LAS VEGAS — Produce was scarce on the show floor at the National Grocers Association annual convention, but those who exhibited said the interactions they had were fruitful.

The NGA, based in Arlington, Va., is the trade organization for independent retailers, from single store operators to multi-store banners like those represented by the Independent Grocers Alliance.

The trade show had excellent traffic, said Geoff Koontz director of marketing for Sterilox Food Safety, Malvern, Pa.
“It’s hard to get to retailers like these for sales calls,” Koontz said. “They’re very spread out and it’s cost prohibitive.”

Produce exhibitors thin, but opportunities abound at retail show

Pamela Riemenschneider

Thang Nguyen, right, a bagger for Publix Super Markets Inc., competes in the 25th annual Best Bagger contest at the National Grocers Association convention in Las Vegas.

Decision makers also walk the show floor, he said, making it easy to do business in person, instead of weeks and months of follow up calls.

“These are the guys whose names are on the store banner,” Don Knickerbocker, vice president of supermarket sales for Amerlux Global Lighting Solutions, Fairfield, N.J. “There are definitely more of the decision makers here.”

The NGA’s annual convention drew about 2,000 attendees, said Karen Voorhies, director of concept show management.

When combined with attendees from the National Meat Association’s co-located event, attendance was around 2,800.

Also at the convention was the 25th annual best bagger contest. Finalists from 21 states competed for the $10,000 grand prize and the title of “America’s Best Bagger”. This year’s winner was Krystal Smith of Hannaford Supermarket in Burlington Vermont.

The event is the culmination of a year-long nationwide program that features local and regional bagging contests.

The NGA hopes to boost its produce presence among trade show exhibitors as well as educational content in the coming years, said Peter Larkin, president and chief executive officer.

“We definitely want to have more of a produce presence,” he said.

The NGA is working with the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association to identify opportunities for future shows.

Next year’s show is scheduled for Feb. 13-16 at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.