NGA Honors Leaders, Entire Industry During Annual Conference

Celebrates independent grocers for actions throughout pandemic
NGA Awards
Photograph courtesy of the NGA

The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, recognized the entire independent grocery industry by collectively presenting them with this year’s Peter J. Larkin Community Service Award during the opening session of its annual two-day Executive Conference, Sept. 18-19, 2021, at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

 “Considering the herculean efforts displayed by the independent grocery industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not choose just one company for this honor. The entire industry stepped up to the plate, not only providing food and other necessary products, but continuing to participate in countless community service initiatives,” said Greg Ferrara, NGA president and CEO.“It has been truly inspiring to see grocers giving back during a time when they sacrificed so much. With community service, we see the important role independents play at the heart of their community. NGA is happy to present this award to the entire industry for their actions during the pandemic, and I commend grocers for their continued focus on community service.” 

The creation of this award, sponsored by Kimberly-Clark, is intended to recognize an independent retailer or wholesaler company for its unique and strong service to the community during the previous year. While the award is typically given to a single company, this year there were too many to choose from, as independents across the country displayed their strong commitment to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, said the NGA.

“Independent grocers have always been known for their commitment to community service, but it became even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, with independent grocers continuing community service programs while having to adapt to a new pandemic landscape, and also creating new programs aimed at helping those suffering during these devastating times,” said Dennis Belcastro, vice president of industry affairs and consumer development at Kimberly-Clark North America. “Kimberly-Clark is proud to support such an important award and we congratulate the entire industry for their commitment to community service.” 

 The NGA also presented Gerry Kettler, director of consumer affairs at Niemann Foods, with the Thomas F. Wenning Pinnacle PAC Award during the conference. The award, established in 2014, honors Thomas Wenning, NGA’s former executive vice president and general counsel, for his 40 years of service to NGA and the independent supermarket industry. Kettler is a longtime member of NGA’s Government Relations Committee, guiding advocacy priorities that benefit independent grocers.

“Gerry has been instrumental in supporting NGA Grocers PAC by providing a guiding vision and generous support,” said Chris Jones, NGA senior vice president of government relations and counsel, in a statement.“Independent grocers have benefited greatly from Gerry’s dedication and exceptional service to advancing NGA’s interests in government and political affairs.”

Niemann Foods was founded in 1917 when Fred Niemann Sr. and Steve Niemann opened their first grocery store. Today, Niemann Foods operates more than 100 storefronts, making it the largest independently owned grocery store chain in central Illinois.

“Gerry’s work ethic and dedication to advancing the interests of America’s independent grocers is inspiring,” said NGA Manager of Grassroots and PAC Terence Huie. “This has become even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Gerry has been on the front lines, helping Niemann Foods navigate through difficult circumstances, while providing valuable input to NGA on grocers’ priorities during the pandemic.”

Additionally, Belcastro was awarded NGA’s annual Industry Service Award as “well-deserved recognition for all he has done to help meet the needs of the independent community grocery industry and for years of dedication to the association,” said Ferrara. “Denny Belcastro is a great friend to independent grocery operators and a strong supporter of NGA. His leadership over the years and the working relationships he has built with trading partners we serve have been second to none,” he added.

For more than three decades, NGA has recognized the service and extraordinary contributions of distinguished industry leaders with the Industry Service Award. Previous recipients include David Jones of The Kellogg Co. and Jerry Garland of Associated Wholesale Grocers.



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