DFMi at 30

October 03, 2018

DFMi marked its thirtieth year in the airline industry at the IFSA expo in Boston last week. Julie Baxter discovers how the company has weathered the storms and stayed on trend through three turbulent decades

Founded in 1988, initially to serve the U.S. market, DFMi soon expanded into Europe and has since then successfully navigated three decades of fast-paced industry challenge and change.

Graham Felton, ceo, says: “30 years ago there were 30 airlines in the industry. As it consolidated, DFMi had to adjust, and expanded its products and services to meet ever-changing needs and requirements. We have constantly sought out innovative products, programmes and solutions.”

The company started as a partnership between Felton and Wolfgang Diehl (the D&F) who met while Graham was managing the airline business for General Foods and meat company Oscar Meyer, and Diehl was the managing director for onboard services at Eastern Airlines. Diehl had experience as a European executive chef and Graham brought expertise in sales and marketing. Together they created a business founded on honesty, integrity, flexibility and a passion for innovation.

On 9/11 the industry changed forever and like many caterers, distributors and suppliers, DFMi’s five year plan instantly became a five month plan. As domestic food service was discontinued and U.S. airlines began to focus on global expansion, DFMi rode the storm. Later as airlines emerged from the 2007-2010 recession and returned to profitability, the DFMi team was quick to respond to new opportunities with new products and brands, by tapping into trends to support the airline industry’s gradual revival.

Felton adds: “Today, airlines are more focused than ever on the personalisation of the passenger’s onboard experience. Whether it is onboard entertainment, comfort items or food and beverage, we have to constantly watch for changing trends and passenger preferences. Staying abreast of what is happening in the food industry and the desires of the next generation of passengers is a key part of our focus today. “

To mark its anniversary, DFMi will host its VIP customers to a special morning cafe and happy hour during WTCE and is running a retro 1980s marketing campaign which reflects its 30 year history.

Looking ahead Felton concludes: “The heart of the company will always be about serving our customers, supplier partners and each other with honesty and integrity. That’s what really matters most.

“In the next 30 years this industry is projected to have a global passenger growth of 4.8% compounded annually. New aircraft and galley designs are launching at a record-breaking pace which will require new products, programmes and innovative packaging to further enhance the passenger experience. We look forward to serving the world for the next 30 years.”