NGA Focuses on Fresh for Independent Grocers

Supermarket fresh departments were in the spotlight for nearly 100 operations-focused grocery leaders attending the National Grocers Association’s 2024 Store Operations Summit: Focus on Fresh.

The summit was sponsored by Aperion, Citrus America, RSA America, and the NGA Foundation Technical Assistance Center.

Attendees found the Focus on Fresh summit, held June 17-19, 2024, in New Orleans, to be a worthwhile experience.

“Fresh is a priority for independent grocers, and the content presented during NGA’s Store Operations Summit showed just how many opportunities exist for retailers looking to push their perimeters to the next level,” said Price Mabry, VP of sales and marketing at the Roberts Co., owner of Corner Market.

“Hearing these experts and sharing ideas with peers working toward common goals was time well spent,” Mabry noted.

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Summit content, delivered by industry experts, including retailers, analysts, and trading partners, encompassed all aspects of the supermarket’s fresh perimeter.

Melissa Rodriguez, team lead for client insights at Circana, explored strategies for independent grocers to leverage trends and innovations and moderated a panel of New Orleans-area retailers discussing innovative ways to unlock deli sales and loyalty by creating a culinary destination.

Focus on Fresh Sessions

From a food-centric perspective, sessions delved into driving sales with value-added meats, strategies for a successful seafood department, and innovations for the in-store bakery. Operations sessions explored harnessing technology to drive efficiency, reduce shrinkage, and save expenses in the deli.

People-focused sessions included “Cultivating Talent: Strategies to Recruit and Retain for Fresh Departments,” which advised grocers on how to attract, develop, and retain skilled staff for sustained growth and exceptional customer experiences, presented by Cori Albers from Associated Wholesale Grocers and Carol Loy of Harps Food Stores.

“Tapping Into Opportunity: Reaching Hispanic Consumers” discussed how to align with Hispanic consumers’ culinary preferences for market success, presented by Michael DaVita from Wakefern Food Corp. and Art Perez with Leevers Supermarkets.

Additional Focus on Fresh sessions demonstrated ways to drive produce sales among SNAP recipients as well as how to connect with customers through SNAP Online, with discussions guided by members of the NGA Foundation SEMTAC team, as well as independent grocer Jimmy Wright of Wright’s Market and Brian Framson from Citrus America.

Store tours were another highlight of this year’s Focus on Fresh summit. Attendees visited five stores in the greater New Orleans area, including two Rouses Markets locations, Robert Fresh Market and Lakeview Grocery, and Zuppardo’s Family Market in nearby Metairie.

NGA’s series of store operations events is designed to provide independent grocers – owners, managers, and directors of operations, merchandising, and purchasing – with actionable insights through a deep dive into operations with industry leaders.

The interactive educational experiences include in-store experiences, industry guest speakers, and networking.

“Fresh departments are sparking customer interest and boosting sales for independent grocers. Retailers can generate even more excitement and success by leveraging the insights delivered by the experts at Focus on Fresh,” said Greg Ferrara, NGA president and CEO. “We look forward to the next opportunity to build upon what we have learned to help our attendees enhance their operations.”