KALAMAZOO—A team of Western Michigan University students won the 2014 National Grocers Association University Case Competition, earning the top spot for creating a locally focused marketing strategy for an independent grocer in Ohio.
The competition, designed to further the professional development of students, brought together food and retail marketing students from 10 universities during an annual industry conference Feb. 8-12 in Las Vegas. Fourteen students represented WMU, with a team of seniors taking home the top prize of $8,000, which will support scholarships and programming.
The winning team
- Daniel Tyranski of West Bloomfield, Mich., integrated supply management major
- Jessica Roerig of Caledonia, Mich., food and consumer package goods marketing major
- Hanna Downs of Novi, Mich., food and consumer package goods and integrated supply management double major
- Douglas Wheelright of Comstock, Mich., food and consumer package goods marketing major
A broad team effort
While the four students represented WMU at the competition, it took a broad effort to prepare for the event.
"Unlike previous years where we had up to six teams from our program compete against each other to decide who would go to the case competition, this year we decided to assemble a team of 14 students from our program and have them all work together instead of against each other," says Dr. Frank Gambino, director of the food and consumer package goods marketing program. "The students were broken into content areas and each content group worked on a specific area necessary to answer the case problem. As we got closer to the actual case competition, faculty selected a presentation team from the larger group of students."
This is a first win for WMU at the NGA competition, which began in 2010.
"The win was really unexpected," Roerig says. "I knew going into this competition that we had a great idea and spectacular teammates, but I also knew we had tough competition, including MBA students. I'm so proud of our professors for pushing us and of the whole team for delivering two great presentations."
Wheelwright says the cohesiveness of the WMU contingent set it apart.
"The closeness and friendships of our team gave us an edge over our competition," Wheelwright says. "We greeted stress and conflict with open arms because we knew we were all in it together. On the day of the presentation, we kept things light because we knew we had done all the preparation we could."
That preparation was put to the test when the team's computer failed during its presentation to the judges.
"Our computer shut off and we were left to present without our slides," Downs says. "Without the practice and preparation hours we put in, I do not think we would have handled that situation as well as we did."
Tyranski adds that the technology problem demonstrated the team's expertise.
"We continued the presentation without skipping a beat," he says, "and I believe we were able to showcase our preparation and true understanding of our information through this issue."
About the program
WMU is one of the premier universities in the country offering a four-year business degree specializing in food and consumer package goods marketing. The major prepares students for sales, research, marketing and management positions with food and consumer package goods firms and related organizations.
The National Grocers Association
The National Grocers Association is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. An independent retailer is a privately owned or controlled food retail company operating in a variety of formats. The independent grocery sector is accountable for close to 1 percent of the nation's overall economy and is responsible for generating $131 billion in annual sales, 944,000 jobs, $30 billion in wages and $27 billion in taxes. NGA members include retail and wholesale grocers, state grocers associations, as well as manufacturers and service suppliers.