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This is an exciting week for SN's Technology & Logistics section and its editor, yours truly. For one thing, there's the food industry's biggest technology event, the Food Marketing Institute's Marketechnics show, taking place at the Dallas Convention Center. On top of that, SN gets to announce and celebrate the winners of our first annual Technology Excellence Awards. That took place on the first day of the show, yesterday, with a formal announcement on the exhibit floor, followed by a dinner and ceremony at the Wyndham Anatole hotel's Nana restaurant in Dallas.

The award winners, by the way, are Food Lion (chain category), Supervalu (wholesaler category) and Knowlan's Festival Foods (independent category). An in-depth look at each company's approach to technology -- and the reasons for their selection as award winners -- starts on Page 59.

The question I most often get asked about these awards is the criteria for selecting the winners, which, of course, is a good question. Why these companies, among the many food distribution companies that excel in the use of technology?

The simple answer is that, working with other SN editors, I examined the nominations that were sent in from our Web site, as well as coverage in the publication, particularly in the Technology & Logistics section, over the past year or so. Then I picked the companies that truly stood out in the ways they used technology to support their business, such as driving out costs, increasing revenues, improving customer service, assisting employees and communicating with suppliers.

But as I delved into the process, it occurred to me that the companies that were most deserving of recognition were not just the ones willing to invest in technological improvement and that excelled in the bits and bytes of technology. I realized recognition should be paid to companies that exercised leadership in the application of technology, both for their own companies and for the industry at large.

More than ever, technology is becoming an area that cuts across companies and requires cooperation among them. This is especially true in the area of standards development, which enables systems to be used easily and inexpensively by the industry as a whole

Food Lion and Supervalu have been among the pre-eminent leaders in the food industry in the development of both data synchronization standards through UCCnet and the implementation of the new standards for transmission of EDI over the Internet (EDIINT). Both were early participants in UCCnet and have championed its cause at industry meetings and in relations with suppliers and other food distributors.

Knowlan's Festival Foods, as an independent, is less involved in industry initiatives, but in its own way has taken a leadership role in technology development in the food industry simply through its remarkable commitment to the area. Knowlan's works so intently with technology vendors on maximizing its systems that the vendors eventually incorporate the changes in their core product, which benefits later users of the systems.

These companies realized that by taking a leadership role in technology -- and not looking at technology as being specifically about their own personal advantages -- they were in the end helping themselves as well as the rest of the industry.