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PA Association Exploring New Ways To Engage With Active Membership

Alex Baloga

Podcast proves popular, acts as ‘function of times’

by Eric Pereira / content creator

The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association has stepped up its presence through various channels such as social media, print publications and a podcast, “Shelf Confidence.”

Alex Baloga, PFMA president and CEO, said the podcast launched in July and has drawn a positive response. The show highlights initiatives and trends from grocers, C-stores, wholesalers, distributors and other retailers that make up the group’s membership. Topics have ranged from food waste and sustainable packaging to the beyond-the-meat craze. 

“It’s a function of the times, really…that’s where every everyone’s headed, and that’s where people consume their information,” Baloga said. “We’re excited for the start. And we’re excited for the response…and we’re excited to continue that.”

Liz Kemmery, director of communications, who spearheaded the podcast, said starting the venture has provided her a more in-depth look into PFMA members’ activities.

“It’s been an exciting time in food and beverage retail, and our more than 800 members have shown such creativity, innovation, customer service and community commitment through their work,” she said. 

In the first three episodes, the PFMA has covered the growing popularity of home meal kits and prepared foods, sustainability efforts and food waste.

“We designed the podcast in a way that it speaks to what’s happening in the industry but also provides helpful information to consumers,” Kemmery said. “For anyone who would like to start a podcast, I highly suggest spending plenty of time on research. Watch webinars or listen to podcasts for tips on interviewing, creating podcast artwork, what equipment to invest in, etc.

“Also be sure you have your episodes planned out and enough people committed to interview. I’m fortunate that we have a very supportive membership, and our members have been excited to contribute to the podcast.

“With so many great podcasts [out there], it’s important, too, to make sure you have an angle that makes your podcast unique.”

PFMA consists of about 800 members, with companies of varying sizes and types, retailers, wholesalers, grocery stores, convenience stores, independents, chains, CPG companies, distributors, vendor partners and associate members.


Legislative news

Baloga said the association has some initiatives in line for when the Pennsylvania legislative session resumes after its summer recess. 

One of those has been to improve beverage sales or reform adult beverage sales and distribution in Pennsylvania, which he said has “sort of lagged behind for many years.”

The association is pushing for ready-to-drink cocktails, which currently cannot be purchased in private retail settings in Pennsylvania. 

“We’re hoping to get that done and getting over the finish line,” Baloga said of House Bill 1154.

Another “big” issue Baloga mentioned was plastic bag legislation. The PFMA would like to continue the state’s pre-emption, which is set to expire in December.

The Republican-controlled legislature didn’t renew it when passing the state budget in June, which presents the opportunity for cities to approve new prohibitions or enforce existing bans, according to an article from Spotlight PA.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to address that, so that we don’t have a flood of local ordinances like a lot of other states do,” Baloga said. 

In other news, PFMA will be holding its fall legislative conference from Oct. 26-27 in Hershey.

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