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A look back: thirty-eight conventions and still evolving.

This year's NFRA Convention marks my 38th consecutive and last convention that I will attend as an NFRA employee. NFRA's Vice President/COO Skip Shaw will take over the reins as President/CEO during NFRA's Annual Membership Meeting on Monday, October 18.

I am looking forward to retirement and have many fond memories of my 38 years of service to NFRA. Since this issue of Frozen Food Digest will be distributed at the NFRA convention, I am focusing my thoughts and comments on the convention and the changes that have taken place over the years.

The first National Frozen Food Convention I attended (30 years later refrigerated foods was added as part of the convention) was held in Bal Harbour, Florida December 8-12, 1973. Approximately 3,250 delegates were in attendance versus the 1,200 plus who now attend the convention. Prior to 2003, the convention was co-sponsored by the National Frozen Food Association and the American Frozen Food Institute and was known as the National Frozen Food Convention.

Although getting ready for the convention is still a busy time at NFRA Headquarters in regards to all the preparation, organization and planning of the numerous meetings that take place during the event, imagine what it was like in 1973 prior to computers. Convention registration records were done by hand; name badges were typed and sent to the printer to be typeset; and there were about three times as many delegates who attended the convention. Keeping the hotel room block straight was a very tedious task. No one could register online or fax in changes, so all changes were called into the office. The phone rang constantly from September until the day the staff departed the office for the convention.

It was also time consuming planning the many activities that took place during the convention including the numerous Association meetings. All the agendas and reports were typed, printed and collated by hand for meetings. This process remained the same for almost 11 years.

The 70's also was the beginning of consolidation for numerous frozen food distributors. Many of the family-owned distributors were purchased by corporate distributors thus fewer delegates attended the convention. Registration for the convention in the late 70's and early 80's was around 2,500 delegates.

In 1984, I was named President of NFRA. The Association purchased its first computers in 1985. Record keeping and convention registrations were all computerized saving numerous man hours. The 1980's also marked the consolidation of manufacturers. Many small manufacturers were purchased by larger manufacturers, and again convention registration figures dropped to about 1,800.

The 90's marked a new era as food brokers, now known as sales agents, also consolidated. NFRA at its peak had over 450 broker members versus the 39 sales agent members it has today. It's easy to see why convention registration today is around 1,200 delegates versus the 3,250 delegates of 38 years ago. Consolidation throughout the industry continues to take place today.

Two of the most impactful changes to affect the Association took place in 2002 and 2003 respectively. In 2002, the membership voted to included refrigerated food companies as full voting members of the organization, thus the Association's name was changed from the National Frozen Food Association (NFFA) to the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA).

Rather than co-sponsoring the convention, NFRA held its own convention for the first time in Las Vegas in October 2003. Over 1,100 delegates attended, which was an increase over the previous two conventions where registration dipped below 900 delegates. Convention registration has averaged 1,165 delegates since 2003 when NFRA began holding its own convention.

There have been numerous changes in the convention format over the years. The Taste of Excellence Reception, customer meeting rooms, sponsorship opportunities, etc. have all been incorporated into the NFRA Convention. All of these changes have had a positive impact on the convention, the Association and the industry. The NFRA Convention offers a unique opportunity to conduct business and build relationships with the industry's key decision-makers.

It has been my privilege to play a small roll in all the changes that have taken place in the convention over the years. As always, it has been the people involved who have made all the difference in the world. Over the years, it has been my pleasure to work with some of the finest people the frozen and refrigerated food industry has to offer.

I am sure that in years to come, the NFRA Convention will be bigger and better than ever. I say this very confidently, as it has been a pleasure to work with an excellent and dedicated staff who will not miss a beat under the leadership of NFRA President/CEO Skip Shaw.

Nevin B. Montgomery

NFRA President/CEO
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Title Annotation:National Frozen Food Convention
Author:Montgomery, Nevin B.
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Article Type:Conference news
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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