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Leaders honored at Friends of the Industry event

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MARCO ISLAND, Fla. — One of the high points of the recent FMI Midwinter Conference here was the annual Friends of the Industry dinner.

Founded 22 years ago by Bill Kies of Kies Consulting and Mike Gorshe of the Gorshe Group, the event brought together some 300 retailers, CPG suppliers and others involved in the grocery business to build and strengthen relationships, and express support for the industry.

At the end of the evening, three individuals were honored for their leadership and contributions to the supermarket sector. Henry Johnson of food distributor W. Lee Flowers & Co. received the J. Frank Grimes Award from the Independent Grocers Alliance. Also recognized were Dagmar Farr, who after 40 years at FMI – The Food Industry Association retired in 2023 as senior vice president of member services and now serves the association in a consulting role, and Denny Belcastro, vice president of industry and customer collaboration at Kimberly-Clark Corp. He previously held key executive roles at Hillshire Brands Co., the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Mondelez.

In addition to celebrating the industry, the event helps the community. Kies announced that Friends XXII raised $1.4 million for charities.“One of the unique and rewarding features of the Friends dinner is that in lieu of entertainment such funds are allocated to local charities designated by attending retail and wholesale executives,” he said.


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