Industry Insights for Independent Grocers

By Amanda Garris Ph.D. ’04

Ed McLaughlin teaching a class
Ed McLaughlin, the Robert G. Tobin Professor of Marketing in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and director of the Cornell Food Industry Management Program, teaching an executive program group. Photo: Robert Barker/University Photography

With 75% of supermarket sales captured by chains, independent grocers face stiff competition for consumers’ grocery dollars. A new program offered by the Cornell Food Industry Management Program (FIMP) this September will focus on strategies for sustainability in this key market niche.

“We are partnering with the National Grocers Association, which has always had an interest in sustainability,” said Bill Drake, B.S. ’79, senior extension associate and director of FIMP executive education. “The focus will be on sustaining profits through specific strategies, including how they can cater to the local community and follow consumer trends to differentiate themselves from the chains.” 

The new program, Strategies for the Independent Grocer, is one of seven annual programs offered by the FIMP in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. The portfolio of executive training and leadership programs targets food retailers, food manufacturers, wholesalers and growers. Another new program for future leaders in the produce industry debuted last November.

“While there are executive education options for mid-level managers and CEOs, we noticed there was nothing for emerging leaders, so our target audience was produce distributors, growers and shippers ages 22 to 30,” said Edward McLaughlin, the Robert G. Tobin Professor of Marketing and director of the FIMP.

In the crowded field of executive education, McLaughlin credits their success and longevity—the signature FIMP program has been offered since 1962—to programming tailored to specialized sectors within the food industry. Drake noted that it also provides a valuable opportunity for networking and eventual research collaboration, benefits affirmed by graduates of the program.

“The program allowed for meaningful engagement, collaboration and the building of productive relationships with other industry leaders from across the country,” said Doug Eley, director of shelf merchandising services with Delhaize America, who attended the Cornell Food Executive Program in 2015.