Niemann Foods to Take Part in NGA Foundation’s Student Case Study Competition

College students grapple real-life retail challenges in annual contest
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Student Case Study Competition teams will analyze what currently sets independent grocery retailers apart – traditionally, superior fresh departments – and whether that will be enough in the future, or if they should shift to turnkey tech solutions.

The NGA Foundation (NGAF), the 501(c)3 nonprofit arm of the National Grocers Association (NGA), has revealed that Niemann Foods Inc. will be the participating retailer in the 2024 Student Case Study Competition. Hosted annually by NGAF, the competition brings college students from across the United States to the NGA Show, where they present solutions to an issue currently affecting the independent grocery industry. The program enables students to interact with an independent grocer and gain real-life experience. Participants progress through three rounds of judging from food industry professionals, and the winners and their schools receive a cash prize.  

The Student Case Study topic this year is “Maintaining a Competitive Edge.” Student teams will analyze what currently sets independent grocery retailers apart – traditionally, superior fresh departments – and whether that will be enough in the future, or if they should shift to artificial intelligence, retail media or other turnkey tech solutions designed for smaller operators to make them better able to compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace. The 2024 competition will take place during The NGA Show, scheduled for March 10-12 at Caesars Forum Convention Center, in Las Vegas.

[Read more: “Indies Envision Future at NGA Event”]

“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,” noted Gerry Kettler, director of consumer affairs at Quincy, Ill.-based 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.” 

Founded in 1917, Niemann Foods owns and operates more than 130 supermarkets, pharmacies, convenience, pet and hardware stores under such banners as County Market, Harvest Market, Haymakers, Ace Hardware, Pet Supplies Plus and Save-A-Lot in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin. 

The NGA Foundation Student Case Study Competition aims to advance the professional development of collegiate students pursuing degrees in food and retail programs and gives student teams the opportunity to creatively address a real-world issue of importance to the grocery industry. Each year, an independent retailer is chosen as the subject of the competition, providing a budget and relevant details to aid in the 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.”

Added Kirk Clark, chairman of the NGAF board of regents and director of merchandising at Albertville, Ala.-based Mitchell Grocery Corp.: “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.”

Washington, D.C.-based NGA is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale community grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry.

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