Trends and Topics at the 2019 NGA Show

March 11, 2019

The NGA Show wrapped up its 2019 event in San Diego last week with a wide range of takeaways for attendees. Here are some insights from the sessions, workshops, and award presentations.

Retaining Talent: The NGA Show included several workshops aimed at attracting millennials to the supermarket industry, and this topic was the focus of this year’s NGA Student Case Study Competition. The winner of the competition, Saint Joseph’s University, completed a case study of Stepherson’s Superlo, an independent in Memphis, Tennessee. Their study found that a focus on culture, associate relationships (including mentorship programs and community give-back days), and having a strong leadership development program, were key to attracting and retaining millennial talent.

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“As you embark on your careers, you are ready for this industry, and we welcome you. Don’t forget to find your voice, because your opinions are extremely important to industry leaders.” – Moderator of the Student Case Study Competition, Joe Dellanoce, a consultant with UNFI/SuperValu

Marketing and Merchandising: The annual Creative Choice Awards highlighted a range of great marketing and merchandising strategies. Among the insights, YouTube is becoming more of a force for independent retailers and creative print publications are performing well for independents.

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“Independent grocers are implementing amazing campaigns and initiatives each and every day in their stores that set them apart from their competition.” – Peter Larkin, president and CEO of NGA.

Specialty Foods: One of the fastest growing segments of the supermarket industry. Organic, free from/clean ingredients, health and wellness, special diets, and plant-based are becoming more popular. Independents are in a unique position to capitalize on this trend.

“These are some important growth areas for independents considering adding more space in stores for specialty foods. You should prioritize high growth categories.”Dan Funk, EVP, Marketing and Sales, Associated Wholesale Grocers

Mobile Momentum: A recent study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council examined the e-commerce landscape and determined that retailers need to focus on mobile devices and a seamless omnichannel experience for customers.

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“Consumers are using mobile more and more for transactions. Supermarkets are launching mobile apps more than ever before. Many consumers use digital tools before, during and after a visit to a supermarket. These multiple touch points provide opportunities for grocers to engage with shoppers.” – Dennis Host, VP, Marketing and Sales, Coborn’s

Omnichannel Imperatives: Retailers need to create seamless omnichannel experiences for their customers. A range of strategies are necessary to achieve this, from understanding a customer’s shopping journey to identifying key retail channels.

“You need to understand the data, but you also need to know customers as people, and no one can do that as well as independent retailers.” Suri Mishra, VP, Services, Merchants Distributors LLC (MDI)

Rebuilding the Supermarket Experience: Physical stores can meet future consumer expectations through a combination of technology and ‘people’ strategies. Technology is important, and retailers need to be ready for change, but human touch will be essential as well.  

“We have a cheese monger, an artisan bread salesman, and a seafood and meat specialists. Customers are looking for these things. They want the interactions. These will always be differentiators.” – Bob Harmon, VP, The Customer, Harmon City

For more information about The NGA Show, please visit:

Save the Date for next year’s NGA Show: February 23 – 26, 2020 in sunny San Diego, CA