Like the supermarket industry, group ‘continues to reinvent itself’
by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer
During the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alabama Grocers Association sent more than 100 emails and made 80 Facebook/Twitter posts related to COVID-19, said President Ellie Taylor. The association even created a new media campaign called Shop Safe Alabama, a video series to raise awareness of COVID-19 safety protocol.
But the work didn’t stop there.
“We held weekly calls, participated in countless media interviews regarding the role of the grocery industry and created a website page solely dedicated to this pandemic,” Taylor added.
“In a partnership with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the association distributed over 100,000 masks and gloves to the grocery industry.
“We participated with over 28 Alabama, federal and association partners to make sure our members received the tools that they needed to remain in compliance and have the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. We also communicated to our elected officials our relevance to the state.”
According to Taylor, grocery retailers adjusted quickly to “the new normal of intermittent out-of-stocks and sporadic customer surges,” coming out on the other side with more knowledge about supply chain pressures.
“Despite enormous logistical challenges, our state’s grocery community worked around the clock to supply food to Alabama families while at the same time implementing [safety] policies,” she said.
Taylor witnessed incredible work across the industry.
“Even in a state that sees their fair share of natural disasters, COVID-19 brought numerous challenges and a new normal that our industry has done an outstanding job of overcoming,” she said.
“There was no blueprint for this pandemic. The grocery industry leads the way for the entire state to get back to work and support our state’s economy.”
Taylor also reflected on the AGA’s work in 2020 with great satisfaction, looking to 2021 with excitement.
“I am immensely proud of the fact that our scholarship program continues to be strong,” she said. “In total, [our foundation] has awarded over $1.3 million in scholarships to deserving part-time student employees and children of full-time employees of member AGA companies…this great work will continue in 2021.
“We also held our first ever Clay Shoot in 2020 and due to an overwhelmingly positive response will continue this in the future. We also will continue to partner with the Alabama Food Manufacturers and Producers and the Alabama Department of Agriculture on our Buy Alabama’s Best campaign.”
However, the pandemic isn’t over, and AGA is ready to face more challenges, both at the state and federal level.
“As the Alabama Legislature begins on Feb. 2, our top priority will be liability protections for our members during the pandemic and vaccinations for food and beverage workers,” Taylor said.
“Other top priorities include alcohol home delivery and any opportunity to remove the sales tax from groceries. We also expect to see legislation regarding wine shipment, lottery, medical marijuana, the renewal of economic development incentives and legislation to protect federal COVID payments from state taxation.”
The grocery business is never stagnant. And that’s also true for AGA.
“Our association continues to reinvent itself,” Taylor said. “We were able to hold several hybrid events in 2020 and will continue with that model moving forward.
“We are also happy to announce starting in 2021, the new AGA Member Only Communities App. This will be another way AGA can communicate with our members, and they can communicate with each other.”
The app will include the association’s weekly Market Minute, COVID-19 section, member benefits, SNAP/WIC updates and sponsor information.