Pepsi's Nooyi, Safeway's Burd Call for Action on Health at FMI Midwinter

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Pepsi's Nooyi, Safeway's Burd Call for Action on Health at FMI Midwinter

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Two of the food industry's sharpest business minds, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo and Safeway's Steve Burd, called for bold and swift action from their senior executive colleagues in a two-front war to stop the rise of obesity and the costs of health care in America, at the Food Marketing Institute's Midwinter Conference here yesterday.

At the first business session of FMI's two-and-a-half-day, c.e.o.-level conference, Nooyi, PepsiCo chairwoman and c.e.o. of PepsiCo Inc., urged her counterparts, the leaders of a $900 billion industry that could be the 13th largest economy in the world, to use their tremendous influence and resources to "bring about positive change" in the fitness levels and eating habits of many Americans, and especially children.

Steve Burd, Safeway Inc.'s chairman and c.e.o., followed her with a challenge to food industry leaders to grab health care costs by the horns, offering his own company's bold and successful effort as a road map.

Both executives called for substantive action from their colleagues in the room, and in short order. Nooyi proposed a three-month deadline for the industry to gather its faculties and vow to effect change on a national scale to beat back obesity. Burd, meanwhile put an even tighter schedule on the industry to get its act together, calling for a new joint effort by FMI and the Grocery Manufacturers Association to lay out the challenge and design a strategy for meeting the obesity challenge in the next 35 to 40 days or so. He even called on executives in the ballroom to stand up on the spot and declare they'd devote a day to sorting the problem out.

Burd also said he wanted to see at least 30 of the food and retailing companies represented in the room to reduce their per capita health care costs along the lines of Safeway's homegrown initiative within the next 18 months. And, he challenged the assembly to more aggressively engage in public policy change, at least in part by supporting the coalition he helped form, the Coalition for Heath Care Reform, or CAHR, which has been reaching out to presidential candidates about health care reform.

Nooyi's plan is for a food industry guide to physical fitness, backed by national "Buckle Up America" style marketing campaign. Components could include portion control, how to eat healthier, and a standard nutrition labeling approach.

In other news, FMI named the recipients of its foursome of annual industry awards that it traditional dispenses at the Midwinter Conference.

Liz Minyard received the Sydney R. Raab Award for her efforts to feed the hungry and help the homeless, students and people who suffer from chronic diseases. The former FMI co-chair and co-CEO of Minyard Food Stores was the first woman to chair the FMI board, from 2003-2005.

The trade group awarded Barry Scher, v.p. of public affairs at Giant Food Inc. and Ahold USA, the Glen P. Woodard, Jr., Public Affairs Award, recognizing Scher's leadership in helping the retail food industry address important government issues.

A.G. Lafley, chairman and c.e.o. of The Proctor & Gamble Company, received the William H. Albers Industry Relations Award.

Wakefern Food Corps.'s chairman emeritus Tom Infusino received the Herbert Hoover Award for his personal and professional excellence in serving the food retail and wholesale industry, said FMI. Infusino was the uniting force behind the Wakefern and its ShopRite member companies during his 34-year career.