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SN 5 questions with greg ferrara.png National Grocers Association

5 questions with NGA's Greg Ferrara

The NGA show is almost upon us: SN sat down with Ferrara to talk about the state of the industry

The annual NGA show is almost upon us (Feb. 26-28 in Las Vegas), and SN sat down with National Grocers Association (NGA) President and CEO Greg Ferrara to tune in about the show, as well as the state of the industry.

Supermarket News: Tell us about the focus of this year’s NGA show? What’s the general feeling among grocers right now?

Greg Ferrara: We're looking to build upon the momentum that we've had throughout 2022. We've had substantial membership growth and we are on track to have another very strong year in terms of membership retention into 2023. We are looking to continue the work that we've been doing on behalf of our members around competition and antitrust, ensuring that we get enforcement of the Robinson-Patman Act. [A U.S. antitrust law preventing large franchises and chains from engaging in price discrimination against small businesses.] We also had a very successful year on Capitol Hill.

SN: What are some of the biggest challenges grocers have faced this past year and what are some of the biggest opportunities looking ahead?

GF: Coming out of the pandemic, we continue to face challenges around food inflation, continued challenges around labor. Certainly, supply chain challenges, while they have gotten better, also still exist in some categories. And quite often there’s no rhyme or reason to which categories are experiencing challenges. But I think what’s been great about particularly independents over the past few years since all of this began is that they have learned how to adapt.

SN: Can you get a little more specific about how we’ve been seeing grocers curbing inflation? Is that translating to more private label?

GF: You’re absolutely seeing a shift to private label. And private label in 2022 and 2023 is not the private label of 2008. We’ve seen so much growth in those categories. There are so many more brands in stores, that consumers perception around those brands has changed favorably, quite frankly. And so, we're seeing grocers take advantage of those opportunities throughout their stores. It’s also about convenience. Grocers are using their delis and prepared food sections to cater to those consumers looking for great value to create an experience for their families at home.

SN: The Kroger, Albertsons merger. What are you hearing from your membership? Is there real concern there?

GF: Our members have been very vocal with us around this, and they’re really focused on two key areas. One: it reinforces how important it is to have enforcement of our antitrust laws, and particularly the Robinson-Patman Act. You know, our members have told us that it’s like: Here’s another example of two very large companies proposing to come together, which is going to create another very large power buyer in the grocery marketplace that is going to exasperate the problems that we’ve experienced for decades.

If this deal moves forward, it must include robust enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws. And look, that’s not just important for consumers. That’s not just important for grocers. That’s important for manufacturers and suppliers. Those manufacturers and suppliers often are not able to say maybe what they would want to say publicly, but they’re feeling the squeeze, and ultimately more competition and marketplace is good for suppliers.

But the other key point of this is if this deal goes through, there is going to be a divestiture of stores and we believe those stores quite frankly should go to really good operating, independent grocers. We want these stores to be successful. We want these communities to have competition. And so, we’re very much focused on that opportunity and we want to make sure that if this goes forward, that the FTC gets it right.

SN: Pivoting to just the show itself, what are the programming highlights?

GF: We’re really excited about 2023. We’ll have a focus on financial and market trends, creative recruiting, data-driven marketing, ecommerce, and the next generation of fresh. We are also excited this year to once again be co-locating the show along with the Global Rally of the Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA). So, we will have finally now, post-COVID, a great international contingent that will be at the show. And then also, the Indoor AG-CON show. This is the vertical farming industry — they had a fantastic show co-locating with us last year, and so they will also be here with us again.

It will be an event where, when people go home, they will have, I think, very much feel that they got their dollars’ worth in terms of the investment. It’s just really one of the the most highly rated industry events, and we’re proud to continue that trend.

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