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PFMA Conference Highlights Food Industry Trends

PFMA conference
From left to right: Andrea Karns, Patrick Andrews, and Alex Baloga

Last updated on June 3rd, 2024 at 08:29 am

The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association (PFMA) welcomed industry leaders for its annual conference May 7-8 at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square.

“It’s always a joy to unite our new members with long-standing partners for a rich blend of connection and education,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA. 

“This year, we grew our mini trade show to 14 vendors and had four enlightening sessions that touched on artificial intelligence, the PA Preferred program, branding and training.”

The event opened May 7 with the association’s annual and wholesalers’ meetings, followed by the show. Fourteen vendors — ranging from meat manufacturers and energy providers to insurance firms and tech companies providing digital services — showcased their offerings.

Vendors were: Facility Cleaning Solutions, Federated Insurance, Healthy Brand Oil, Liquid Barcodes, MAG Industries, Med Free Living, Milazzo Industries Inc., Ready Training Online, RS Mowery, Shelfmark, Sushi Awarsei, Weaver’s of Wellsville, Westfield Egg Farm/Nature’s Yoke and World Kinect.

Attendees also were offered free headshots courtesy of the Webber/Smith Group. And on the morning of May 8, Painterland Sisters treated members to samples of organic skyr yogurt.

Patrick Andrews, division chief of markets at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, gave a keynote address on the benefits of the PA Preferred program during the first night’s dinner.

Andrews discussed the various aspects of the program, including Homegrown By Heroes for PA Preferred members who are veterans; the Farm to School Network connecting local farmers with neighboring schools; and the new PA Preferred Organic designation, which was signed into law last fall by Gov. Josh Shapiro.

[RELATED: PFMA Adds Wawa’s Simonetti As New Board Member]

On May 8, attendees reconvened for three panel discussions presented by representatives of member organizations.

“Building a Successful Brand: Strategies for standing out and staying relevant in an increasingly crowded marketplace” with Gary Henderson, Facility Cleaning Solutions; Chris Rowley, Milo’s Tea Co.; and Chris Mitchell, Solution Sales and Marketing. The panel was moderated by Maria Maggio of Food Trade News.

“Leveraging AI in the Food Industry: Practical ways to use artificial intelligence to improve your business operations” with Hande Ergen, Sheetz; Patrick Iannotti, Price Chopper; and Manohar Patwardhan, Intelistics. The panel was moderated by Michael Howells of PFMA.

“Developing Your Team: How mentorship and training can optimize your workforce” with Jeff Kahler, Ready Training Online; Allen King, Rutter’s; Michael Pellito, Seltzer’s Smokehouse Meats; and Jim Rowell, Rising Sun Consultants. The panel was moderated by Larissa Newton of PFMA.

Board of Directors Changes

Prior to the start of the conference, the PFMA Board of Directors approved four new directors:

  • Laura Bracey, director of operations, Bracey’s Supermarket;
  • Matt Durand, VP of corporate affairs, EG America;
  • Nicholas Kutch, director of sales, professional services, UNFI; and
  • Dave Webb, northeast region manager, industry engagement, Altria.

In addition, the board approved its new executive officers for a two-year term.

  • Chair: Andrea Karns, VP of sales and marketing, Karns Foods;
  • Vice Chair: Ryan Redner, president, Redner’s Markets;
  • Treasurer: Chris Reed, general counsel, Rutter’s; and
  • Secretary: Mike Gould, president, Core-Mark International, Pennsylvania Division.

To view photos from the event, click here. PFMA’s next event will be the 2024 Fall Legislative Conference, set for Oct. 29-30 at the Hershey Country Club.

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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