MIAMI – Food Marketing Institute (FMI) today announced its leadership awards at the Midwinter Executive Conference, individuals who embody the principals and ideals of the namesakes for these awards – Rabb, Albers, Hoover, Woodard, Peterson and Wegman. FMI recognized the 2019 award recipients for trading partner excellence, innovative business practices, service and statesmanship.

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

The following individuals were recognized at the 2019 Midwinter Executive Conference:

Sidney R. Rabb Award

Randy Edeker, Chairman of the Board, CEO and President, Hy-Vee, Inc.

Sidney R. Rabb’s commitment to the consumer, community and the industry is illustrative of Randy Edeker’s career. 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 literally 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. He commented, “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 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

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.

Muhtar Kent, Chairman, The Coca-Cola Company

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. He said, “Strengthening those partner relationships for long-term vibrancy has always been one of my highest priorities.” 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 is also dedicated to community service, working with multiple charities and serving on the board of Special Olympics International.

Ern Sherman, Vice President, Retail Industry Affairs (Ret.), The Coca-Cola Company

Ern Sherman bridged a career of more than 40 years at The Coca-Cola Company and more than 30 years as a Coca-Cola bottler. Recently retired, Sherman is being recognized 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

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 the family-owned company’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

Glen P. Woodard, Jr. set the standard for government affairs advocacy. His public policy efforts in Washington, DC, 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. 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, “[My 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.

The 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. 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. Batenic asserted, “There’s a moral compass that runs every company, and the head of that compass is integrity.”

Esther Peterson Award

U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA)

“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. 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.