Top Women in Grocery Orlando Gala Draws Stellar Crowd

More than 210 of Progressive Grocer’s 2015 Top Women in Grocery honorees flocked to Orlando to relish their accomplishments and accept engraved awards before a contingent of more than 450 industry luminaries, special guests and family members, all of whom came out to celebrate with and support the event’s recognized guests of honor.

Hosted by Jeff Friedman, brand director and Stagnito Business Information VP, and PG's Chief Content Editor Meg Major at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Top Women in Grocery marked its ninth year of recognizing the invaluable contributions of women from all walks of the retail food industry in three categories – Senior-Level Executives; Rising Stars; and Store Managers – with a dedicated daytime learning platform and gala evening awards celebration.

During the evening program, Meg Ham, president of Food Lion, accepted the 2015 Top Women in Grocery Trailblazer Award, which recognizes a single executive whose leadership, vision and influence have helped break new ground for women in the retail food industry.

At the gala event, PG's Meg Major also bestowed the first-ever Top Women in Grocery Torchbearer Tribute – in recognition of a single company or brand that excels at building awareness for gender bias while offering relatable solutions to impart change – to P&G's Always brand's powerful #LikeAGirl multimedia campaign.

Produced by award-winning documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, #LikeAGirl, originally launched online in the summer of 2014, set out to spark a viral fire about the power of words, and how the commonly used phrase, “like a girl” – often used as an insult – can have a significant effect on young girls’ self-confidence.

In her message to this year's Top Women in Grocery, who were chosen from a pool of more than 500 applicants, Major led the applause for the recipients who "are making a huge difference – not only in our industry – but also in the lives of the many people you serve on a daily basis. I recently heard someone say: 'Service is leadership; leadership is service.' And it's a fitting message to ponder tonight as we take time to celebrate the exceptional leadership and service abounding in the retail food industry, as evidenced by our special guests of honor."

As PG prepares to commemorate Top Women in Grocery's 10th anniversary in 2016, Major conveyed special appreciation to the program's stalwart retailer supporters from the outset, including The Kroger Co., Hy-Vee, Safeway/Albertsons, Ahold USA, Delhaize America, Giant Eagle, Supervalu and Tops Markets. "We're extremely proud of how far our program has come in the last decade, thanks to these forward-thinking industry leaders."

Noting the timeless adage – "Many are called; few are chosen" – Major said, "The same can be said for our past and present Top Women in Grocery recipients, who epitomize the defining traits of our platform, whose founding mission depicts that gender diversity isn’t merely just a nice thing to have, but is instead a strategic advantage on all fronts in an ever-competitive retail landscape."

During her acceptance of the Progressive Grocer/Network of Executive Women (NEW) Trailblazer Award, Food Lion President Meg Ham encouraged the 2015 Top Women in Grocery, "To reflect on what you want your goals to be, and stay true to yourself in the process. Be open to feedback as you continue along your career path. And, don't be afraid to have frequent conversations about development – or be the conversation starter, if others are not having the conversation with you."

Ham also urged her audience "to seek out mentors that you believe will help you achieve the career goal you are looking for. Take advantage of professional development opportunities through your employer, and ask for development opportunities that will help you stand out in the workplace and align to your goals."

Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute (FMI), served as guest host of the formal awards presentation ceremony for Top Women in Grocery attendees, who walked the red carpet on their way into the grand ballroom to mix and mingle with colleagues, friends and family from around the country. 

Daytime Leadership Platform Sets the Tone

For the third year, Top Women in Grocery's annual confab featured a daytime leadership development program designed to foster and enhance the success and professional development of its honored guests.

Following a welcome breakfast sponsored by Post Consumer Brands, Deanie Elsner, recently appointed president of U.S. Snacks at Kellogg Co., presented the keynote address. An exceptionally powerful leader focused on new approaches to brand innovation and renovation to create more relevant consumer relationships, Elsner is renowned for building strong, diverse teams to foster constructive tension and ignite revolutionary approaches – as well as for being a passionate disruptor while taking on the toughest challenges.

Up next was a "Tips from the Top" panel discussion featuring a brain trust of some of the retail food industry’s most accomplished and respected women leaders, including Meg Ham; Janel Haugarth, EVP and president of Independent Business/Supply Chain Services, Supervalu Inc.; and Deanie Elsner.

Peer Circle Discussions Feature Stellar Lineup

After lunch, Nancy Krawczyk and Eileen Tarjan, both of the Network of Executive Women (NEW), led a strategic networking primer session, which set the stage well for concurrent peer circle breakout discussion groups.

The closed peer circle groups were led by some of the most talented and engaging women leaders from across the food industry, including:

  • Becky Estby, VP, Human Resources and Organizational Development, Coborn’s Inc.
  • Lois M. Fruhwirth, Associate Director, Retail Supply, Procter & Gamble NA Grocery Channel
  • Jewel Hunt, Group VP, Bakery, Albertsons/Safeway
  • Nancy Krawczyk, VP, Marketing & Corporate Partnerships, Network of Executive Women (NEW)
  • Michele Murphy, EVP, HR and Corporate Communications, Supervalu
  • Eileen Tarjan, Manager of Learning, Network of Executive Women (NEW)
  • Rachel Rogers, VP, U.S. Category & Insights, The Hershey Co.

The celebration wrapped up at 9:15 p.m. with a decadently delicious after-dinner dessert and dance party, courtesy of The Hershey Co.

Other key sponsors of the annual Top Women in Grocery event included:

  • Kraft Foods, Platinum
  • PepsiCo, Gold
  • Procter & Gamble, Gold
  • E&J Gallo, Exclusive, Wine
  • Post Consumer, Breakfast Sponsor
  • Coca Cola, Break Sponsor
  • Belles Organic, Bronze Sponsor
  • Domino Sugar, Bronze Sponsor
  • Unata, WiFi Sponsor

The full list of PG’s 2015 Top Women in Grocery can be found here

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