The Niagara group attended the Women in Store Brand Excellence luncheon during the PLMA trade show, where they networked with business professionals and heard from a guest speaker who discussed the importance of diversity in the private label industry.

Six Niagara University marketing students were selected to participate in the Private Label Manufacturers Association University Outreach Student Program, held Nov. 16-19, 2019, in conjunction with the PLMA’s annual Private Label Trade Show. The students, who are studying food and consumer-packaged goods marketing, were accompanied by Dr. Peggy Choong, professor of marketing, who presented on teamwork and leadership during the event.

MBA student Rachael Veronda, and undergraduates Beth Moran, Jenna Barone, Ally Bellanca, Emily Decker, and Kylee Schultz were among 60 students chosen from colleges throughout the country to learn the fundamentals of the $160 billion store brands business through classes, tours, and mentorship. A highlight of the experience was the opportunity to connect one-on-one with manufacturers’ representatives, including those from Berry Global, Harris Tea, Upstate Niagara, Lactalis America, and Rosina Food Products, as well as with retail buyers from companies including Federated Group, Meijer, Price Chopper, and Wegmans.

“This experience brought to life all the things the students learned in their marketing and food marketing classes, and deepened their understanding of the industry and their discipline,” said Choong. “The opportunities for meaningful careers are rich in this industry, and students are now able to recognize career paths that they are interested in pursuing. The industry is growing at an impressive speed and is filled with good opportunities for young talent like our students.”

Jenna Barone, a senior from Niagara Falls, N.Y., enjoyed learning about the retail side of the business. She shadowed a buyer from Wegmans and was able to observe how he selected products for the grocery chain. 

“This experience will help my future career because it gave me insight into the food and CPG industry and solidified for me that I want to become a brand manager or get into food brokerage,” she said. “It was a great learning experience, and something I will never forget.”

Ally Bellanca, a junior from Rochester N.Y., sat in on business meetings with a representative from Harris Tea and also shadowed a Wegmans representative, which was especially interesting for her because she has been employed by the company for several years.

“I attended the PLMA in hopes of experiencing the real world outside of the classroom,” she said. “This opportunity gave me the chance to get hands-on experience of a large trade show, network with companies from all over the world, and get ideas of what I want to do in my future. I met so many people that are looking for interns and new employees within the next few years … and met many important people which will help my future career.”

For more than 30 years, PLMA’s annual trade show has been the industry event of the year, where retailers and wholesalers source for their private label programs. More than 1,500 companies from 40 countries exhibit their products for buyers from supermarkets, supercenters, drug chains, mass merchandisers, convenience stores, online retailers, importers, exporters, wholesalers, discounters, and military exchanges.

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