On the first day of its show, taking place at Caesar’s Forum in Las Vegas Feb 26-28, the National Grocers Association (NGA), which represents the independent grocery industry, has presented a number of awards.
The organization presented the Thomas K. Zaucha Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence to Jeff Strack, president and CEO of Highland, Ind.-based Strack & Van Til. The award, sponsored by Deerfield, Ill.-based Mondelēz International Inc., recognizes an independent retailer that demonstrates persistence, vision and creative entrepreneurship.
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“Since 2009, NGA has presented this award to independent grocers that embody the characteristics of a true entrepreneur,” said Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based NGA. “I’m excited to see Jeff Strack join this impressive list. Since becoming president and CEO in 2016, Jeff has strengthened Strack & Van Til with innovative ideas and a resilience that is a hallmark of independent community grocers across the country. I congratulate Jeff on receiving this award and look forward to seeing what he accomplishes in the years to come.”
Strack & Van Til began in 1959, when Ernie Strack and Nick Van Til combined their grocery stores in northwest Indiana. Today, there are Strack & Van Til grocery stores throughout northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois.
Shortly after Strack became president and CEO of the grocery chain in 2016, its then-parent company filed for bankruptcy. Strack mounted a successful effort to buy his family’s company out of bankruptcy to preserve its local ownership. He has since worked to ensure Strack & Van Til can continue serving its hometown community.
The Thomas K. Zaucha Award, presented by Mondelēz and named after NGA’s first president and CEO, has been presented annually to recognize an independent grocer that exemplifies persistence, vision and creative entrepreneurship.
NGA board member Rick Brindle received NGA’s Industry Service Award in recognition of his years of service in the food industry working for better working relations and understanding among retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers.
“Rick has been a strong partner of independent grocers for many years, developing industry relations that have strengthened communities throughout the country,” noted Ferrara. “I thank him for his commitment to independent grocers and wish him and [his wife] Dee the best as they enter a new chapter in their extraordinary lives.”
Brindle started his career in the grocery industry with Safeway before earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration, management and marketing in 1982. In 1996, he joined Nabisco, rising to the role of VP of global sales before leaving to work at Kraft Foods in 2001. In 2012, Brindle came to Mondelēz as VP of industry development, North America.
Additionally, in conjunction with Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark, the trade association presented its Peter J. Larkin Community Service Award to New Orleans-based Hispanic grocer Ideal Market. Ideal was recognized for its efforts regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, in addition to its community outreach in the wake of Hurricane Ida. The award is named for NGA’s former president and CEO and was established in 2019.