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QUINCY, Ill. - Rich Niemann Sr., c.e.o. of Niemann Foods, Inc. here, has received the annual Varsity I award from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana for his company's efforts in raising more than $1.1. million over the past decade through sales of vendor product at Niemann Foods' County Market stores.
Niemann Foods raised the funds as part of the "Illini Fever" initiative. The University of Illinois is a founding member of the Big Ten college athletic conference. The campaign ties product sales to cents per case donations to the university's student athletic scholarship program. Stores participate through such activities as merchandising sponsoring products and publicizing the relationship with the university, while the university promotes the sponsoring products at sports events and television appearances, among other high-profile opportunities.
"[President and c.o.o.] Rich Niemann Jr. will continue to drive this program in the Champaign-Urbana market in planning and stretching. . .to make the most of this great relationship," said Brooks B. Marsh, area marketing director of the Champaign division of wholesaler Supervalu, in an interview with Progressive Grocer. Marsh was a creator of the original program concept in relation to the University of Montana and Montana State University in 1987."The university has 33,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff in a market of 120,000 people. Niemann Foods has the leading market share in this turbulent market," Marsh said, adding that he expected the retailer would keep playing a starring role in "Illini Fever" and that it was already planning events for next year.
According to Marsh, the program is a win-win for both manufacturers, who "love the connection with the university," and the university, which is happy to receive the funding. "Everybody is really anxious to do it," he said.
When contacted by Progressive Grocer, Rich Niemann Sr. allowed that his company and its vendor partners had been "rather successful" at fundraising and hoped to take that success "to the next level" in the future.
-- Bridget Goldschmidt