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Independent Grocers Gather As 2024 NGA Show Opens

NGA Show

Celebrity chef Carla Hall delivered the opening keynote address for 2024 NGA Show.

Based on early estimates, the 2024 NGA Show – which opened Sunday at the Caesars Forum Convention Center in Las Vegas – is on pace to be the largest in the history of the National Grocers Association.

The popular three-day gathering, which runs through Tuesday, kicked off with a “fireside chat” featuring NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara and Manard Lagasse Jr. and Ted Balistreri, the incoming and outgoing chairmen of NGA’s board of directors, respectively. They explored issues important to independent grocery industry.

“There’s an excitement and energy behind this show that’s sure to be felt by all our attendees and leave them with a truly fulfilling immersive experience,” said Lagasse, president and CEO of Associated Grocers of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“NGA has a strong pulse on our industry and the show continues to bring top educational content, vendors and opportunities that help retailers and wholesalers bring new ideas and products back to their companies, while also building new industry relationships.”

In his opening remarks to attendees, Ferrara detailed the association’s advocacy achievements over the past year.

“We scored wins for our members on important policy initiatives, including the recent defeat of proposals to severely restrict SNAP,” he said. “We hit new highs in growing attendance at our events that enhanced member education.

“And we continue to break new ground in engagement with industry members, development of leadership and promotion of diversity within our ranks, including the incredible growth of the Women Grocers of America.”

NGA’s work includes movement toward antitrust and credit card reform, expansion of nutrition incentives and support of policies beneficial to the growth and success of independent community grocers.

“I challenge every one of you to find how you can get yourself and your key people more involved – not only at NGA, but also back home with your state associations – to learn new ways to enrich your business and contribute to our industry,” Ferrara said.

Rounding out the opening keynote session was celebrity chef Carla Hall, whose love of food and experiences pushing outside of her comfort zone energized the crowd.

The day began with the Technology Summit, which offered grocery retailers a look at technology from multiple perspectives. Topics included e-commerce, personalizing shopper connections, AI optimization, new food tech’s impact on marketing and merchandising, identifying and appealing to the next generation workforce, and establishing new avenues to loyalty.

The summit also featured the release of a new and exclusive consumer survey by Acosta Group and MorningNewsBeat that identifies shopper preferences, barriers and experiences when it comes to food retail technologies.

Sunday’s lineup also included the FMS Financial Symposium, which explored the most timely financial topics. 

Moderated by FMS Solutions, the symposium looked at profit improvement, exit strategies and environmental programs for businesses. These included solar energy and carbon credits. A panel of retailers then shared how they’re thriving despite inflation and overall rising costs.

Sunday afternoon, recipients of NGA’s Creative Choice Awards for outstanding marketing and merchandising campaigns in 2023 were recognized during a “Snack and See” session presented by Kellanova and Unilever.

Award recipients shared their inspiration for campaigns in omnichannel marketing, community engagement and aspects like center store and fresh innovations.

The winners by online vote of the Outstanding Marketer and Merchandiser were also announced during the session. 

With more than 1,000 votes, Michigan-based SpartanNash emerged victorious for its Connections Through Omnichannel entry, 2023 Influencer League. Hired Man’s Grocery and Grill in Conway Springs, Kansas, was selected as the Outstanding Merchandiser for its Candy Corn Brats in the local, specialty or emerging products category.

Also on Sunday afternoon, the following officers began their terms on NGA’s board:

  • Chairman: Manard Lagasse  
  • Vice Chairman: Richie Morgan (North State Grocery Inc.) 
  • Treasurer: Dan Funk (Associated Wholesale Grocers) 
  • Secretary: Gary Redner (Redner’s Markets) 
  • Immediate Past Chair: Ted Balistreri (Sendik’s Food Market) 
  • President and CEO: Greg Ferrara (NGA)

In addition, the following were elected to the board:

Carlos Castro, Todos Neighborhood Supermarket, Woodbridge, Virginia (re-elected); Jimmy Nichols, Houchens Food Group, Bowling Green, Kentucky (re-elected); Enid Barillas, AM Inc. dba Econo Healthy Path, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; Kim Eskew, Harps Food Stores Inc., Springdale, Arkansas; Lupe Lopez, Arteagas Food Center, Gilroy, California; Tim Lowe, Lowes Foods, Winston Salem, North Carolina; Kurt Schertle, Weis Markets, Sandbury, Pennsylvania; Jena Sowers, Alliance Retail Group, Raymore, Missouri (re-elected) Scott Widfeldt, KeHe Distributors, Chicago (re-elected); Joe Garcia, Associated Supermarket Group, Port Washington, New York; Steve Heggelke, Bozzuto’s Inc., Cheshire, Connecticut; Jerry McCann, Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distributing, Bessimer, Alabama; Amy McClellan, SpartanNash, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Tom Daniel, Ecolab, St. Paul, Minnesota; Brad Thomas, Kimberly-Clark, San Antonio; Marvin R. Vines, Coca-Cola North America, Alpharetta, Georgia; and Julie Miro Wenger, Delaware Food Industry Council.

Filling vacated seats for their respective companies are Fred Boehler, Save A Lot; Jessica Gassar, Wakefern Food Corp.; Melanie Jones, C&S Wholesale Grocers; Jason Ramsey, Merchant Distributors Inc.; and Sean Schulke, Houchens Food Group Inc.

Read more association news from The Shelby Report.

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
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