Smoke Jumpers XVI

October 24-26 | Chicago | Chicago Athletic Association

Smoke Jumpers is a share-group comprised of senior retail and foodservice personnel from top CPG companies.



Twice a year, we gather together to discuss industry change.

Smoke Jumpers XVI will combine our traditional strategic agenda with a User Conference (Thursday, October 26) for those who would like to learn more about the latest features and functionality of our software, FORGE. Frequent users should attend to receive FORGE Certification. We will be launching the certification program at Smoke Jumpers XVI.

The meeting sessions will take place at the Chicago Athletic Association and a room block is being held for attendees requiring accommodations. Please review the details on this page to learn more about Smoke Jumpers XVI.

***REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Friday, September 29***

Register Now

Smoke Jumpers XVI will boast a robust educational agenda, including the annual State of the Industry session with Blacksmith CEO, Paul Wietecha.

Arrival Day: Tuesday, October 24

Strategic Agenda: Wednesday, October 25

FORGE User Conference: Thursday, October 26

3:00 pm -

Hotel Check-in Available

6:30 pm -

9:30 pm

Welcome Reception @ Cindy's

Join us on the rooftop at the Chicago Athletic Association to kick off the festivities of Smoke Jumpers XVI. Enjoy drinks and heavy appetizers at Cindy’s Restaurant, which boasts an open-air terrace with panoramic views of Millennium Park, the Art Institute, Lake Michigan, and beyond.

7:30 am -

8:30 am

Welcome Breakfast

8:30 am -

10:30 am

Opening Remarks & State of the Industry

During this session, Paul reviews the aggregated data Blacksmith Applications compiles and identifies trends in spending – both direct and indirect. Attendees will be equipped with the necessary information to benchmark their trade practices and process evolution vs. the broader peer group. You can’t get these exclusive insights anywhere else.

Paul Wietecha

10:30 am -

10:45 am


10:45 am -

11:45 am

Operator Panel: What the Best Suppliers Do

Find out what the best suppliers do at our first-ever Operator Panel. We’ll explore distribution of contract price & rebate updates, administration of rebate payments, and general time savings and information accuracy opportunities that can be addressed to foster better work processes in trade between operators and manufacturers.

11:45 am -

12:15 pm

Distributor Headlines

Let’s explore the latest distributor headlines and new protocols impacting trade spend today. This is a tried and true component of our bi-annual Smoke Jumpers meeting and an opportunity to learn about initiatives you may have not yet been aware of.

12:15 pm -

1:15 pm


1:15 pm -

3:15 pm

Round Table Discussions

Round Table discussions will be structured to rotate every 30 minutes. Prior to the meeting, we will ask you to select topics from our “round table menu.” Offerings will include peer best practice discussions with General Mills, Conagra and Perdue as well as themes around data and modern commerce with representatives from Datassential and PROS.

Round Table Leaders & Themes

New Age of Foodservice Data: Mark DiDomenico, Datassential

B2B Buyers in a B2C World: Tim Chilson, PROS

Accruals – Best Practices: Niki Rutter, Perdue

Budgets – Strategy & Implementation: Gina Schupanitz, General Mills

Trade Effectiveness – Buying Group Promotions: Himanshu Deoskar, Conagra Brands

*NOTE: Additional table topics are in the works.

3:15 pm -

3:30 pm


3:30 pm -

5:00 pm

Case Study & Closing Remarks

We’ll close the day with a case study review and group discussion.

5:00 pm -

7:00 pm

Free Time

7:00 pm -

11:00 pm

Networking Dinner @ The Chicago Sports Museum

Join us for a fun and interactive night of networking at the Chicago Sports Museum. This hallmark event is a great opportunity to connect with old and new friends. Transportation will be provided to the venue, departing from the hotel.

7:30 am -

8:30 am

Welcome Breakfast

8:30 am -

9:15 am


We will be presenting the highlights of our new standard reporting package featuring enhancements for dashboards and graphics. Additionally, we will provide a preview of our streamlined approach for accessing and scheduling reports. The package and approach will be rolling out to all clients in 2018.

Steve Thompson

9:15 am -

10:00 am

FORGE Release 8

This session will be an overview demonstration of the highest value new features in our Release 8 including new tools for automating an effective trade rate [e.g., earned income blended rate], leveraging formula-based commodity pricing and managing direct and indirect accruals. Additionally, we will be reviewing upgrades to existing features with an emphasis on enhancements to auto pay and payment history.

Karen Cullom

10:00 am -

10:30 am


10:30 am -

11:15 am

Planning Tools

Within our latest release, we have delivered a comprehensive upgrade of our tools for planning a range of events [e.g., programs] with either direct buyers [e.g., wholesalers, distributors and direct retailers] or indirect buyers [e.g., banners, operators and local stores]. Our upgrade allows the users to evaluate the economics and volume for the plan in total as well as for each individual event.

Kelly Cole

11:15 am -

12:00 pm

Maximizing Claim Efficiency

Back by popular demand, this session will provide tips, tricks and process improvements focused on driving the most efficient use of our features for claim processing and deduction management. We will be reviewing best practices for approval automation, deduction auto matching, discrepancy resolution and customer specific solutions [e.g., Foodbuy, Gordon, etc.].

Rachael Zierden

12:00 pm -

1:00 pm

Attendee Lunch

1:00 pm -


FORGE User Conference & Certification

Back by popular demand, the FORGE User Conference is your opportunity to experience the latest and greatest features and functionality of our trade spend application. The User Conference will take place on Thursday October 26th, as part of the Smoke Jumpers XVI agenda. The certification program is designed to test your knowledge of trade spend practices and your ability to apply those practices using FORGE software to achieve measurable results. FORGE Certification will launch at the October User Conference. All those in attendance will receive certification.

Featured Speakers

Paul Wietecha

President & CEO | Blacksmith Applications

Mark DiDomenico

Director, Client Solutions | Datassential

Tim Chilson

Sr. Executive Account Manager | PROS

Past Attendees Include Senior Personnel From:

Operator Panel Participants

Steve Pattison

CFO  |  Restaurant Services, Inc.

Kevin Watson

VP, Business Ops & Exec. Chef  | b Restaurants

Eric Lieberman

Purchasing  |  Eat’n Park Hospitality Group

Book Your Stay at the Chicago Athletic Association

A room block is available at the Chicago Athletic Association. Please book your room directly with the hotel. Blacksmith Applications will not be managing the room block for attendees going forward.

Chicago Athletic Association

12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Call 844.312.2221 to secure your reservation

The deadline to reserve your room at the group rate of $259 + tax is October 2, 2017.

Tuesday Welcome Reception

Join us at Cindy’s (the rooftop restaurant at the Chicago Athletic Association) to kick off Smoke Jumpers XVI.

We will have a private space to enjoy the open air on the rooftop. As usual, great food and drinks will be provided.

Be sure to let us know you’ll attend when you register for the meeting.

12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Wednesday Networking Dinner

The Smoke Jumpers Networking Dinner is a fan favorite. This is the ideal time to connect with industry peers and unwind after strategic sessions earlier in the day.

Our group will have exclusive use of the Chicago Sports Museum. Be ready for an interactive experience.

835 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611

Memorable Moments from Smoke Jumpers XV

Frequently Asked Questions


Q1: Who is attending Smoke Jumpers XVI?

A1: We’re looking forward to seeing both new and familiar faces this year. The attendee list is posted online (click here).

Q2: Do I have to be a customer of Blacksmith Applications to attend Smoke Jumpers sessions?

A2: No. You do not need to be a customer. We encourage all trade management professionals to attend and expand their network.

Q3: Is there a REGISTRATION fee for attending Smoke Jumpers XVI?

A3: No. There is no registration fee. Attendees will be responsible for expenses associated with their accommodations, which can be booked &/or cancelled directly with the Chicago Athletic Association. Remember, the registration deadline is Friday, September 29th.

Q4: Is there a CANCELLATION fee if I have to back out?

A4: We hope you won’t need to cancel, but if you do need to cancel your registration for Smoke Jumpers XVI, you must do so no later than Tuesday October 10, 2017. Should you cancel after Tuesday October 10, 2017, a $500 attendee cancellation fee will be charged. We do not charge for registration or participation, however we are implementing the cancellation fee to cover expenses incurred for registrants who cancel after final event commitments are due to the venue.

Q5: How do I cancel?

A5: Please email if you need to cancel your registration. We will respond to confirm your cancellation.

Q6: What is FORGE Certification?

A6: FORGE Certification is a new program from Blacksmith Applications. The certification program is designed to test your knowledge of trade spend practices and your ability to apply those practices using FORGE software to achieve measurable results. FORGE Certification will launch at the October User Conference. All those in attendance will receive certification. The Blacksmith Applications team aspires to launch an online FORGE Certification program in 2018.

Q7: Which day(s) should I attend?

A7: The strategic sessions on Wednesday will cover traditional Smoke Jumpers topics (ie: trade spend data bench-marking, peer case studies, and other timely distributor and operator trade headlines) and the FORGE User Conference on Thursday will focus on the latest software features and functionality (including our Analytics upgrade, FORGE Release 8, Mainstays of Claims Efficiency and more). We encourage you to attend Wednesday, Thursday or both days of the meeting as you see fit. All roles and levels can benefit from both days, however we traditionally see senior personnel attend the strategic sessions on day 1 (Wednesday) and managerial and analyst system users attend the user conference on day 2 (Thursday).


Please email with any additional questions you may have about Smoke Jumpers XVI.