By: Dagmar Farr, Chief Member Relations Officer and Senior Vice President, Membership and Education, FMI
Often, you must look back in order to move forward. I recently had the opportunity to reflect on FMI’s consumer affairs accomplishments over the past several decades with a group of trailblazing grocery consumer affairs professionals that met in Washington, D.C. for a reunion. It was revitalizing to convene and spend quality time hearing about the accomplishments of these storied food retail professionals and their advice for those still serving in food retail communications and consumer affairs roles.
Notably, several of the consumer advocates in the room were recipients of the FMI Esther Peterson Award. Esther Peterson served as special assistant for consumer affairs under U.S. Presidents Johnson and Carter and pioneered the role for the food industry as vice president for consumer affairs at Giant Food Inc.
Here are some of the thoughts our colleagues shared:
What did you learn from Esther Peterson?
“As Vice President for Consumer Affairs at Giant Foods, Esther Peterson set the bar high for those of us who later followed. She fought tirelessly to make change happen, whether it was for the rights of workers, women, or consumers. In our industry, she believed in the need for product information transparency, long before transparency became a buzzword. She knew that it would help consumers choose products that were best for their families. This passion and drive resulted in the creation of nutrition labels and “sell before” dates. She challenged, fought, and made change happen. Change doesn’t come easily especially in an industry with such small profit margins. I learned from Esther, change is possible by challenging and proving that doing the right thing for the consumer ultimately is the right thing for the retailer.” --Maureen Murphy, retired, Price Chopper Supermarkets / Market 32, 2016 Esther Peterson Award Recipient
“Persistence and consistency pay.” --Mary Ellen Burris, retired, Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., 2000 Esther Peterson Award Recipient
“The power of courage and the rewards of advocacy.” --Joanie Taylor, retired, Schnuck Markets, Inc., 2014 Esther Peterson Award Recipient
“Make a difference by the way you live your life," stated Esther Peterson. I would hope that I made a difference in my life from what I learned from Esther. Her leadership, vision, and relentless persistence in pursuit of what is right and just were a guiding force in my retail food industry career. I feel Esther had more impact on my career than any other person.”
“Esther was a pioneer, and she helped pave the way for supermarket companies to resolve consumer issues. Her work spurred the enactment of product expiration dates, unit pricing, nutritional labeling, and many other initiatives. Thank you, Esther, for your lifetime of vision, integrity, and caring sensitivity to the needs of retail food customers.” --Susan T. Mayo, retired, Farm Fresh, 2011 Esther Peterson Award Recipient
What’s your advice for today’s consumer affairs/communication’s professional?
“Relationships matter…connections help to build trust and confidence.” --Mary Ellen Burris, retired, Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., 2000 Esther Peterson Award Recipient
“Listen, ask questions, and take action.” --Joanie Taylor, retired, Schnuck Markets, Inc., 2014 Esther Peterson Award Recipient
“Our history as Consumer Affairs Professionals has taught us how to properly serve and support our customers and respond to their needs. As customer communication technology evolves across all channels, companies should always have a strong and committed Customer Relations team to ensure that the voice of the customer is always represented and responded to.” --Susan T. Mayo, retired, Farm Fresh, 2011 Esther Peterson Award Recipient
“My advice to today’s consumer affairs/communications professional is to do what Esther Peterson did throughout her life - be a catalyst for change. Also, take advantage of FMI if your company is a member, and if not, encourage them to become one. An invaluable resource, FMI is always there to provide assistance. Participate in the monthly calls whenever possible for to stay informed on issues, network with peers and more.” --Maureen Murphy, Retired, Price Chopper Supermarkets / Market 32, 2016 Esther Peterson Award Recipient
If your company is leading the way in consumer affairs and community uplift, we welcome you to submit your nomination for our 2022 Community Uplift Awards. Nominations are open June 13 - 24. Learn more at www.FMI.org/CommunityUplift.