NGA honors AWG president and CEO with Great American Award

The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, Monday night honored David Smith with the Clarence G. Adamy Great American Award, NGA’s highest honor for government relations.

Smith, president and CEO of Kansas City, Kan.-based Associated Wholesale Grocers, received the award during AWG’s Excellence Awards in conjunction with its Innovation Showcase and Annual Meeting at the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park, Kan.

“Over the years, David has always been one of the first to host an elected official at an AWG facility, and he’s always willing to come to Washington to meet with policymakers on issues impacting independent community grocers,” said Greg Ferrara, NGA president and CEO.

“For many years, he has been a leader in helping to advance critical public policy issues that impact independent supermarkets.”

Smith regularly appears before lawmakers in Washington, DC, to testify about issues affecting independent grocery operators. In July 2021, Smith tested before the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining to senators how power buyers use their dominance to take greater control of the market, demanding special treatment from suppliers without economic justification. Smith described the toll this behavior takes on the broader food supply chain, where suppliers, agriculture producers and consumers alike are all being squeezed by these retail giants.

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In July 2021, David Smith testified via videoconference before the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining to senators how power buyers use their dominance to take greater control of the market, demanding special treatment from suppliers without economic justification.

Smith, in his testimony, noted that high levels of sales concentration enable large retailers to “act as gatekeepers to consumers.”

“AWG has had a front-row seat to increasing levels of concentration in the food supply chain in recent decades, both at the retail level and among suppliers like meatpackers. Today, one in four grocery dollars in the United States are spent at Walmart. Our 3,100 stores, which comprised $22 billion in sales for the industry, can look like peanuts compared to the dominant retailers,” Smith said to lawmakers.

In presenting the award to Smith, Ferrara noted, “Explaining antitrust issues isn’t something that easily rolls off the tongue for most, which is why it was so important to have people like David participate in countless meetings with elected officials, federal regulators and administration officials, helping them understand how inequities in the marketplace, driven by the explosive growth of power buyers, directly impacts communities across America. NGA and our industry have achieved enormous wins because of the passion and commitment of people like David Smith.”

Smith began his career in the food industry as an independent store owner, then rose through the ranks at wholesaler Fleming Cos. before joining AWG in 2003. As AWG’s senior vice president and general manager, he opened the company’s Gulf Coast Division in Louisiana in 2013. Smith became president and CEO in December 2015, succeeding Jerry Garland.

Initiated in 1982, the Clarence G. Adamy Great American Award is NGA’s most distinguished government relations award that is presented to an individual or company whose leadership in the food industry best exemplifies active and effective participation in government relations as a citizen and industry representative. The award’s namesake, Clarence Adamy, was a past president of the National Association of Food Chains and was active in public and government affairs.

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