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FMI Recognizes Notable Achievements and New Leadership Positions

June 29, 2020

Garfield Retires; Vita, Fikes and Garlich Appointed to New Roles


ARLINGTON, VA – FMI – The Food Industry Association today recognizes the appointment of several new leadership roles and acknowledges the significant contributions of an individual who championed a culture of food safety across the global supply chain.

After nearly decade of shoring up Safe Quality Food Institute’s (SQFI) foundations by updating standards, overseeing a technology overhaul of SQFI’s systems and vastly expanding its reach, Robert Garfield, senior vice president of SQFI, a division of FMI, has announced his plans to retire.

FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin reflected on Garfield’s tenure, noting, “Oversight of SQFI required a leader with business acumen because the program needed to grow;  the very nature of SQFI’s work necessitated someone steeped in the science of food safety; the job required a visionary with customer service  sensitivities and trusted connections throughout the food industry; and to cap it all, the position called for someone who cared deeply about both people and detailed protocols. Bob Garfield and I had worked together for years in varying capacities and I knew him to be a man of great integrity, possessing a solid work ethic with a thorough understanding of the regulatory system and food safety science.”

Garfield’s retirement signals a new opportunity for leadership at SQFI, with Gigi Vita as the incoming chief food safety assessment officer and senior vice president of the program. Originally hired to lead sales for SQFI, Vita’s appointment cements her operational effectiveness through best in class business-to-business and business-to-consumer insights and sales teams, as well as supply chain, manufacturing, and globally sourced customer offerings. Prior to her work at FMI, she held leadership roles at major consumer packaged goods companies including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kraft/Nabisco, Campbell Soup, Nestle, Procter & Gamble, and most recently, Dairy Farmers of America.

Sarasin continued, “As we continue to serve the greater food marketplace, I want to recognize the important work ahead to collaborate, advocate and educate, while supporting the food industry with new appointments at FMI.”

  • David Fikes is the executive director of the FMI Foundation. Fikes is a career counselor/advisor and is uniquely attuned to the heartbeat of the consumer. By shifting his career from an Episcopal priest, serving parishes in Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, into the food industry years ago, Fikes brought a diverse set of skills to the association world; he directed communications at the American Frozen Food Institute until he came on board at FMI nearly a decade ago serving a similar role. Fikes will continue to champion the food safety, nutrition and health goals of the Foundation, including research initiatives undergirded by a unified voice, and build momentum for the family meals movement.
  • Heather Garlich is senior vice president, communications, marketing and consumer/community affairs at FMI. Garlich celebrates nine years at the association and she is a longtime food industry communicator, beginning her career in Washington, DC as a media and trends analyst. Prior to joining FMI, Garlich was a public relations lead for major food and commodity accounts at a global agency. She has focused on media relations and building the association’s digital strategy, as well as managing and directing communications and advocacy relations during her tenure at FMI.
  • FMI also recently hired Krystal Register, MS, RDN, LDN to lead health and well-being initiatives at FMI.


Background on SQFI: In the early 2000s, FMI’s membership recognized that a successful food safety program would require a total management approach, which begins with the producer or manufacturer. FMI recognized that the addition of a site certification program would enhance other food safety programs such as in-store operations, employee training and consumer education. The site is the foundation to ensuring food safety along the supply chain. Adherence to buyer specifications and Pre-requisite Programs (such as Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), etc.) adds assurance to the food chain. The SQF program became a tool for managing food safety and quality from farm to fork, which FMI purchased in 2003 from Western Australia Department of Agriculture. www.sqfi.com


About FMI

As the food industry association, FMI works with and on behalf of the entire industry to advance a safer, healthier and more efficient consumer food supply chain. FMI brings together a wide range of members across the value chain — from retailers that sell to consumers, to producers that supply food and other products, as well as the wide variety of companies providing critical services — to amplify the collective work of the industry. www.FMI.org

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