They include Brookshire Grocery Co.’s Brad Brookshire, KeHe Distributors’ Brandon Barnholt, Associated Wholesale Grocers’ David Smith, Hy-Vee’s Donna Tweeten, Seaside Market’s John Najjar, Nestlé’s Steve Presley and PepsiCo’s Steven Williams.
According to FMI, these seven executives exemplify excellence in the food industry through innovative leadership, community outreach and stellar customer service.
“The food industry leaders we celebrate today embody diplomacy, service, imagination, cooperation, integrity and governance – all the noted attributes exemplified by the namesakes of our Executive Leadership Awards,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO.
“Industry peers have acknowledged them above others for their inspiring vision, successful navigation of a complex business landscape and ability to empower the next generation.”
More on the recipients:
Herbert Hoover Award for Humanitarian Service
Brandon Barnholt, executive chairman, KeHE Distributors
More than four decades of experience in food industry retailing and supply chain management define Barnholt as a dynamic corporate leader. For 16 years, he served as KeHE’s CEO and president, propelling the company to North America’s forefront as the leading distributor of natural, organic, specialty and fresh foods, boasting an annual revenue of $8 billion.
Barnholt’s leadership transitioned KeHE into a B Corporation, advocating for the organic and good food movement. Yet, beyond corporate achievements, his commitment to social and environmental causes shines through his decade-long involvement with the Chicago-area Young Life Organization.
Esther Peterson Award for Consumer Service
Donna Tweeten, president, Hy-Vee Inc.
For more than 30 years, Tweeten has been a force in the marketing realm, advising companies on brand enhancement and evolution. Joining Hy-Vee in 2006 as assistant VP of communications, Tweeten’s trajectory culminated in her historic appointment as Hy-Vee’s first female president by the end of 2022.
Leading Hy-Vee, Tweeten orchestrated transformative initiatives, fostering the brand’s evolution into an icon renowned for exceptional service and community support. Her tenure has seen the inception of pioneering programs such as Hy-Vee’s loyalty initiatives, the RedMedia retail network and the philanthropy of the One Step program.
Notably, Tweeten spearheaded Hy-Vee’s collaboration with Feeding America, funding millions of meals for families in need.
William H. Albers Industry Relations Award
Steve Presley, CEO, Zone NA, Nestlé
Presley spearheads the company’s operations in its largest global market, with about $30 billion in annual sales and 94 percent presence of Nestlé products in households.
Throughout his 27-year tenure, Presley’s leadership has been defined by a fundamental belief in the power of culture as a driver of success, advocating self-disruption as the key to triumph in the market and in serving consumers. His strategic vision revitalized Nestlé’s U.S. business, emphasizing empowerment and fostering a culture of innovation centered on consumer needs.
As chairman and CEO, Presley orchestrated a transformative portfolio strategy that propelled Nestlé USA into a beacon of profitable growth and an industry trailblazer. Moreover, under his stewardship, the company has made strides in its commitment to achieving net-zero emissions, driving initiatives in regenerative agriculture, expanding renewable energy usage and pioneering recyclable packaging design.
Steven Williams, CEO, PepsiCo NA, PepsiCo
Williams has served in his role since March 2019, boasting 26 years at PepsiCo with leadership across the food industry. Leading a $26 billion snack and convenient foods domain, including Frito-Lay North America and Quaker Foods North America, Williams navigates all facets of operations.
Previously, as SVP and chief commercial officer for Frito-Lay’s U.S. organization, he directed strategy and commercial activities. Since joining PepsiCo in 2001 through the Quaker Oats acquisition, Williams has excelled in sales, management and marketing roles.
Engaged in community service, he serves on various boards and advisory councils, holding positions as board chair for United Way in Dallas and serving as a member of the board of directors of State Farm Mutual Automobile Company.
Robert B. Wegman Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence
John Najjar, president, Seaside Market
Najjar’s journey in the grocery industry stems from a family legacy steeped in entrepreneurship. His father, Sam Najjar, established a grocery store in Detroit, Michigan, during the 1960s and early 1970s, catering to a Chaldean community and in 1976, the family made a bold move to San Diego, where they opened a store in San Diego County.
Building on his father’s groundwork, John and his brother, Peter, ventured into San Diego’s grocery landscape, purchasing an abandoned store in 1976. This move birthed Seaside Market, a 17,000-square-foot establishment following significant renovations in 2013.
Opting not to expand beyond their location aside from a kiosk at Petco Park, they transformed Seaside Market into more than a grocery store, crafting a shopping experience in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
The market is known for its emphasis on fresh, locally sourced produce and perishables that resonate with the neighborhood.
Glen P. Woodard, Jr., Award for Public Affairs
David Smith, president and CEO, Associated Wholesale Grocers (retired)
Smith concluded a remarkable 20-year tenure in December. With 48 years in the industry, including 36 years in wholesale, his leadership has shaped the grocery sector.
Smith prioritized advocacy for independent grocery operators, engaging with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and testifying before legislative bodies on critical industry issues such as workforce supply and regulatory enforcement, along with supply chain and sustainability. Rising through AWG’s ranks, he served as CEO from 2015, having held key roles like EVP of operations and COO.
Recognized by the National Grocers Association in 2022 with the Clarence G. Adamy Great American Award for his national-level advocacy, Smith’s legacy as a visionary leader dedicated to independent retailers’ success will endure.
Sidney R. Rabb Award for Statesmanship
Brad Brookshire, chairman and CEO, Brookshire Grocery Co.
Brookshire has demonstrated his commitment to the grocery industry, corporate responsibility, community engagement and education, all of which resonate profoundly in his role as chairman of the board of directors and CEO of Brookshire Grocery Company, a family-owned supermarket chain headquartered in Tyler, Texas.
With more than 46 years in the industry, Brookshire’s leadership has fostered employee-partners’ admiration and respect through his focus on community welfare and strong moral values. He has been instrumental in BGC’s sustained growth and prosperity.
Beyond BGC, he participates on the board of directors for FMI and Topco Associates, serves as a trustee for Southern Methodist University, contributes to the Baylor Scott and White Health Foundation’s board of directors and engages with various civic organizations.
As the grandson of BGC’s founder, Wood T. Brookshire, Brad and his wife have championed a scholarship program for Tyler Junior College graduates.
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