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MGA Celebrates Grocery Industry At Champions Luncheon

MGA Grocery Industry Ambassador Award
MGA awarded the Industry Ambassador Award to Donald Ericson.

The Minnesota Grocers Association’s (MGA) Champions Luncheon on April 16 at the Omni Viking Lakes Hotel in Eagan showcased the impact of the state’s food industry and the accomplishments of those involved in it. 

The 2024 MGA Industry Ambassador Award, which recognizes someone who goes above and beyond to elevate the grocery industry, went to Donald Ericson, co-founder of the Facebook Public Group “Grocery Store Fanatics.” 

In accepting his award, he said he used his spirit to raise awareness for autism. Ericson noted that April is Autism Speak’s National Autism Awareness Month and encouraged attendees to embrace those with autism.

“The MGA is so proud to recognize the dedication and passion of Donald,” said Jamie Pfuhl, MGA president. “Donald has enthusiasm for all things grocery. He and his dear friend, Liz Nerud, visit stores daily and bring their welcoming smiles and ever-present joy wherever they go.”

The Minnesota Grown program also shared the winners of its Retailer of the Year contest in partnership with the MGA and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. This annual program showcases bringing local products to market. Commissioner Thom Petersen presented the awards. 

MGA Retailer of the Year
MGA Retailer of the Year contest

The winning store entries were selected based by region and on a variety of criteria including the number of Minnesota Grown products and how they were promoted to customers. 

This year’s winners include:

  • Northwest: Hugo’s Family Marketplace, East Grand Forks
  • Northeast: Chris’ Food Center, Sandstone
  • West Central: Elden’s Fresh Foods, Alexandria
  • Southeast: Nilssen’s Foods, Zumbrota
  • Southwest: Mackenthun’s Fine Foods, Waconia
  • Twin Cities: Kowalski’s Market, Grand Avenue
  • People’s Choice: Festival Foods, Hugo 

The annual Bag Hunger Campaign is a statewide campaign coordinated annually by the MGA. The 2023 effort donated more than 1.5 million meals across the state. Over the last 15 years, it has provided more than 44 million meals to families in Minnesota.

The Bag Hunger Campaign awards Silver Plates to companies that create in-store displays and promote ending hunger. These companies receive awards and cash donations to their local food charity partner. A total of $16,500 will be donated to local charity partners across the state.

The winners are:

  • Best Creative Partnerships
    • Hugo’s Family Marketplace and Russ Davis Wholesale
    • Kowalski’s Market and Russ Davis Wholesale
    • Lunds & Byerlys, Post Consumer Brands, and Prairie Farms Dairy
  • Best Campaign Execution Silver Plate
    • Teal’s Market
  • Best Innovative Marketing Silver Plate
    • Knowlan’s Super Markets, Inc.
  • Best Community Hunger Support Silver Plate
    • Mackenthun’s Fine Foods

The Bag Hunger Campaign Champions were also highlighted:

  • Aldi Inc.
  • Chris’ Food Center
  • Cub Foods
  • Super One Foods/Miner’s Inc.
  • Rush Foods Inc.

The event concluded with a presentation from Michael Sansolo, a retail food industry consultant. He provided insight into today’s workforce challenges.

“We are so proud to have the diverse community of the food industry in one room,” Pfuhl said. “It’s great to acknowledge and celebrate our peers. Together, we learn to be the best we can be for the communities we serve and the entire state of Minnesota.”

About MGA 

The Minnesota Grocers Association is the only state trade association that represents the food industry of Minnesota from farm to fork. It is a legacy organization, having served the industry for more than 125 years. It has more than 300 retail, manufacturer and wholesale members supporting about 1,300 locations statewide. Its member companies employ more than 150,000 union and non-union Minnesotans.

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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