Industry Leaders Recognized by NGA

Honors include collective award for community service
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Industry Leaders Recognized by NGA Gerry Kettler Niemann Foods
Niemann Foods' Gerry Kettler (center) receives the Thomas F. Wenning Pinnacle PAC Award.

The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, has presented Gerry Kettler, director of consumer affairs at Quincy, Ill.-based Niemann Foods, with the Thomas F. Wenning Pinnacle PAC Award, and Dennis Belcastro, VP of industry affairs and consumer development at Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark North America, with the annual Industry Service Award.

Both awards were presented during NGA’s two-day Executive Conference, which took place Sept. 18-19 at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, overlapping with The NGA Show at the same venue.

Kettler is a longtime member of NGA’s Government Relations Committee, helping to establish advocacy priorities that benefit independent grocers. The Pinnacle PAC award, established in 2014, honors Thomas Wenning, NGA’s former EVP and general counsel, for his four decades of service to NGA and the independent supermarket industry.

“Gerry has been instrumental in supporting NGA Grocers PAC by providing a guiding vision and generous support,” noted Chris Jones, SVP of government relations and counsel at Washington, D.C.-based NGA. “Independent grocers have benefited greatly from Gerry’s dedication and exceptional service to advancing NGA’s interests in government and political affairs.”

Founded in 1917, Niemann Foods operates more than 100 stores, 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.”

Industry Leaders Recognized by NGA Dennis Belcastro Kimberly-Clark
Kimberly-Clark's Dennis Belcastro (right) is presented with the Industry Service Award by NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara.

Meanwhile, Belcastro received “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,” observed NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara, adding that the executive “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.” 

Previous Industry Service Award recipients over the past 30 years include David Jones of The Kellogg Co. and Jerry Garland of Associated Wholesale Grocers.

Additionally, during the NGA Show, Women Grocers of America (WGA) presented the Woman of the Year award to Pamela Coy, owner of Viking Village Foods, with locations in Baraboo and Reedsburg, Wis. Woman of the Year Award recipients are persevering, strategic thinkers, and standout representatives within their organizations. 

“Pam’s ownership style keeps customers shopping at Viking Village Foods over larger competitors in the area by being actively involved in her community and providing premier customer service,” said WGA President Kristin Popp. “She constantly innovates as well, with ideas such as hiring a dietitian to provide advice to customers, assisting with their overall nutrition plans.”

Perhaps most interestingly, NGA recognized the entire independent community grocery industry with this year’s Peter J. Larkin Community Service Award during the Sept. 19 Opening Session of the 2021 NGA Show, which runs through Sept. 21.

“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,” said Ferrara. “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. 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 Larkin award, named for the association's former president and CEO and sponsored by Kimberly-Clark, debuted at the 2019 NGA Show to honor an independent retailer or wholesaler company for unique and strong service to the community during the previous year. While the award is usually given to a single company, this year the organization felt that there were too many to choose from, as independents across the United States showed their strong commitment to the community during the pandemic. 

“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 Belcastro. “Kimberly-Clark is proud to support such an important award and we congratulate the entire industry for their commitment to community service.” 

Belcastro also revealed Kimberly-Clark's partnership with NGA member retailers to donate diapers for families in need to Washington, D.C.-area diaper banks. 

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