Student Case Study Competition

The NGA Foundation student case study competition brings students from across the country to the NGA Show where they present solutions to an issue currently impacting the independent grocery industry. The program allows student teams to interact with an independent grocer and ground their education with real-life experience. Participants move through three rounds of judging from food industry professionals. The winners and their schools receive a cash prize.

Each year, an independent retailer is selected as the subject of the competition, providing a budget and relevant details to aid in students' presentation.

How to Compete

2024 Case Study Topic: Maintaining a Competitive Edge


Independent grocers have a rich history of innovation, community involvement and customer-centric services. In particular, independent grocers have a distinct advantage in providing enhanced selections of produce, deli items, meat, seafood and local products. Through a strong emphasis on the quality of their fresh departments, smaller grocers have managed to stay competitive even while operating at a technological and pricing disadvantage compared to large chain, big-box and discount retailers. While fresh has been the traditional differentiator for independents, will this be enough to maintain their edge into the future? Or should independents explore other investments – such as technology, AI, retail media, private label brands, alternative store formats or other turnkey solutions designed for smaller operators – to make them more competitive amid an increasingly crowded marketplace?

  1. Do future customers’ preferences support continued investments in the fresh category?
  2. How do independents continue to drive in-person sales in the future while growing their digital presence to deliver an integrated shopping experience?
  3. How will independents differentiate themselves in the next 10 years (artificial intelligence, retail media, private label brands, alternative store formats, etc.)?
  4. Depending on what you think will be the future differentiating factor, design a strategy to maintain a competitive edge.
Thank you to our 2024 Retail Partner Niemann Foods, Inc.

Sponsorship support provided by

Past Case Study Topics

See below topics from previous Student Case Study Competitions.

Winning Team
2023 Employee Recruitment & Retention    Auburn
2022 Navigating Omnichannel Sales for Today and in the Future   Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
2021 Remaining Competitive under Covid-19 Economic & Supply Chain Challenges
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
2020 Communicating SNAP Point of Sale Incentives
Western Michigan University
2019 Hiring and retaining millennials or multicultural associates 
Saint Joe's University
2018 Inspiring healthy living among employees and shoppers
Saint Joe's University
2017 How to attract millennial consumers 
Saint Joe's University & Western Michigan University
2016 What is a successful e-commerce model for a 4-store independent?
Saint Joe's University
2015 What will be the next generation of retail circulars?  Western Michigan University
2014 Address the challenges and opportunities “Local” offers independent grocers Arizona State University
2013 Growing Market Share in a Mature Industry and Increasingly Competitive Environment Saint Joe's University


Thank you to some of our previous Retail Partners

Woodman's Markets