Technology trends in focus at MAFSI 2018

The 2018 MAFSI Conference has kicked off a packed programme of keynote sessions and breakout events. Tina Nielsen reports from the first day

A record number – almost 700 – of delegates have gathered at the Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples, Florida, for this year’s Manufacturers Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry (MAFSI) conference.

In the first morning session alone speakers discussed the big new developments that will affect manufacturers, reps and other professionals from across the foodservice sector in the near future. Drones, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, 3D printing and digital currencies were just a few of the topics that speakers discussed.

High-definition communication

Opening the conference, MAFSI president Chris Jeens described the theme of the conference ‘Compete in HD’ as, “breaking through the noise and getting a crystal clear picture to be able to better compete”.

Futurist and best-selling author Daniel Burrus talked to delegates about how digital trends in technology that could appear as hurdles, will create opportunities to grow – no matter the size of the business. “It doesn’t matter that you are not Google or Amazon; you can grasp those opportunities,” he said. “If it can be done, it will be done and if you don’t do it, someone else will.”

Jeens believes all of the keynote speakers – from Hall of Fame speaker Terry Brock to strategic communications expert Curt Steinhorst – will make an impression on delegates. “As long as people leave the conference at the end of it wanting to make a change to their own businesses, with the tools to look how to change, we have done well,” he said.

Collaborative working

The vast range of keynotes and break-out sessions will deal with every topic from engaging with a distracted audience to how Amazon builds its business around the customer.

One talking point is an increasing need for collaboration in the wider foodservice sector – does this link to the record numbers present? Jeens thinks so. “Among the five families of MAFSI, FCSI, NAFEM, CFESA, FEDA we have had a spirit of collaboration in the last three years – the latter three is hosting a joint conference later this year – and I think that spirit speaks to the large number of people who have come along to the conference this year.”

Tina Nielsen