Friends of the Industry marks 20th dinner at FMI Midwinter

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Friends of the Industry, an annual gathering of grocery industry notables and stakeholders, celebrated its 20th dinner at the 2022 FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Orlando, Fla.

The group’s annual dinner at the FMI event, typically held in late January, returned in 2022 after a two-year absence due to the conference’s cancellation in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the confab was postponed until late March following the national wave of infections from the virus’ Omicron variant.

Related: Q&A: FMI’s Leslie Sarasin says grocery industry has ‘stepped up to the plate’ amid challenges

More than 200 people attended that Friends of the Industry XX Dinner on Tuesday evening at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, with Friends of the Industry co-founders Bill Kies, president and principal of Kies Consulting, and Mike Gorshe, president of The Gorshe Group, serving as hosts. Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI-The Food Industry Association, also appeared at the gathering to welcome guests.

Instead of offering gifts and headliner entertainment at the dinner, Friends of the Industry said it has been a 20-year tradition to allocate those funds to local charities designated by attending FMI member company executives. This year, the group reached a milestone of donating $1.275 million in charitable support over the dinner’s history.

Related: Grocery execs get back to FMI Midwinter conference

The 20th dinner also spotlighted the retirement of three industry luminaries: Friends of the Industry co-founder Mike Gorshe, Rod Antolock of Harris Teeter/Kroger and Dr. Frank Gambino of Western Michigan University.

Companies marking their 20th year at the dinner include Alex Lee, K-VA-T Food Stores, FMI, Lowes Foods, Merchants Distributors Inc., the Network of Executive Women (now NextUp), Publix Super Markets and Weis Markets, while Lunds Food Holdings, Schnuck Markets and W. Lee Flowers & Co. were 19-year attendees.

Other company guests for the Friends of the Industry XX Dinner included Amazon, Associated Wholesale Grocers, Bristol Farms, Brookshire Grocery Co., Coborn’s, Giant Eagle, Good Food Holdings, Harris Teeter, Southeastern Grocers, Target, Topco Associates and Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods.

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