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NGA Show Welcomes Independent Grocers, Honors Industry Leaders

NGA Show
Gerry Kettler, center, director of consumer affairs at Niemann Foods, was awarded the Thomas F. Wenning Pinnacle PAC Award by NGA President Greg Ferrara, left, and Chris Jones, NGA SVP of government relations and counsel.

The 2021 NGA Show, the premier tradeshow for the independent supermarket industry, opened Sept. 19 with a sold-out Expo floor. The two-day Executive Conference, Sept. 18-19, included honoring industry leaders with two awards.

The show features nearly 50 educational sessions and more than 100 speakers discussing issues facing food retail during the conference at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Enjoying strong retailer and wholesaler attendance, the in-person event opened with enhanced safety protocols for attendees, who are required to wear masks at all indoor events and present proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test to gain entry.

“After 18 of the most challenging months our industry has ever faced, we are honored and excited to be returning to Las Vegas with an in-person NGA Show to celebrate the hard work and dedication of our Supermarket Superheroes,” said Greg Ferrara, NGA president and CEO. “The NGA Show continues to be the marquis event for the supermarket industry to network and learn best practices. We’re already looking forward to returning to Las Vegas next spring to celebrate NGA’s 40th anniversary.”

The show kicked off with a presentation from the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology titled “The Path to Retail 4.0: Get Ready or Get Left Behind,” which explored the ongoing disruption taking place in the industry and how retailers can foster a culture of innovation. Other sessions focused on topics ranging from e-commerce, automation and ransomware to sales trends, diversity and crisis management.

During the opening session, Ferrara celebrated the industry for rising to the occasion during the pandemic. “Nothing about this past year and a half has been business as usual, and as we continue to navigate our ‘new normal,’ we have heard from many of you about the challenges and pressures you’ve faced during these unprecedented times and how you have partnered with NGA to find support and solutions,” he said. “And despite the uncertainty, we know that our industry is looking to the future for ways that you can enrich your communities, strengthen your businesses and support your associates.”

Additionally, Ferrara outlined NGA’s key initiatives, including a comprehensive rebranding for the association, including a new logo and tagline, “At the heart of the community; ” a new economic impact study demonstrating independent grocery’s strength as an engine for economic growth locally and nationally; and enforcement of antitrust laws to create a level playing field for independent grocers.  

The day closed with the Opening Keynote address by celebrity chef and inspirational speaker Chef Jeff Henderson, whose personal story of redemption, self-transformation and commitment to helping at-risk youth was an appropriate message for an industry that continues to serve its communities while being profoundly impacted by world events.

The 2021 NGA Show continues through Sept. 21.


Thomas F. Wenning Pinnacle PAC Award

During the two-day Executive Conference, NGA presented Gerry Kettler, director of consumer affairs at Niemann Foods, with the Thomas F. Wenning Pinnacle PAC Award.  

The award, established in 2014, honors Wenning, NGA’s former EVP and general counsel, for his 40 years of service to NGA and the independent supermarket industry.

Kettler is a longtime member of NGA’s Government Relations Committee, guiding advocacy priorities that benefit independent grocers.

“Gerry has been instrumental in supporting NGA Grocers PAC by providing a guiding vision and generous support,” said Chris Jones, NGA SVP of government relations and counsel. “Independent grocers have benefited greatly from Gerry’s dedication and exceptional service to advancing NGA’s interests in government and political affairs.”

Niemann Foods was founded in 1917 when Fred Niemann Sr. and Steve Niemann opened their first grocery store. Today, Niemann Foods operates more than 100 storefronts, making it the largest independently owned grocery store chain in central Illinois.

“Gerry’s work ethic and dedication to advancing the interests of America’s independent grocers is inspiring,” said Terence Huie, NGA manager of Grassroots and PAC. “This has become even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Gerry has been on the front lines helping Niemann Foods navigate through difficult circumstances, while providing valuable input to NGA on grocers’ priorities during the pandemic.”


Denny Belcastro, left, VP of industry affairs and consumer development at Kimberly-Clark North America, was awarded NGA’s annual Industry Service Award from President Greg Ferrara.

Industry Service Award

Dennis Belcastro, VP of industry affairs and consumer development at Kimberly-Clark North America, was awarded NGA’s annual Industry Service Award.

Belcastro won the Industry Service Award as “well-deserved recognition for all he has done to help meet the needs of the independent community grocery industry and for years of dedication to the association,” said Ferrara.

“Denny Belcastro is a great friend to independent grocery operators and a strong supporter of NGA,” Ferrara said. “His leadership over the years and the working relationships he has built with trading partners we serve have been second to none.” 

For more than three decades, NGA has recognized the service and extraordinary contributions of distinguished industry leaders with the Industry Service Award. Previous recipients include David Jones of The Kellogg Co. and Jerry Garland of Associated Wholesale Grocers.

The NGA Show has been the place where independent grocers gather for more than 30 years, connecting supermarket retailers and wholesalers, food manufacturers and service providers from around the world to share innovative solutions and best practices that support and strengthen the independent supermarket channel. The NGA Show is produced and managed by Clarion Events as part of the Food & Beverage Group in partnership with the National Grocers Association.

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Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Chicago, Illinois
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