Amid a struggling economy, the ADPI/ABI 2009 Annual Conference attracted more than 700 manufacturers, marketers and suppliers of manufactured dairy products from 16 different countries, a near record attendance. Participants gathered for several days in Chicago to hear prominent industry and government figures discuss the state of the dairy industry and to network at the unique yearly conference "where the dairy industry does business."

The conference began on April 27th with a panel discussion on "Riding the Rollercoaster," an analysis of the volatile dairy markets and what to expect beyond the current dip in dairy product prices. Led by Moderator Donna Berry of Dairy Foods, the panelists included prominent dairy industry economists, Mary Ledman of Keough Ledman Associates, Inc.; Mike Brown of Glanbia Foods, Inc.; and Jim Sleper of Land O'Lakes, Inc.

Keynote speaker, Peter Luongo, former CEO of The Berry Company and executive director for the Center for Leadership, and Executive Development at the University of Dayton followed up with an informative presentation on "Executive Leadership during Challenging Times."

During the Recognition Luncheon, sponsored by Davisco Foods International, Inc., attendees were visited by special guest, a Barack Obama impersonator, Reggie Brown, who was a dead ringer for the President and delivered a show full of humor and great surprises.

ADPI was pleased to recognize the 2009 Award of Merit recipient, Lee E. Blakely. During a heartfelt presentation, ADPI Affiliate Member, M. Jane Carlisle of United International Industries, Inc., described Blakely's multi-faceted dairy career, which included positions in academia, manufacturing, quality assurance and marketing. Blakely was also honored for the roles he has held in the American Dairy Products Institute Association, which included serving as the president of the organization from 1999 to 2001.

This year's conference also marked the presentation of the First Annual Jim Page Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship was created in memory of James J. Page, who enjoyed a distinguished marketing career in the dairy industry and demonstrated exceptional leadership skills while serving as the CEO of ADPI from 2002 through 2008.

The 2009 scholarship recipient, Chelsie Reinwand, is the daughter of a Foremost Farms USA employee in Baraboo, Wis. Reinwand is a junior at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, maintains a straight A average, has demonstrated a high commitment to community service and volunteerism and is on track to complete her Doctorate degree in Pharmacy in just six years.  

The day ended with a butter industry breakout session focused on "Food Safety, Traceback and Liability." Moderator Tom Suber of the U.S. Dairy Export Council led presenters, Rick Silverman from Hogan & Hartson, Alan Reed from Dairy Management Inc. and Gale Prince, Sage Food Safety Consultants, LLC, in their discussion on food safety and preparedness in the event of an outbreak in the dairy industry.

Meeting attendees then had an unparalleled opportunity to network with representatives from throughout the domestic and international dairy industry during a reception, sponsored by the ADPI Affiliate Members.
The following morning, conference attendees were given insights into current dairy industry and consumption trends in China and what lies beyond the melamine scandals by Richard Field of Orrani Consulting. The breakfast program, "Understanding the Dragon" - China's Changing Dairy Market", was sponsored by Dairy Foods and O-AT-KA Milk Products Coop., Inc.  

The final general session of the conference offered an exceptional lineup of speakers, including: Richard Mann of Keller & Heckman, LLP; John Harangody of CME Group; Tage Affertsholt of 3A Business Consulting; and Sandra Wood from USDA. Dan Meyer, technical director of ADPI moderated discussions covering hot industry topics including the new deliverable nonfat dry milk futures and options contracts, the Dairy Products Price Support Program, an overview of international whey markets and a Washington legal update. The session ended with a preview of the IDF World Dairy Summit 2010.

Tuesday luncheon sponsored by United International Industries, Inc. featured the highly regarded speaker, Jeff Thredgold, president of Thredgold Economic Associates. Thredgold deciphered the tangled maze of the current economy, the stock market, struggling credit markets and complex financial products, with a view on what to expect in the foreseeable futures.

The conference came to a close on Tuesday evening as the Customer Appreciation Reception, sponsored by Cheese Market News, Hilmar Ingredients, Darigold, Inc., Land O'Lakes, Inc. and Saputo Cheese USA, Inc., allowed attendees another opportunity to network with dairy industry leaders, while sampling a vast variety of cheese, including award-winning cheeses donated by MCT Dairies, Hoogwegt U.S., Inc. and Good Home Foods, LLC.

As is traditional at the Annual Conference, outside of the organized programs there were a multitude of private business meetings and brisk activity in the corridors and hotel suites, as senior dairy executives and their corporate teams "met with everyone they needed to see" including customers, suppliers and other key dairy industry contacts. Another sales manager remarked, "There really is no other dairy industry meeting quite like ADPI." Further networking opportunities were provided at the conference's exhibit hall, which featured displays from approximately 30 exhibitors.

Complete conference information including speaker presentations, exhibitor listings and much more can be found at

Start planning now for the 2010 ADPI/ABI Annual Conference, which will be held April 25-27, 2010, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Source: Press release by ADPI and ABI