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Four giants of the grocery industry were honored for their lifetime of achievements during the gala awards banquet on the first night of the Food Marketing Institute’s 2015 Midwinter Conference, Saturday night in Miami Beach.
David Dillon, the recently retired chairman and CEO of The Kroger Co., was bestowed with FMI’s highest honor, the Sidney R. Rabb Award, for his excellence in serving the consumer, the community and the industry.
ConAgra Foods Inc. CEO Gary Rodkin received the William H. Albers Award, recognizing his exemplary business partner relation within the retail food industry.
IGA Inc. Chairman Dr. Thomas S. Haggai received FMI’s Herbert Hoover Award, recognizing his longtime humanitarian service in the food retail industry.
And Steve Smith, president and CEO of Food City, received the Grocery Manufacturers Association's 2015 Industry Collaboration Leadership Award.
Dillon: A respected leader with vision and charisma
Recognizing Dillon’s achievement and their longtime professional relationship, FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin remarked, “Dave is a respected leader in the larger food retail industry and consistently highlights the role of constructive feedback, believing that giving it establishes you as an informed leader and receiving it helps you become a better leader. A person of great vision and charisma, his passion for nurturing future leaders for the food retail industry was evident in his spearheading FMI’s 2013 Future Connect Conference, an event dedicated to developing those identified with leadership potential.”
His leadership is reflected in the 37 years he dedicated to the food retail industry, focusing on nearly every aisle and role in the store. Dillon served as Kroger’s chairman from 2004 to 2014 and as CEO from 2003 to 2013. Prior to that, he held a variety of executive positions at Kroger and Dillons Cos., which merged in 1983.
Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO, described Dillon as “a grocer’s grocer,” noting, “You are to me what the Rabb award is all about – somebody that cares about our industry, cares about people, and cares about Kroger and all the things in between.”
Dillon was instrumental in developing Kroger’s “Customer 1st Strategy,” which today has resulted in 44 consecutive quarters of positive identical store sales growth. While Dillon served as CEO, Kroger increased revenue $45 billion, created 53,000 new jobs, reduced costs for eight consecutive years, and returned $9.2 billion to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends.
Kroger has also become a leader in supermarket sustainability under Dillon’s leadership. Kroger reduced energy consumption in stores by 33 percent since 2000 and its carbon footprint by 4.4 percent since 2006. Notably, more than half of the company’s 37 manufacturing facilities are zero waste.
In 2011, Forbes recognized Kroger as the most generous company in America. Kroger’s efforts to feed families struggling with hunger grew to total contributions of 250 million meals – 4 million meals per week – annually.
And in 2013, Progressive Grocer recognized Kroger, under Dillon’s leadership, as its Retailer of the Year.
Rodkin: Ideal qualities of a business partner
Rodkin’s role as GMA chairman led to the evolution of the FMI-GMA Trading Partner Alliance, a joint-industry working group aimed at streamlining business efficiencies along the food manufacturer and retailer supply chain. He was integral among FMI and GMA leadership to enact new programs and protocols, most notably regarding health and wellness, center store and sustainability initiatives.
“Gary embodies the ideal qualities in a business partner, and he’s ultimately focused on serving the end consumer,” Sarasin said. “I’ve been fortunate to work alongside Gary for many years, and he never loses sight how he’s going to work with his retail business partner to deliver on a promise to the shopper.”
Rodkin joined ConAgra Foods in October 2005 and transformed it from a holding company into one unified operating company. Under his leadership, the ConAgra Foods Foundation has continued to lead the fight against child hunger in the U.S., a cause the company has been committed to for more than 20 years. Prior to joining ConAgra, Rodkin was chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Beverages and Foods North America.