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GFIA Posts Record Attendance For Popular Annual Conference

More than 900 people attended the recent Georgia Food Industry Association convention, held in Orlando, Florida. The majority of those were retailers, wholesalers and suppliers, according to GFIA President Kathy Kuzava.

GFIA
Kathy Kuzava

She cited several highlights of the annual conference:

  • Teross Young, VP of Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs for Ahold Delhaize USA, received GFIA’s 2022 Legacy Award, the association’s highest honor. 
  • The best bagger contest returned, with a record eight companies participating. Brennan Davenport with Publix Super Markets was the winner and will represent Georgia at NGA’s national competition in Las Vegas in February.
  • Bringing state legislators to the convention. Kuzava said the event is “always a terrific opportunity to let our elected officials better understand more about our tremendous industry and opens their eyes to the challenges we face.”
  • The energy of the volunteers as they worked together to raise funds to provide scholarships for employees and their children. Kuzava noted the silent and live auctions are always popular.
  • The excitement of the trade show.
  • GFIA’s strong educational seminars.

Dan Kelly, VP of national accounts with Georgia Crown Distributing, also serves on the GFIA Board of Directors. He said he enjoyed seeing people he grew up within the industry.

“The GFIA Convention in many ways is like a family reunion each year,” he said. Another highlight is the wine tasting and “showing off our great award-winning products to the retailers.”

Kelly praised “Michelle, Kathy, Kim and [GIFA] staff for rising to the occasion and pulling together a wonderful convention in the face of delayed flights, deliveries and many other challenges.”

He also noted that attendance this year reached an all-time high and he was grateful to spend time with retailers and lawmakers. The panel discussion was particularly relevant for his business in navigating “the tough economic times ahead.”

“It was great to get a fresh perspective and create a connection from the side of the retailer,” Kelly said. “I know that I brought back some great notes that I will be using in our day to day going forward.”

Carlton Golden, customer VP for Publix with Campbell’s Snacks, said hearing the opinions of the elected officials who attended was “enlightening.” 

“The things that they shared from both an industry and political standpoint were encouraging and refreshing,” he said.

Golden had a number of new attendees on his team this year and said they were impressed with the atmosphere, attention to safety and detail that went into pulling off such a large event.

“It goes without saying that the GFIA again highlighted what was most important to both the customers, vendors and attendees and family,” he said. “It’s the life blood of why and what we do.”

Victor Ragland, director of Atlanta Division for Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, said he thought this year’s convention was one of the best.

“It was just great seeing our customers, partners and legislators enjoying the back-to-normal atmosphere was awesome,” he said. “Thanks to the GFIA for a job well done.”

Kuzava said GFIA’s legislative breakfasts and education programs were well attended. This year’s presentations included:

  • “An Economist’s Predictions for the Supermarket Industry” – John Dunham, president of John Dunham and Associates, shared his research on the current economic situation and the implications to the grocery industry. He discussed how external events will shape the industry for years to come. 
    • Dunham also shared some sobering news on the job market and the low rate of labor participation, especially when it comes to young people. Because so many leaders in the food industry began their career at a young age, this is particularly alarming for the supermarket industry.
  • “Leadership In Today’s Changing Workforce” – Kuzava moderated a panel of chain and independent retailers to discuss the challenges and opportunities of leading today’s new workforce. 
    • “Our retailers shared their ideas on attracting and retaining employees, developing future leaders and how to promote the grocery industry as a career,” she said.
    • Panelists included: Ruben Fernandez, VP of merchandising for the Atlanta Division of The Kroger Co.; Randy Gentry, president/CEO, RBG Foods; Kris Jonczyk, VP of the Atlanta Division of Publix Super Markets; and Darrell Wiley, president/CEO, J&J Foods.
    • Kuzava said there was much discussion on the panel about selling the supermarket as a career. “I suggested that the Georgia Food Industry Education Foundation look into marketing our career opportunities. We will be discussing that in future trustee meetings,” she said.
    • Stay tuned to The Shelby Report on an upcoming story about the workforce panel.
  • “The Nutty Journey to Revive a Third Generation Business” – Stephanie Stuckey is the CEO of the Stuckey’s Corp., the business her grandfather began many years ago. Stuckey shared her unlikely journey to revive the third-generation business. After the company fell out of the family’s hands for decades, she took her life savings to purchase and rebuild it.

For more information, visit gfia.org.

To view the photo gallery of GFIA’s 2022 convention, click here.

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