart; 
  5. Community and convenience; and 
  6. Culinary diversity. 

Roerink kicked off the session by talking about these trends "through the eyes of the consumer," citing research highlighting the generational differences driving grocery shopping trips today.

"What we're seeing is that there's massive differences comparing low-income to high-income, different regions, different ethnicity, but more than anything, massive generational gaps that we're seeing out in the marketplace," Roerink said. "Every single one of the questions that we had in the survey, we saw vastly different attitudes and behaviors between the Gen Zs, the millennials, the Gen Xers and the boomers. And that means as we think through our store, the fact that for 30 years we have been catering to that big boomer generation, we have to figure out how do we continue to safeguard their spending but also start turning our eye toward the future."

She observed that Gen Z, millennials and even Gen X are being highly influenced by social media when it comes to what food and beverages they buy.

Retailers shouldn't be afraid to offer new options, according to Bickford.

"The data really shows that after years of SKU consolidation, people are really desperate for new flavors and new innovation," he said. "If you look at these wonderful mega trends as well, globally inspired things like spiced chai and other items are really important to the consumer right now. But the nostalgic or traditional items always need to be there also."

The panelists also delved into how promotions, social media and wellness trends are influencing consumer behavior and sales.

"The consumer is definitely reading labels. They're looking for that cleaner, simpler ingredient statement," Hunt said. "And in my departments in both bakery and deli, they are being very conscious of what's there, but they're also giving themselves permission to indulge in bakery when they're looking for that special treat. 

"When I think about how they are shopping and their behavior, they are really looking for a few things," he continued. "They're looking for freshness, quality, convenience and value. If you can deliver on all those for what they need at that point they're making that decision, you really come through with a winning solution. At the same time, they like to experiment, taste really drives them and if it tastes great, they'll be back."

IDDBA 2024 took place June 9-11 at Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center. Next year's show will take place June 1-3 in New Orleans.

Convenience Store News and Progressive Grocer are properties of EnsembleIQ.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds