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FMI Honors Six With Executive Leadership Awards At Midwinter Executive Conference

FMI's 2019 Executive Leadership Awards

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) presented six leadership awards at its annual Midwinter Executive Conference in Miami that wrapped up Monday, Jan. 28. The honorees “embody the principles and ideals of the namesakes for these awards—Rabb, Albers, Hoover, Woodard, Peterson and Wegman,” says FMI.

The 2019 award recipients were honored for trading partner excellence, innovative business practices, service and statesmanship. 

“These humble heroes live and exemplify integrity in our industry,” said FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin. “The noble efforts of the entire food industry are embodied by the great leaders we celebrate through our executive leadership awards program.” 

The honorees recognized at the conference were:

Sidney R. Rabb Award—Randy Edeker, chairman of the board, CEO and president, Hy-Vee Inc.

Randy Edeker
Randy Edeker

Sidney R. Rabb’s commitment to the consumer, community and the industry is illustrative of Randy Edeker’s career, says FMI. Edeker remains a champion of the shopper and has delighted his customers over the years by making innovative investments that have become unique to the Hy-Vee experience, as evidenced by its foodservice operations and the company’s commitment to sustainable initiatives.

He grew up in the business; Hy-Vee nurtured his achievements and advancements throughout his 38-year tenure and as he has served as president since 2009.

“There’s an old saying that ‘they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’; it’s easy to preach this and harder to always live out,” Edeker said.

Edeker is widely recognized for his business sense, but also acknowledged for his support of local communities and collaborative spirit in vendor/partner relations. He extends Hy-Vee’s brand from little league fields across the Midwest to boardrooms across the country. 

William H. Albers Award—Muhtar Kent, chairman, and Ern Sherman, VP, retail industry affairs (retired), The Coca-Cola Co.

Muhtar Kent
Muhtar Kent

“William H. Albers’ commitment to trade relations and consumer service is demonstrated by the many Albers award recipients, including our 2019 honorees at The Coca-Cola Company, Muhtar Kent and Ern Sherman,” says FMI.

Muhtar Kent believes one of the Coca-Cola system’s longtime strengths has been the intense collaboration between the company and its franchise bottling partners. Kent also views personal relationships as critical.

“Strengthening those partner relationships for long-term vibrancy has always been one of my highest priorities,” said Kent.

Kent lived out these words during his tenure as CEO, helping secure long-term sustainable growth by reshaping Coke’s global bottling system while greatly expanding and diversifying the system’s portfolio of beverage brands. Kent is active in the global business community, attributing much of his success to traveling and experiencing other cultures. He joined The Coca-Cola Company in 1978, leaving in 1999 to head Efes Beverage Group, a Coke bottling partner based in Turkey. Kent rejoined The Coca-Cola Company in 2005. He also is dedicated to community service, working with multiple charities and serving on the board of Special Olympics International.

Ern Sherman
Ern Sherman

Ern Sherman bridged a career of more than 40 years at Coca-Cola and more than 30 years as a Coca-Cola bottler. Recently retired, FMI recognized Sherman for his role overseeing the relationship with the primary industry associations and the work of the two North America Coca-Cola Retailing Research Councils.

Sherman served as lead liaison with FMI via its signature events, conventions and promoting Coca-Cola’s role in supporting future industry leaders. Sherman championed collaboration through customer relationships, honing shopper merchandising segmentation and promoting service models that improved customer service and reduced out of stocks.

Reflecting on his career, he said, “Think about how to protect your core business but also at the same time chase your dreams. If you can do those things together, I think you’ll be successful.”

Robert B. Wegman Award—Tom Heinen, co-president, Heinen’s Grocery Stores 

Tom Heinen
Tom Heinen

Since 2012, FMI has honored Robert B. Wegman’s innovation and imaginative strategies. The 2019 Wegman award winner, Tom Heinen, began his career by pioneering family-owned Heinen’s in-store bakery program in 1978, which developed into a broader service deli program in all Heinen’s stores.

Under Heinen’s leadership with his brother, the two were some of the first grocers to explore leveraging customer and business data in new ways to retool the way their 90-year-old company did business, all while respecting Heinen’s tradition of catering to a unique customer experience.

“The grocery business is a very humbling business,” Heinen said. “Success can only come through dedicated efforts every day.”

Glen P. Woodard Jr. Award—Greg Calhoun, awarded posthumously, Calhoun Enterprises

Gregory Calhoun
Gregory Calhoun

Glen P. Woodard Jr. set the standard for government affairs advocacy, says FMI.

“His public policy efforts in Washington, D.C., and state capitals live on with past Woodard Award recipients, and his spirit is joined by the late Gregory Calhoun, who FMI recognized posthumously with this award,” the organization said.

Calhoun was a well-regarded Montgomery, Alabama, businessman; he owned and operated Calhoun Foods and later Calhoun Enterprises. In the early 1980s, Calhoun got into the food retail business by securing a loan and buying the very supermarket where he once bagged groceries. Calhoun witnessed what so many grocers do—there’s power in community. Calhoun was actively engaged with the university, the local neighborhoods and state politics. He was a jobs creator and the first African American to own a grocery store in the south.

His son, Malcolm Calhoun, who grew up working in his father’s grocery business, recollected that his father “always pushed the envelope; be it diversity, be it new technology, be it new opportunities; whenever you think things are perfect, that just means you’re not looking hard enough.”

Herbert Hoover Award—Mark Batenic, chairman, IGA Inc.

Mark Batenic
Mark Batenic

A great humanitarian, Herbert Hoover demonstrated the link between the food industry and outreach. His dedication to service lives on through Hoover award winners, including 2019’s Mark Batenic of IGA.

Batenic makes a distinction between contributing and participating, as evidenced by his work with store owners, says FMI. In the recent past, IGA supported the Wounded Warriors through sales of private brand goods, and most recently, IGA forged a relationship with Partnership for Drug Free Kids, the first IGA Cares initiative.

Under Batenic’s leadership, IGA committed to raising both critical funds and awareness to help parents and families and help end the nation’s opioid epidemic. IGA goes out in the community, and Batenic noted that entrepreneurs around the world do this—not just in the U.S. stores, but stores in Australia, China and South Africa are actively engaged in their communities as business owners.

Batenic also makes an investment in education, with nearly 20 years on the board of Saint Joseph’s Department of Food Marketing to encourage young people to stay in the business through scholarships. “There’s a moral compass that runs every company, and the head of that compass is integrity,” said Batenic.

Esther Peterson Award—U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA)

Jim McGovern
Jim McGovern

“Community, to me, means working together,” U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), said. “It means recognizing that everybody in our neighborhoods, in our cities, in our towns, in our country is important; that nobody is invisible.”

FMI awarded McGovern the Esther Peterson Award because, like Peterson, McGovern is a pioneer for consumer affairs.

He lends a strong voice to issues regarding food insecurity across the country, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and McGovern has long supported Democrats in their efforts to defend SNAP from cuts and to advocate for efficiencies in the SNAP program, says FMI.

“This past year, McGovern served a key role on the conference committee to complete a five-year reauthorization of the Farm Bill, ultimately maintaining the integrity of SNAP and driving innovations that will make the program run even better for our members’ customers in the future,” FMI adds.

FMI Celebrates Gold Plate Award winners, increase in awareness of National Family Meals Month

FMI also has revealed the winners of its 2018 Gold Plate Awards, which recognize the partners who were major contributors in turning National Family Meals Month into a countrywide movement this past year. The awards distinguish elite contributors to the family meal movement among food retailers, suppliers and community collaborators who help families achieve one more meal each week at home. 

The awards ceremony took place at the Foundation’s annual fundraising event, Stir It Up!, held at the Midwinter Executive Conference. 

“It is truly extraordinary to realize that we only started this family meals initiative four years ago and that Nielsen data shows more than a quarter of American shoppers are familiar with the movement,” reported Sue Borra, RD, executive director of The FMI Foundation. “This 115 percent increase in awareness since last year alone is a result of the creative work of tonight’s award-winners—as well as the more than 230 companies who joined the family meals movement since its inception. Even more exciting is that we are seeing these inspiring efforts extend the messaging about the importance of family meals throughout the year, not just in September.

In 2018, the National Family Meals Month campaign experienced a 20 percent increase in retailer participation; a 40 percent increase in supplier participation; and a 37 percent increase in community collaborator participation. 

To date, eight states have proclaimed September as Family Meals Month: Michigan, Utah, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. 

The 2018 Gold Plate Award winners 

The winning programs were chosen by an external, independent panel of judges and rated on breadth, depth and extent of reach; originality and creativity; corporate participation; ability to scale and replicate the program; and promotion of National Family Meals Month.

Gold Plate Award category: Retailer 1 – 49 stores

Winner: Festival Foods
Program: Festival Family Meals: Kid-Approved Foods
Honorable Mention:  Martin’s Super Markets
Program:  The Flavorful Four

Gold Plate Award category: Retailer 50 – 199 stores

Winner: Giant Food Stores
Program: Power of One More Family Meal
Honorable Mention: Tops Markets LLC
Program: Raising Our Mitt to Commit! #FamilyMealsMonth
Honorable Mention: Coborn’s Inc.
Program: Healthy For Good Family Meals

Gold Plate Award category: Retailer 200+ stores

Winner: Wakefern Food Corp.
Program: Family Meals Month at ShopRite
Winner: Hy-Vee Inc.
Program: Hy-Vee Inc.’s National Family Meals Month Campaign
Honorable Mention: Albertsons Cos.
Program: Kid-Approved Meals for the Whole Family

Gold Plate Award Category: Supplier

Winner: Kellogg Co.
Program:  Family Meals for Healthier, More Successful, Safer Kids!
Honorable Mention: The Kraft Heinz Co.
Program: Kraft Heinz Celebrates Family Meals Month

Gold Plate Award category: Community Collaborator 

Winner: Produce for Better Health Foundation
Program: Fruits and Veggies—More Matters Month: A Focus on Family Meals  

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