Lex Alexander and Phil Tozzi will receive the Cliff Adler "Heart in Business" award at Natural Products Expo East. The award, first given in 1989, is presented to members of the industry who embody qualities of the late Cliff Adler, a vice president of Eden Foods at the time of his death.
Alexander was the owner of the Wellspring stores in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. He sold the company to Whole Foods Markets Inc. and continued to work with the chain to develop its high-end branded foods. He left Whole Foods a year ago.
"Lex has a creative vision," said Bruce Nierenberg, a member of the selection committee and president of BIN Sales and Marketing Inc. of Norwalk, Conn. "He changed the path of Whole Foods. He's been a tireless proponent of high-end and quality organic foods for many years and he has a sense of devotion to small-scale production. Single-handedly, he's probably kept several small companies in business by affiliating them with Whole Foods."
"I actually knew Cliff and had a few great dinners and some business dealings with him," Alexander said. "It's an honor to get this award, but to have known Cliff really makes it special."
Tozzi is the president of Philip Tozzi and Associates, a natural products brokerage in the northeastern United States. He also champions small companies.
"Phil has a big heart and great sense of humor," Nierenberg said. "He's one of the go-to guys for small start-up companies in the Northeast. He's a straight shooter and his staff adores him."
"He's an appropriate recipient of the award because of how much he's loved by his staff for his big heart and because he's the glue that holds his company together and allows it to grow," said Phil Margolis, president of Ivyland, Pa.-based Neshaminy Valley Natural Foods LLC, and head of the selection committee.
"Ever since I began in this industry back in 1974, I felt that we had something special to offer the world. The industry's people [are] a wonderful resource," Tozzi said. "I knew Cliff Adler and I am thrilled to be recognized as a modern-day example of Heart in Business."
Alexander and Tozzi will receive the Adler award at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, in the Expo Plaza between Halls B and C.
Candidates for the Adler award are nominated by members of the industry; then the awards committee conducts interviews with each nominee's colleagues at work and within the industry. Nominees are evaluated on heart, sense of humor, hard work, problem solving, integrity and ethics, and staff relationships, Nierenberg said. Candidates also need to be "the glue" that holds their organization together, he said—natural leaders that people rally around.
Awards committee members are Margolis, Nierenberg and Mark Cook, Western sales director for American Soy Products of Saline, Mich.
Past recipients of the award were Lynda Sadler, Norman Cloutier, Kevin Kennedy, Yuko Okada, Moses Brown, Judith Gilliland, Laurie King, Mark Blumenthal, Michael McGuffin, Katherine DiMatteo, Michael Kantor, Russell Parker, Cheryl Hughes, Susan Futrell, Bu Nygrens and George Siemon.
The committee is accepting nominations for next year's Heart in Business award. Contact Margolis at 215.443.5545 or Nierenberg at 203.854.9020 for more information.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 10/p. 18, 24