PFMA Highlights, Trends, and Updates in Food Retail During Annual Conference

CAMP HILL, PA — Pennsylvania food and beverage industry leaders gathered at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square during a two-day Annual Conference hosted by the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association (PFMA) earlier this week. 

“Our Annual Conference provides valuable time for us to connect with our members and sponsors to discuss what is happening in the food and beverage industries,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of PFMA. “These events always provide attendees with valuable insight from the most innovative leaders in the industry. This year we also had guest speakers from the WIC program and Auditor General Tim DeFoor, who had valuable information to share on state and federal issues affecting our industry.” 

Prior to the conference kickoff, the PFMA Board of Directors approved new board members. Newly added members of the board include Jason Bassett, Director of Government Affairs for Sheetz, Tom Gumkowski, Vice President of Business Development for Tripifoods, Inc., Jess Reese, VP of Sales, Small Format and Value for UTZ Snacks and Tim Murray, Manager, Industry Engagement for Altria Group Distribution Company. 

Baloga shared all the great work that the association has been able to accomplish over the past few months since the last board meeting during the Fall Legislative Meeting and thanked everyone for their board service. 

The conference commenced with a mini-trade show where 12 vendors showcased their products and had lively conversations with association members and guests. Vendors included Dri Mark Products, Facility Cleaning Solutions, Federated Insurance, Healthy Brand Oil, Westfield Egg Farm, Poly Craft, Portogallo Peppers, PWI/Tank Installers, The Webber/Smith Group, TripiFoods, Watchfire Signs, and World Kinect Energy. 

The association welcomed attendees to a cocktail hour and dinner Tuesday evening. During dinner, PFMA presented the 2023 Food Industry Trailblazer Award to Andrea Karns, vice president of Marketing and Sales for Karns Quality Foods. Association members also honored the 2022 Thomas R. and Laura Ridge Scholarship awardees with a special message from Governor Tom Ridge. 

An excerpt from Governor Tom Ridge’s letter read, “Students, you stood out among hundreds of applicants. Congratulations on being selected by our panel of judges. You represent some of our brightest young minds, and I am proud to award you this scholarship. Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning, and I hope your candle continues to burn and your quest for knowledge never ends. Pennsylvania and our nation need bright minds like yours.” 

Wednesday opened with a panel presentation from Federal and State officials updating the association on WIC initiatives and changes. Panelists featured officials from Supplemental Food Programs at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services, PA WIC Programs, and the Bureau of WIC. 

The second session of the conference covered industry trends and included leaders from Square One Markets, Inc., Karns Quality Foods, and Flashfood. 

In the final session, we uncovered the right approach to attracting and retaining customers with leaders from UNFI, Pa Dairymen’s Association, and Seltzer’s Smokehouse Meats. 

To conclude PFMA’s 2023 Annual Conference, we welcomed Tim DeFoor, Pennsylvania Auditor General, for a lunch and learn. Tim shared several special initiatives he is working on and fielded questions from association members. 

PFMA is grateful to all the attendees, presenters, and vendors who made the conference possible. A special thank you to the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square for their hospitality. 

The PFMA 2023 Fall Legislative Conference is scheduled for October 10 and 11 at the Hershey Country Club. Details are forthcoming. 

About PFMA 

The Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association, a statewide trade association, advocates the views of nearly 800 convenience stores, supermarkets, independent grocers, wholesalers and consumer product 

vendors. PFMA members operate more than 4,000 stores and employ more than 250,000 Pennsylvanians. For more information on PFMA, visit