Being able to participate in the National Grocers Association (NGA) Annual Convention in Las Vegas had provided me a valuable experience that I could never get out of the classroom. This opportunity allowed me to work on real-life problems and interact with professionals in the food industry. This wonderful experience opened my eyes to the real world and prepared me for my career in the food retail industry.
I found my passion in food and agriculture when I started my Applied Economics bachelor program at the University of Minnesota. Having lived in a fast-paced and finance-focused city, Hong Kong, for 17 years, I thought that the only way to become successful in this competitive job market is to get into the finance, banking, and stock market. However, being able to study under College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and to work with Dr. Boland and Lisa Jore at The Food Industry Center as a research assistant, has changed my mind. As I learned more about agricultural and food science, I began to shift my interest toward the food industry.
This case competition gave me a chance to work in the real world and how to communicate with real professionals, which include those coming from the corporate offices and those who are working in the retail stores. In addition, I learned about how food companies work internally and how they attract potential customers to shop at their stores instead of big box retailers, such as Wal-Mart. I also had a chance to hear professionals talk about marketing strategies and skills.
The most that I have gained during the convention is the mentor program. I was able to team up with a professional, of SuperValu, that had more than 30 years of experience in the food industry, with the same specialty that I am focusing on at school. He taught me a lot of things behind the retail store, such as how lighting, cases, and space can influence the overall impression on customers. He taught me that, "Equipment and people are as important as the quality of the products".
Throughout my college life and my experience in NGA, I realized there is such a closely-tied connection within the food industry. I also realized that working in the food industry is not just about earning money, but providing consumers with safe-to-eat and sufficient supply of foods for their daily needs. At the end, I would like to thank Dr.Boland, Lisa Jore, SuperValu, and Lunds and Byerly's for giving assistance and valuable input to our team and making all these happen. I would encourage all students to apply for this competition and gain all these valuable experiences that I had!