UT innovation supports Tennessee grocers

Anne BrockOur Town Leaders, Sevier

A record number of attendees at the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association welcomed University of Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman at their annual Convention & Expo on May 18, showcasing the connection between education/research and the Tennessee economy.

Engaging with the crowd about grocery stores and food preparation, Plowman said, “They’re part of the biggest moments of our lives.”

The chancellor pointed out that innovation is necessary for a strong economy, “We’re also working on research that supports what you do.”

Specifically, Plowman noted to the group gathered at Sevierville Convention Center that UT research related to agriculture, food science and retail grocery business includes:

  • Reducing food waste
  • Extending food shelf life
  • Robotic milking technology
  • Innovation in food processing
  • Online grocery shopping
  • E-commerce cybersecurity

Plowman noted that training the next generation of professionals includes a broad set of skills needed in Tennessee’s evolving food production and retail economy. Speaking to food executives and entrepreneurs, she said, “We are deeply engaged in educating students who can take your jobs. We need you and we know that you need us.”

Rob Ikard, TGCSA president and CEO, noted that the TGCSA Convention & Expo in 2023 was attended by more than 600 registered participants. The group brings together grocery and convenience store owners with food suppliers and related supporters of services that retailers rely on. It gives entrepreneurs the chance to introduce their latest food products to grocers.

The convention also offers educational opportunities such as a free workshop on the Rural Energy for America Program by USDA energy administrators – a program that can assist independent store and warehouse owners in obtaining generous grants and loans for programs like energy savings and solar.

Anne Brock is marketing coordinator for Solar Alliance, which is a TGCSA member. She can be reached at:865-221-8349 or [email protected]


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