On September 17-18, 2020, SNAC International's 44th Annual Executive Leadership Forum (the Executive Livestream Forum this year) virtually gathered over 70 snack industry leaders, including 17 first-time attendees, 42 snack producers and 31 suppliers for two mornings of education and networking.
"I am proud that even in uncertain, difficult times SNAC International can still create a place of community and support for our members to learn and engage in meaningful discussion about the future," said Elizabeth Avery, president & CEO, SNAC International. "SNAC’s role of fostering relationship-building and learning opportunities only continues to grow, and we were pleased to still offer these pillars of member value in a virtual setting. Thank you to all of our sponsors for making the event possible.”
Each of the two mornings began with a networking coffee chat where industry friends and new members mingled in small Zoom breakout rooms. The first education session featured ELF 2019's highest-rated speaker, Brian Beaulieu, CEO and Chief Economist, ITR Economics who provided insights on the economic outlook through and post COVID-19. Beaulieu projected a positive future economic outlook and reassured attendees that the worst of COVID-19’s impact on the economy is over. He predicted that the economy will not fully recover until 2022, but that it will recover and continue to grow.
The first day continued with an interview featuring Dan Bartlett, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Walmart who provided insights on reputation management and the American public. As former counselor to George W. Bush, Bartlett brought firsthand knowledge to the current political environment and discussed the relationship between policy and business. He touched on the role of corporate America in society, the importance of being a true community partner, how to regain stakeholders' and consumers' trust after a public crisis, and how to let core values guide business decisions.
"The strength and vibrancy of our association were fully evident in the success of our Executive Livestream Forum," said Rob Sarlls, SNAC's chairman and president and CEO of Wyandot, Inc. "From highly engaging virtual coffee gatherings, to phenomenal speakers covering everything from snacking in the age of COVID to the very dynamic political landscape, and to recounting the continued strong presence of SNAC on Capitol Hill, we continue to effectively fulfill our Three Pillars of Advocacy, Education and Networking."
Education on the second day kicked off with a presentation from Jim Brennan and Taylor Smith, partners at the Boston Consulting Group on artificial intelligence (AI) and the CPG Industry. Brennan and Smith discussed how the snack industry can use AI to organize promotions, analyze consumer behavior, predict trends, test R&D, personalize transactions, and build loyalty. Following the session, attendees participated in breakout discussions focusing on the business impact of COVID-19. SNAC members used this opportunity to share examples of how their companies responded to the pandemic within their companies and communities, including supporting local businesses, frontline workers and their own employees.
"This was an amazing event and opportunity to meet so many great leaders in this industry," said first-time attendee Norman Cross, director of sales, Unique Pretzel Bakery. "I felt that all of the speakers did a fantastic job inspiring positive insight."
The conference closed with the keynote panel discussion featuring Mark McKinnon, political advisor and television producer and Paul Begala, political analyst and commentator, CNN who provided insider analysis of the volatile political climate and upcoming election. McKinnon and Begala presented balanced perspectives on current issues, election projections and polling, the media's relationship to its audiences, mail-in ballots, and COVID-19's effect on the 2020 election.
"The survey results show the event far exceeded our expectations," Rob Sarlls concluded. "It also reaffirmed for our members and guests that SNAC International continues to demonstrate a consistently high value proposition and is well able to thrive in everchanging environments."