DALLAS -- Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va., presented the 1999 Herbert Hoover Award for "professional and personal excellence" to Al Piergallini, president and chief executive officer of Novartis Consumer Health North America, Summit, N.J., parent company of Gerber Products Co.
he help Gerber gave in collecting and distributing products to people in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala following the devastating rains and flooding from Hurricane Mitch last November.
Piergallini was vice chairman, president and CEO of Gerber, Fremont, Mich., at the time of the hurricane. Following the FDI's request to industry companies to contribute food to Central America, Gerber responded by shipping 32 container loads of baby food -- 214,000 cases of product -- valued at approximately $1.5 million.
"When our staff called Gerber to make sure we understood right -- that it was really 32 container loads -- they were told [that] Gerber does this all the time," Emmons said.
Piergallini, 52, joined Gerber in April 1989 as president and chief operating officer. He was elected chairman, president and CEO in January 1990 and named to his current post last month.
He began his career in 1970 as a marketing manager for Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, moving up to brand manager and sales manager before joining Beverage Management, in 1976, where he progressed to regional director.
In 1979 he joined Sara Lee Corp., Chicago, as vice president and general manager of the Midwest region for Shasta Beverages, moving up to corporate vice president of marketing, before being named president and CEO of Shasta in 1983.
In 1986 Piergallini joined Carnation Co., Los Angeles, as vice president and general manager of the Friskies pet care division and was appointed senior vice president, with responsibilities for the Carnation products and nutritional products divisions before he left in 1989 to join Gerber.
During his tenure at Gerber, the company removed unnecessary starches and sugars from baby foods; sought to help combat Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by printing notices on packages urging mothers to make sure babies sleep on their backs as doctors recommend; introduced a line of organic baby-food products; created a multilingual consumer-service helpline, and reinstated the original Gerber baby on product labels.
The Hoover Award was established in 1961 to commemorate Hoover's relief efforts in feeding starving people: in China following the Boxer Rebellion in 1900; in London and Belgium during World War I, and throughout Europe for five years after the war.