Food Marketing Center of Excellence Summit keynote speaker Richard Ferranti, CEO of Rich Products Corp., offered his insights on leading the organization through the pandemic and beyond.

More than 250 industry professionals and Niagara University students heard from speakers across the retail food and service sectors who shared their insights on re-imagining a pathway to growth and innovation at the 2022 Niagara University Food Marketing Center of Excellence Summit on Sept. 21, 2022.

“Built to Thrive,” the center’s fifth annual conference, featured keynote speaker Richard Ferranti, CEO of Rich Products Corp., who offered his insights on leading the organization through the pandemic and beyond during his presentation, “Disruption and Opportunity; the Future We Imagine Is the Future We Get.”

“What COVID did, essentially, was accelerate the many trends that were there before,” he said. He advised the audience to “step back, reflect about things you didn’t think possible before.”

A Rich’s associate since 1986, Ferranti took on his current position in January 2020, becoming just the fourth person in company history to hold the title of CEO. He has deep experience in managing organizational expansion, negotiations, and associate leadership and development. In 1997, after working in a series of sales and marketing roles for Rich’s, he was named president of Rich’s International Business Group and, later, president of its North American Business Group before being promoted to CEO.

Presentations by Samantha Biljan, senior research analyst at Datassential, and the Buffalo Sabres’ general manager Kevyn Adams, and head coach, Don Granato, followed the keynote address.

Biljan is a member of the trend expert council that manages Menu Adoption Cycles, used by clients to ideate and innovate. She shared both food trends and trends in customer spending and perceptions during her presentation, “Emerging and Innovative Food Trends, Global Eats and Sustainability.”

Dan Dunleavy, the Buffalo Sabres’ play-by-play announcer, facilitated a discussion focused on “Engaging People to Build a Successful Organization by ‘Earning It,’” with Adams, who is in his third season as Sabres GM, and Granato, the 20th head coach in franchise history.

Jeff Metzger, president of Best-Met Publishing Co., which publishes Food Trade News, Food World, and the Grocery Industry Directory, and operates, the authoritative source for news, data, and analysis about the retail food and drug industry in the Northeast and Southeast markets, moderated an executive panel discussion. Panelists included Kurt Schertle, chief operating officer of Weis Markets, a mid-Atlantic food retailer operating 200 stores in seven states; John Persons, president of Tops Markets, which operates supermarkets and fuel stations in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont; and Mike Seidel, vice president of procurement at Performance Foodservice, one of the nation's leading foodservice distributors, delivering food and related products to more than 80,000 customers across the United States.

“Through the generosity of our speakers and panelists, who give of their greatest assets—their time and knowledge—and the support and commitment of our sponsors, our program will continue develop our students as future food industry leaders,” said Phillip Catanese, director of centers and outreach at Niagara University.  

The summit began with lunch and a welcome from Dr. Mark Frascatore, dean of the Holzschuh College of Business Administration. The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University, gave the blessing, and Bill Chiodo, president at Affinity Group Retail and chair of the Food Marketing Center’s advisory board, provided opening remarks.

Niagara University’s food and consumer packaged goods marketing and food industry leadership programs deliver a powerful combination of real-world experience and industry expertise to build the foundational and specialized knowledge students need to succeed in a range of food industry careers, including brand management, social media, supply chain management, transportation, procurement, category management, marketing research, marketing agencies, and sales.