MIAMI — The Food Marketing Institute honored the industry’s “humble heroes” in an awards ceremony during the institute’s Midwinter Executive Conference here. Hy-Vee’s Randy Edeker, Coca-Cola Co.’s Muhtar Kent, Heinen’s Grocery Stores’ Tom Heinen and IGA Inc.’s Mark Batenic were among executives recognized on January 25 as FMI gave out its 2019 leadership awards.
Recipients were honored for trading partner excellence, innovative business practices, service and statesmanship.
“These humble heroes live and exemplify integrity in our industry,” commented FMI president and chief executive officer Leslie Sarasin. “The noble efforts of the entire food industry are embodied by the great leaders we celebrate through our executive leadership awards program.”
Edeker, Hy-Vee’s chairman, president and CEO, was honored with the Sidney R. Rabb Award, given for excellence in serving the consumer, the community and the industry. FMI noted that Edeker literally grew up in the supermarket business. He has spent 38 years at Hy-Vee, serving 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,” commented Edeker.
Honored with this year’s William H. Albers Award were two Coca-Cola executives: Kent, the nonalcoholic beverage giant’s chairman, and Ern Sherman, recently retired after more than four decades with the company, most recently as vice president of retail industry affairs. The Albers award is given for excellence in trading partner relations and consumer and community service.
Kent believes that one of the Coca-Cola system’s longtime strengths has been the collaboration between the company and its franchise bottling partners, and he also sees personal relationships as critical to success.
“Strengthening those partner relationships for long-term vibrancy has always been one of my highest priorities.” Kent remarked.
Sherman was 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. He served as lead liaison with FMI via its signature events, conventions and promoting Coca-Cola’s role in supporting future industry leaders.
This year’s Robert B. Wegman Award, named for the founder of Wegmans Food Markets, was given to Tom Heinen, copresident of Heinen’s Grocery Stores. The award celebrates food retailers or wholesalers that create exceptional retail innovations. Heinen began his career by pioneering the company’s in-store bakery program in 1978, which developed into a broader service deli program in all Heinen’s stores. More recently Heinen (and his copresident brother Jeff) were pioneers in leveraging customer and business data in new ways to retool the way their 90-year-old company did business, in keeping with Heinen’s tradition of offering a unique customer experience.
Gregory Calhoun was posthumously honored with this year’s Glen P. Woodard Jr. Award. Calhoun, who owned and operated Calhoun Foods and later Calhoun Enterprises, got into the food retail business in the early 1980s by securing a loan and buying the supermarket where he once bagged groceries. He was actively engaged with local neighborhoods and state politics, FMI said.