Western Michigan University’s (WMU) 55th annual Food Marketing Conference is the latest event in the U.S. grocery world to be canceled as COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, cases continue to rise along with dramatic increases in corporate travel restrictions.
The news of WMU’s conference cancellation follows a bevy of other grocery industry trade shows and conferences that have been canceled as the outbreak intensifies and wreaks havoc on global businesses and the economy.
As of March 9, the total COVID-19 case count reached 423 in the United States, where 19 deaths have been blamed on the coronavirus in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
“After careful consideration of many factors, WMU has made the difficult but important decision to postpone the 2020 WMU Food Marketing Conference, scheduled for March 31-April 1, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Mich.,” said Frank M. Gambino, WMU’s director of food and CPG marketing.
As the single-largest revenue stream for WMU’s food and consumer packaged goods marketing program, which enables the university to provide scholarships and experiential learning opportunities for its students, the cancellation of the conference is a major blow.
However, Gambino said, while the decision was not easy, the university “is committed to putting the health and safety of our conference attendees and students first and is sensitive to current corporate travel restrictions” and is evaluating options for rescheduling the conference.
Those seeking additional information can call the WMU conference hotline at (269) 387-2132 or email Conference Coordinator Lisa Youtzy with any questions.
Expo West Update
Meanwhile, one week after New Hope Network also made the decision to postpone Natural Products Expo West in response to the global COVID-19 situation, show organizers said discussions are presently underway with the 60-plus hotel partners in Anaheim, Calif., where the show was to be held last week, to determine how to best support the companies and individuals impacted by the postponement.
New Hope Network organizers said they are also in the process of forming an independent advisory council with a select group of brand executives, retailers and other industry leaders to assist it “in deciding how to best and most fairly utilize the $5 million fund we established to support emerging brands and others most significantly affected by the Expo West postponement.”
Efforts are also in the works to explore the options and feasibility for hosting an Expo West pop-up event this summer, according to show officials, which said they are hoping to have more concrete details to share later this week, which will be shared via email, posted online and shared through the Natural Products Expo social media channels.