I don’t know where you were in 1990. I remember a little bit of my life and one day I vividly recall had me at a new desk in the Chicago suburbs. I stared down at a copy of Frozen Food Age, which had the heft of a fashion magazine. Frozen Food Age (now defunct) was tabloid-sized, no-nonsense black and white, full of charts and news.
I thought, “How do I compete with this?”
A little more background. I had just left a staff of seven writers to join a start-up company. Now there were two of us: me and my boss. Editor Wendy Kimbrell would write the longest features. That left me with another 80 to 90 pages of stories – by competitive standards.
Perhaps someone saw my momentary thought (you know, bubbling up cartoon style). Or perhaps I let out an audible gasp. In any case, they set me straight. Our new title would not compete to serve retailers. Rather, Dairy & Frozen Foods (as it was then called) would serve food processors’ senior executives, functional heads and plant managers.
To learn faster, we chose not to hire many freelancers. Rather, we would take a first-person approach to learn industry issues and terms such as “just-in-time” inventory and “total quality management.” We would visit corporate headquarters every month. We would wear the hairnets, boots and take copious notes on factory tours. We also would interview the suppliers of packaging, ingredients, equipment and supply chain services.
To distance ourselves from retail and emphasize our position, we featured industry movers and shakers – conveying people, products and companies – on nearly every magazine cover. Incidentally, Dairy & Frozen Foods’ first feature involved Dean Foods. In 1990, this family-owned Franklin, Ill., company was a leading processor of both refrigerated and frozen dairy products as well as frozen vegetables (Freshlike, Veg-All).
Twenty years later, there’s still something of an awkward pause … you know, when I try to describe my job to others.
Turns out, I may be the only person on earth who lives to serve the information needs of cold food processing company executives. And so, perhaps I actually have come to grips with my job description.
Get this. I am paid to visit different companies nearly every month. I am paid to interview smart people and watch them make food. Then, I have the privilege of sharing each company’s unique story with other industry leaders.
Pardon the pun but is this a cool job, or what?
On a personal note, I want to acknowledge and thank my former employers and colleagues. Moreover, I’m thankful for so many industry friendships that bless me and enrich my life.