Q&A With President Phil Kafarakis: SFA's Membership Transformation Plans

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Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association, recently discussed the SFA's new membership policy as part of a Q&A that originally ran in the Summer Fancy Food Show Daily. Here are excerpts:

Q: The Specialty Food Association has been working on a new membership policy. Please explain. 
We’ve been planning to expand our membership outreach for quite some time and increase our ranks. We know there are a lot of startups and affiliated businesses that could benefit from membership and who would enrich our membership community. It’s important that we use our resources in ways that could strengthen the specialty food industry at large.
       Our goal is to convene a more unified community that represents the many segments of our industry made up of producers – from the earliest startups to those with well-established roots – buyers from all channels, distributors, and others in specialty food. We’re excited to see what we can build together when we have an expanded membership that is truly representative of the diversity among specialty food professionals.
      When our new membership policy launches in January 2020, we will have a streamlined application process – one that mimics our verification process for admission to the Fancy Food Show – for those potential members who are not qualified to be show exhibitors. That includes buyers and others, and will create a way for entrepreneurs to become SFA members before they even launch a product, joining us to access guidance and benefits. We want to help those just starting out and those looking to move their businesses to the next level.

Q: What will happen to existing members? 
We will offer them more meaningful benefits to build their businesses. We have plans to create additional ways to get producers in front of buyers, provide benefits that will leverage our research, build educational tools for making informed business decisions, add new business services with discounts, and more.
      Show-ready members – makers who are currently SFA members are in this category – will receive more tailored benefits, like ways to build brand awareness, to attract qualified buyers, and build customized marketing plans. Providing comprehensive business toolkits will meet our ultimate goal of making our members successful.
      To become a new show-exhibiting member, you will need to meet specific guidelines for membership that include the right to exhibit. We want to ensure the Fancy Food Shows continue to offer our multi-channel attendees the widest assortment of high-quality, innovative, specialty products possible.

Q: The SFA has been in business since 1952, why are the membership policies changing now?
The world around us has transformed many times since the 1950s and the SFA has experienced various changes over the years too. Now, we are strengthening our leadership role and making plans to help our members stay ahead of industry transformation. With evolving consumer preferences and lifestyle choices, the specialty food business has been pretty fluid in recent years. 
      The Big Food companies have been focused more on productivity gains and shareholder return than on creating innovative products to meet new consumer demands. This has created a great opportunity for smaller, specialty producers to step up and fill the innovation void that consumers are facing.
      This is, and will remain for some time, a terrific time to be in specialty foods. It’s important that we as an association serve our members’ immediate needs and long-term plans. We’re committed to helping members continue to pioneer product innovation and succeed.
      In this time of disruption, the Specialty Food Association aspires to be a business accelerator, a convener of industry experts, and the best place for our members to meet the marketplace. Our mission is to Champion, Nurture, and Connect the industry and we are dedicated to do all in our power to be THE place where our industry can network, share information, learn, celebrate, and grow.
      We look forward to working with everyone who has a passion to Shape the Future of Food.

Questions about the SFA membership transformation plan? Weigh in in the Q&A Forum.
Posted by Denise Purcell on Jul 9, 2019 11:30 AM America/New_York