Please check back for 2019 details.


2018 Retailer Keynote

Nick Carlino, Vice President of Sales and Retail, Merchants Distributors, LLC

Nick Carlino is the Vice President of Sales and Retail for Merchants Distributors, LLC (MDI) an Alex Lee, Inc. Company. Nick came to MDI in March of 2014. His team is responsible for all advertising, marketing, digital services, retail sales teams, planogram techs, set teams, and Just Save stores. He currently sits on multiple boards of non-profit and profit based companies.

Prior to his current role, Nick served as the Vice President of Marketing for Merchants Distributors, LLC (MDI). In that role Nick managed the procurement groups for all categories, the development and sales of private brands, and the export and business to business group. Nick was a key player in the strategic development project for MDI and was vital in the rollout of the 3 key strategic dimensions.

Nick came to MDI from Safeway, Inc., where he served in various roles including Store Director, Director of Corporate Retail Initiatives, Director of Category Management and Vice President. He successfully led strategic initiatives totaling over $2 billion in annualized sales including two manufacturing plants.

Nick graduated from Morehead State University with a BS in Business Administration. He and his wife Lydia reside in Hickory, NC, with their two children; Maleah age 11 and Mason age 9.

2018 Speakers

Jim Hertel

Jim Hertel, Senior Vice President, Analytics, Inmar

Mr. Hertel leads analytics at Inmar. His strategic use of data and shopper analytics can be found in most client engagements as well as in Willard Bishop’s products and systems. Jim’s rich experience in food retailing and economics make him a frequent contributor to thought-leadership panels, associations, and publications such as FMI, NGA, GMA, Time Magazine, NY Times, Supermarket News, Progressive Grocer, Grocery Headquarters, Consumer Goods Technology, and The Wall Street Journal.

Throughout his career, Jim has developed insight-based growth strategies for companies including Anheuser-Busch, Campbell Soup Company, Coca-Cola, Nestle, The Kraft Heinz Company, Unilever, Walmart, and more.

Prior to joining Inmar and Willard Bishop, Jim worked in brand management at Procter & Gamble and led the client services group at Spectra Marketing—the leading provider of targeted selling and marketing services. Jim earned his B.A. degree in economics from Duke University.


Kristena Luckey, Executive Vice President, Brand Practice, Edelman

Kristena Lucky is an Executive Vice President in the Brand Practice with Edelman. In her current role, she leads the BUSH’S Beans business– a fully integrated earned, digital and social account. She also is spearheading a U.S-led new effort for Nissan.

Previously, she led the Kimberly- Clark Child Care business— contributing to the development and execution of the largest consumer program for the Pull-Ups® Brand. Kristena has contributed to numerous new business efforts due to her astute business sense.

Over the course of her long career she has developed and executed leading edge integrated marketing programs for many Fortune 500 companies leveraging channels such as experiential, public relations, shopper promotions, digital, social and advertising to engage with consumers and motivate them to take action. Additionally, Kristena has extensive brand management experience having achieved success as a Marketing Manager for global corporations – Accenture and Motorola. In particular, while at Motorola she was charged with developing engaging, integrated go- to-market plans to launch consumer products, driving demand for the brand and most importantly, sales of mobile products through retail carriers.

She is a graduate of Michigan State University and currently resides in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago with her husband and toddler daughter.


David Portalatin, Vice President, Food Industry Advisor, The NPD Group

David Portalatin is The NPD Group’s national analyst on all aspects of food and beverage consumption in- and away-from-home.  In his role as vice president, industry analysis, Portalatin provides information, insights, and analysis on how U.S. consumers eat and drink, their   attitudes and motivations, diet and nutrition, snacking, and personal characteristics. He works closely with food manufacturers and retailers; foodservice distributors, manufacturers, and operators; and media outlets in providing strategic business insights into current and future eating patterns in America.

Portalatin’s diverse background and experience gives him an in-depth understanding of consumer behavior and purchase patterns. Prior to his current role, he was NPD’s industry analyst in the automotive aftermarket, motor fuels, and convenience retailing industries. Portalatin held various positions in petroleum marketing, convenience retailing, and foodservice wholesale distribution before joining NPD in 1999.

He is often a featured speaker at industry events and at corporate conferences/meetings with distributors, manufacturers, and retailers. Portalatin also serves as a media source for a wide variety articles on food and beverage consumption trends and how these trends impact the food industry. His comments have appeared in USA TodayCNBCAssociated PressLos Angeles Times and other nationally-recognized media outlets.


Michael Sansolo, Research Director, Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council

Countless studies and years of work with some of the world’s most innovative companies gives Michael Sansolo a unique and diverse view of the changing nature of trends impacting shoppers, employees, competition, economics, supply chains and management. A long-time senior vice president of the Food Marketing Institute and now a consultant, speaker and author, Sansolo has traveled the globe working with companies on adjusting to new market conditions.

Sansolo recently authored Business Rules! a collection of diverse and useful lessons in business success. Stories are gathered from companies of all sizes and lessons from professional sports, Broadway Theater, a New York City catering company and even pop star Lady Gaga. He currently serves as the research director of the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Councils of both North and Latin America, working with these groups on emerging business topics such as social networking. Sansolo also writes a weekly column on wide-ranging business trends for http://www.MorningNewsBeat.com, a daily blog with nearly 28,000 readers.

Sansolo works with students at Western Michigan University, St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, George Mason University in Virginia and Portland (Oregon) State University.

In his 13 years as senior vice president at FMI, the biggest food retail association in the United States, Sansolo had oversight over all education, supply chain and research activities. In this position he developed an in-depth perspective of the changing nature of cooking, eating and shopping. Prior to joining FMI, Sansolo was editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer magazine and was a reporter for Gannett Newspapers. In his career he received a number of awards for excellence in writing and reporting.


Colin Stewart, Senior Vice President, Business Intelligence, Acosta Sales & Marketing

Colin is a 30+ year CPG and retail industry veteran. He started his career in 1984 when he joined the Kelley-Clarke organization in the Pacific Northwest. Early in his career he helped design category management practices with many west coast retailers and CPG manufacturers. Over the years Colin has held multiple leadership positions including: Corporate Vice President of Marketing for Kelley-Clarke, Director of Sales Technology at Acosta, President/COO of an Acosta owned company called VeriSync Trade Solutions, and Sr. Vice President of Acosta’s Strategic Advisors team.

Most recently, he established a new Center of Excellence at Acosta called the “Center of Shared Business Intelligence (CSBI)”. The CSBI has quickly become a key driver of business and consumer insights for Acosta providing best in class analytics, shopper insights, data management and training.

Thom Blischok, Consultant, Nielsen and Chairman, The Dialogic Group

More than 30 years of in-depth experience with major retail chains and consumer package goods manufacturers have made Thom Blischok one of the most influential and in-demand consultants throughout these industries, both in the US and abroad. His record of achievement includes major retail engagements in the Drug, Apparel, Convenience Store, Grocery, Dollar, e-Commerce, Mass Market and Club industries. On the CPG side he has led key industry transformations at the C-Suite level in Food, Beverage and Drug, and his impact on these companies as a speaker, trend analyst, and popular presenter continues to be broad reaching and highly profitable.

You have probably read his many business commentaries on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, The Financial Times, Chicago Tribune, and more. And his TV interviews and holiday shopping analyses have been regularly featured on CNBC, CNN, MarketWatch, Fox Business News and the Nightly Business Report.

Over the past thirty years Thom has had the opportunity to provide transformational, organizational and operational leadership across the industry as Chief Retail Strategist at Price Waterhouse Coopers, President of Global Retail at Information Resources, Inc., Global Chairman of Retail and Distribution for Coopers and Lybrand, and Managing Partner at AT&T Global Information Systems Consulting.

Thom’s current CPG clients range throughout the Fortune 50 in Food, Beverage and Drug, and also include the Top 50 US Retailers across all retail channels.