By: Dagmar Farr, Senior Vice President, Membership and Education, FMITop Women in Grocery

Undoubtedly, there are countless heroes who have and will emerge from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, especially throughout the food industry. You likely know of a few and may have even witnessed their extraordinary feats first-hand. It is of utmost importance to take the time to recognize them for their efforts privately and publicly now and as we recover from this crisis.

It doesn’t always take a worldwide event to identify and see heroes emerge. It’s often in the quieter times that greatness is realized.

Progressive Grocer (PG) recently recognized some of FMI’s star women for their remarkable accomplishments and “integral role” in the food industry when they announced their Top Women in Grocery List last month. PG recognized 350 women for strengthening the retail food industry from April 2019 through February 2020. These “best and brightest women in the industry” were classified in three distinct categories: Executive-Level, Rising Stars, and Store Managers. Plus, they selected a Retail Trailblazer and a CPG Trailblazer to be recognized.

In the Executive Level category, our own President and Chief Executive Officer, Leslie Sarasin, was recognized for designing a “far-reaching plan that positions FMI to meet new industry challenges.” She took the lead in FMI’s participation in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court victory that protects retailer and shopper privacy with a precedent that will extend beyond store-level SNAP sales. As we entered 2020, her vision ushered in a new rebranding initiative along with the newly created Product Supplier membership category “aligning the new membership strategy to the new marketplace.”

In the Top Women in Grocery Rising Star category, our very own Ashley Eisenbeiser, FMI’s senior director of food and product safety programs, was recognized for her efforts to provide status updates to FMI members and the food industry on the romaine lettuce foodborne illness outbreak around the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday selling season. She was instrumental in coordinating response and communications between the U.S. federal government agencies and food industry members on the recall and removing romaine products from store shelves nationwide. As a member of the Romaine/Food Safety Task Force labeling subcommittee, she helped promote consistent voluntary food labeling for greater transparency. She also works to ensure the integrity of the  Food Handler Certification Program that is certainly attracting more attention during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

PG’s Top Women in Grocery Retail Trailblazer for 2020 is FMI member Susan Morris, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Albertsons Companies. Morris oversees more than 2,250 stores in 33 states under 21 banners, 20 manufacturing facilities, 23 distribution centers, and more than 270,000 employees. According to Progressive Grocer, when talking about her early career in grocery retail, she said, “Before I knew it, I was a 23-year-old woman who was negotiating with vendors, writing ads, building display plans, and even taking on new items.” When asked about how she inspires others, Morris states to Progressive Grocer, “To win with the customer, you must build deep and lasting relationships, and show them you care.” Related to workforce diversity she said to Progressive Grocer, “We seek to celebrate the diversity and inclusiveness of our workforce and focus on improving our communities through sustainability and charitable activities that are an essential part of our business.”

FMI member Judi Kletz was named the PG Top Women in Grocery CPG Trailblazer for 2020. As the managing director for North America Industry Affairs for Proctor & Gamble, Judi talks to Progressive Grocer about how she started her career path unintentionally by being “coaxed” to interview for an internship. “I was fortunate to be provided opportunities that allowed me to try new approaches, stumble and fall, and get back up again” she said. When asked about shoppers, she stated to Progressive Grocer, “The consumer is more savvy, intuitive, and demanding of data and transparency.”

Having FMI, and these extraordinary members and staff members, recognized for their above average performance, exemplary contributions and providing exceptional value to the field is a proud moment for this organization. More importantly, the food industry benefits from and realizes the value of the more than seventy FMI staff members working on behalf of the thousands of FMI members and the food industry through the best of times and…always.

Congratulations to these Top Women in Grocery!