Published on: February 27, 2023
Today, some thoughts about what I learned from the technology tracks at the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show in Las Vegas.
Also from the National Grocers Association Show…
• NGA presented its Thomas K. Zaucha Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence to Jeff Strack, president and CEO of Indiana-based Strack & Van Til. The award, sponsored by Mondelēz International Inc., recognizes an independent retailer that demonstrates "persistence, vision and creative entrepreneurship."
• NGA presented NGA board member Rick Brindle, vice president of industry development at Mondelēz, with its Industry Service Award in recognition "of his years of service in the food industry toward better working relations and understanding between retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers."
• NGA said that it "sent a letter to White House officials asking for a convening of stakeholders to address the growing problem of the exclusion of independent grocers and their customers from important health benefit programs funded by health insurance plans."
According to the letter, "Private health plans, including Medicare Advantage health plans, are increasingly issuing supplemental health benefit cards that allow policyholders to purchase healthy foods in grocery stores. Unfortunately, these restricted-spend cards are preventing these individuals from shopping where they choose and excluding the entire independent grocery segment from program delivery.”
NGA said that "although consumer demand in health and wellness categories continues to boom, barriers such as cost and access pose significant challenges for shoppers, especially in the current inflationary environment. Supplemental health benefits are a solution to addressing costs, as well as bolstering preventive care and addressing chronic illness through nutrition incentives and healthy eating guidance. Despite the growth in these public-private programs, the benefits offered, which are typically distributed on a card, are not currently interoperable between retailers.
"“NGA supports these types of programs as we understand the growing importance of healthy eating behaviors to prevent serious chronic diseases. But to date, independents have largely been cut out of these programs and are turning their customers away because they are denied technology needed to process these new benefits."
• NGA said that it has provided comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on its proposed rule on revisions to food packages in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
In a letter sent to WIC Administration Chief Allison Post, NGA suggested improvements to the WIC food package that can help increase retailer participation as well as food access for WIC beneficiaries.
NGA said that it "supports many of the food package expansions proposed by the USDA including expanded product offerings, pack size flexibility, product substitutions and 'up to' amounts. These changes will improve the shopping experience for customers and ensure that retailers are better able to meet their needs.
"NGA did take issue with state-level stocking requirements the proposed package expansion. 'Over the years, NGA members have struggled and have been penalized for not meeting state-level stocking requirements. These requirements often lead to food waste and economic losses for stores,' Stephanie Johnson, NGA vice president of government relations, wrote in the comments. 'We suggest creating an essential foods package with reasonable stocking requirements and an optional foods package with foods that are encouraged and allowed to be sold but do not have stringent stocking requirements. This will allow our members to meet the needs of their communities while also reducing food waste and economic losses'."
NGA urged the USDA "to consider emergency substitutions when finalizing the rule."