It was Saturday evening. I waited by my door for my Uber ride to the airport to show up. It was a strange feeling and yet I knew this was supposed to be normal. I was on my way to Vegas to attend an in-person conference after almost 19 months. There was a sense of excitement and nervousness. Excitement because I was going to see some familiar faces and finally be among people again, I yearned for a sense of normalcy. Nervous because the last 19 months had changed me somehow, maybe made me a little more apprehensive. Nevertheless, I could not wait to shake this feeling off and land at the event.

The NGA show which has been a staple event for us since 2014 and GrocerShop which we had only attended twice before were being held at the same time. Shuttling between the two locations was a bit of a challenge as it diluted the overall experience of each show. However, the lack of a huge turnout seemed to ease the tension of attending two events at the same time. Several retailers had understandably dropped out at the last minute and while the exhibit floors did not quite have the traffic that one has come to expect from these shows, the tracks were quite well attended.

Both shows required proof of vaccination and masks were required indoors at all locations. That certainly provided a sense of safety, but one has to wonder how strictly people adhered to the protocols.

It was well worth the visit to meet our customers in person, break some bread with them, and see other familiar faces. There were many good conversations and while I honestly did not expect the same outcome as we had in previous years, it just provided a sense of normalcy that was heartwarming, and a reminder that as convenient as zoom is, an in-person meeting has it beat a million times over.

From an industry outlook perspective, it was clear that the past 19 months had completely transformed the industry. Technologies that were thought of as futuristic were being discussed as imminent. The industry has adapted and accepted the change and is eager to leap into the future. All in all, it is a great time for grocery. The opportunities are greater than ever before. Carpe diem!