COVID-19 National Shelby Exclusives

Column: 2020 To Bring Stories Of Triumph To Independents’ Creative Choices

NGA Ferrara election
Greg Ferrara
by Greg Ferrara, president and CEO, National Grocers Association

Independent grocers excel at creating unique and innovative marketing events to set themselves apart from their competitors. Most of them have something in common – they’re designed to attract a crowd.

But with retailers and their customers trying to avoid crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic, marketing requires an extra dose of creativity.

Grocers are stepping up to boost excitement for their brands with shoppers who are self-isolating. They also are driving awareness and support for concurrent events that conspire to make 2020 a year everyone will remember but would rather forget.

Case in point: Family-owned Nugget Markets launched a $25,000 matching fund drive to support the victims and first responders of the California wildfires. All funds raised support the American Red Cross chapters in Northern California and their relief efforts. To aid the cause, consumers could make contributions at any Nugget location, no purchase required.

Another example: Arizona’s Hatch Green Chile season is typically a huge draw for Bashas’ in-store events. However, the grocer’s new #HatchAtHome Challenge offered folks the chance to win a variety of at-home cooking supplies and grocery gift cards by posting photos or videos on their favorite social media channel. This campaign leveraged a seasonal favorite to jump-start excitement for quarantined folks preparing more meals at home.

These are the types of initiatives that NGA is looking for in its annual Creative Choice Awards, a contest – now open for entries – that recognizes the best marketing and merchandising programs of the past year.

Sponsored by Kellogg’s and Unilever, the contest has adjusted its categories a bit this year in deference to the “new normal” brought on by the pandemic.

There are four marketing and four merchandising categories. From those, two winners for each category will be selected – one entry each from among operators of one to 15 stores and 15-plus stores.

In addition to the updated categories, two new special recognition awards will be presented by the competition’s sponsors.

They include the Kellogg’s Supermarket Superheroes Award, which recognizes those campaigns that honored a company’s frontline workers, and Unilever’s Excellence in Agility Award. The Unilever honor is focused on the ways grocers had to pivot to meet new consumer demand and how they maintained strong relationships with their new customers.

Entries will be evaluated by a panel of judges based on creativity, clarity and effectiveness. From the category winners, one “Outstanding Marketer” and one “Outstanding Merchandiser” will be selected by the public through online voting.

Winners will be announced during the 2021 NGA Show – scheduled for May 16-18, 2021, in Las Vegas – and recognized yearlong.

More information about the award categories, criteria and how to enter can be found at

Why should independent grocers enter this contest? It will encourage team building among employees, which is arguably more important this year than ever. In addition, it will create excitement throughout the organization while demonstrating the importance of using creative programs to boost sales and build customer loyalty.

For grocers, 2020 has brought a year of unprecedented challenges and changes. But we know that independent grocers are among the most innovative and resourceful retailers around. We look forward to reading all of their stories of triumph this year, which we know will demonstrate their ability to flourish, even in the most trying times.

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