College students develop strategies for real-life retail challenges in annual contest
Washington, D.C. – The NGA Foundation, the 501(c)3 nonprofit arm of the National Grocers Association, is pleased to announce that Quincy, Ill.-based Niemann Foods Inc. will be the participating retailer in the 2024 Student Case Study Competition.
Hosted annually by the NGA Foundation, the Student Case Study Competition brings college 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 students 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, and the winners and their schools receive a cash prize.
The 2024 Student Case Study topic is “Maintaining a Competitive Edge.” Student teams will analyze what currently sets independent grocery retailers apart and if that will be enough in the future, or if a shift will be needed. The 2024 competition will be held during The NGA Show, March 10-12, at Caesars Forum Convention Center in Las Vegas.
“It’s a great honor for Niemann Foods to play such an important role in the learning experience of students pursuing careers in the grocery industry,” said Gerry Kettler, director of consumer affairs at Niemann Foods and chairman of the Niemann Foods Foundation. “We are excited to see the ideas that emerge and the students’ impressions of independent grocers, who are such a unique and important part of the nation’s food distribution system.”
Dating back to 1917, Niemann Foods owns and operates more than 130 supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience, pet and hardware stores under several banners including County Market, Harvest Market, Haymakers, Ace Hardware, Pet Supplies Plus and Save-A-Lot in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.
To take on their topic, students will consider the following information:
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 fresh produce, deli items, meat, seafood and local products, leveraging relationships with local suppliers as a point of differentiation. 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 or other turnkey solutions designed for smaller operators – to make them more competitive amid an increasingly crowded marketplace?
The NGA Foundation Student Case Study Competition strives to further the professional development of collegiate students pursuing degrees in food and retail programs and provides student teams the opportunity to creatively address a real-world issue currently impacting the industry. Each year, an independent retailer is selected as the subject of the competition, providing a budget and relevant details to aid in students’ presentation. Previous retailers have included Dierbergs, Woodman’s Food Markets, Karns Quality Foods and Buehler’s Fresh Foods.
Last year’s winning student team came from Auburn University in Alabama. “Being able to create strategies and real-life solutions for an established grocery business provided invaluable experience for these students,” said Tyler Morgan, assistant professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management at Auburn’s Harbert College of Business. “The opportunity to network with industry professionals at the NGA Show is also a great asset of the NGA Foundation’s student program.”
Kirk Clark, chairman of the NGAF Board of Regents and director of merchandising at Albertville, Ala.-based Mitchell Grocery Corp., added, “The immersion of students in the operations of an NGA member retailer creates a learning experience that’s hard to beat. NGAF is honored to play a role in the growth and development of our industry’s future leaders.”
More information can be found at https://www.nationalgrocers.org/foundation/student-case-study-competition/.