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Minnesota Grocers Celebrate Their Own Industry Champions

State association honors food industry’s positive impact on communities
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Minnesota Grocers Association Awards
Donald Ericson received the 2024 MGA Industry Ambassador Award during the association's Champions Luncheon.

The Minnesota Grocers Association (MGA) hosted its Champions Luncheon on April 16 at the Omni Viking Lakes Hotel, in Eagan, Minn., to showcase the food industry’s positive impact on communities. 

For instance, MGA presented its 2024 Industry Ambassador Award to Donald Ericson, co-founder of the Facebook Public Group known as Grocery Store Fanatics. This award is given to an individual who goes above and beyond to elevate the grocery industry. They use their voice to capture what's great about the grocery business, its workforce, its products and the passion within it.

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“The MGA is so proud to recognize the dedication and passion of Donald,” said Jamie Pfuhl, MGA president. “Donald has enthusiasm for all things grocery. He and his dear friend Liz Nerud visit stores daily and bring their welcoming smiles and ever-present joy wherever they go.”

During the event, the Minnesota Grown program also revealed the winners of its Retailer of the Year Contest in partnership with the MGA and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. This annual contest showcases the importance of bringing local products to market. The winning individual store entries were selected by region on a variety of criteria, including the number of Minnesota Grown products and how they were promoted to customers. This year’s winners are:

  • Northwest: Hugo’s Family Marketplace, East Grand Forks
  • Northeast: Chris’ Food Center, Sandstone
  • West Central: Elden’s Fresh Foods, Alexandria
  • Southeast: Nilssen’s Foods, Zumbrota
  • Southwest: Mackenthun’s Fine Foods, Waconia
  • Twin Cities: Kowalski’s Market, Grand Avenue
  • People’s Choice: Festival Foods, Hugo

MGA also presented its Bag Hunger Campaign awards. The annual Bag Hunger Campaign is a state-wide campaign coordinated annually by the MGA that engages Minnesotans in the fight to end hunger in their neighborhoods. The 2023 campaign donated more than 1.5 million meals across the state, and in the past 15 years has provided 44 million-plus meals to hungry families in Minnesota.

The Bag Hunger Campaign awards Silver Plates to companies that create in-store displays and promote ending hunger. These companies receive awards and cash donations to their local food charity partner. A total of $16,500 will be donated to local charity partners across the state. Awards were given to the following:

  • Best Creative Partnerships:
    • Hugo’s Family Marketplace and Russ Davis Wholesale
    • Kowalski’s Market and Russ Davis Wholesale
    • Lunds & Byerlys, Post Consumer Brands, and Prairie Farms Dairy
  • Best Campaign Execution Silver Plate: Teal’s Market
  • Best Innovative Marketing Silver Plate: Knowlan’s Super Markets Inc.
  • Best Community Hunger Support Silver Plate: Mackenthun’s Fine Foods

The Bag Hunger Campaign Champions were also highlighted:

  • ALDI Inc.
  • Chris’ Food Center
  • Cub Foods
  • Super One Foods/Miner’s Inc.
  • Rush Foods Inc.

“We are so proud to have the diverse community of the food industry in one room,” said Pfuhl. “It’s great to acknowledge and celebrate our peers. Together, we learn to be the best we can be for the communities we serve and the entire state of Minnesota.”

The MGA is the only state trade association that represents the food industry of Minnesota from farm to fork. It actively advances the common interest of all of those engaged in any aspect of the food industry as an advocate in government affairs. MGA has more than 300 retail, manufacturer and wholesale members supporting nearly 1,300 locations statewide. Member companies employ 150,000-plus union and non-union Minnesotans. 

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