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I AM maintaining the status quo making big changes

Congratulations to this year’s Top Women in Grocery award winners

Plus, so many more stand-out women from amazing grocery organizations!

We’re working with some of the most impactful women in grocery to support the frontline smarter

Axonify delivers frontlinefirst communications and training that’s fast, personalized and accessible on the devices associates use every day. And it’s designed to make critical information stick, to get your associates doing the right things to drive the business results you need.

Grocers and retailers get results with Axonify:




reduction in employee turnover per month

saved per year in reduced safety claims





of users log in 2—3x per week

saved per employee from a 30% reduction in onboarding time


Give your associates the support they need to stay safe and productive. Learn more at


Kelly Caruso, CEO, Shipt

Linda Rendle, CEO, Clorox


TRAILBLAZERS Plus we recognize a record number of TWIG honorees for their exceptional efforts during an unprecedented year

June 2021

Volume 100, Number 6

Contents 06. 21

Volume 100 Issue 6


20 Unprecedented Success This year’s record-breaking slate of outstanding women in the industry took on the pandemic and won.


22 Kelly Caruso

The CEO of Shipt describes how diversity informs her vision of leadership, what it’s like to head up a tech company, and more.


30 Linda Rendle Features The CEO of The Clorox Co. always keeps people in mind whenever she makes important business decisions.

Cover Illustration by Jason Seiler




Fresh Produce

Healthy Eating Convenience


Now Hiring: Female CEOs Wanted


Nonalcoholic Beverages


DEI: It Starts at the Top


August 2021 12 MENU TRENDS

Breaking Bread and Bakery Trends 4



Grocery Delivery Elevated © 2021 Loomis Armored US, LLC. All rights reserved.

Contents 06. 21

Volume 100 Issue 6

8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631 Phone: 773-992-4450 Fax: 773-992-4455 GROCERY GROUP PUBLISHER John Schrei 248-613-8672



Women at the Top

Meet the women leading some of the biggest names in retail.

EDITORIAL EXECUTIVE EDITOR Gina Acosta 813-417-4149 MANAGING EDITOR Bridget Goldschmidt 347-962-9395


Albertsons Accelerates Technology Transformation Operational improvements, new digital initiatives, and partnerships with Google and Adobe fuel an epic transformation at the grocer.


SENIOR DIGITAL & TECHNOLOGY EDITOR Marian Zboraj 773-992-4405 SENIOR EDITOR Lynn Petrak 708-945-0415 CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Princess Jones Curtis, D. Gail Fleener, Debby Garbato, Marie Griffin, Abby McGarry, Jenny McTaggart and Barbara Sax ADVERTISING SALES & BUSINESS SENIOR SALES MANAGER Bob Baker (NEW ENGLAND, MID-ATLANTIC SOUTHEAST US, EASTERN CANADA) 732-429-2080 SENIOR SALES MANAGER Theresa Kossack (MIDWEST, GA, FL) 214-226-6468




JUNIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER-GROCERY GROUP Natalie Meehan p 773-992-4410 m 619 823-4926

Retailers’ commitment to the LGBTQ+ community is a force for good — and growth.

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE/CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING Terry Kanganis 201-855-7615 • Fax: 201-855-7373 CLASSIFIED PRODUCTION MANAGER Mary Beth Medley 856-809-0050



Bearing Fruit

Interesting new varieties, locally grown items and convenient packaging help grocers enhance their seasonal fruit offerings.

EVENTS VICE PRESIDENT, EVENTS Michael Cronin EVENTS DIRECTOR Karen Mahoney 952-467-8592 MARKETING BRAND MARKETING MANAGER Rebecca Martin 773-992-4407 AUDIENCE LIST RENTAL MeritDirect Marie Briganti 914-309-3378


High on the Hog

Innovations in fresh and processed pork expand as cookat-home consumers get more familiar with the protein. 168 GROCERY



Power Surge

Energy drinks are shedding their unhealthy halo as they establish themselves more firmly in the better-for-you space. 173 GROCERY

A Scary Big Halloween As America reopens, this fall could be the biggest ever for candy and snack sales.

173 6


PROGRESSIVE GROCER (ISSN 0033-0787, USPS 920-600) is published monthly by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Single copy price $14, except selected special issues. Foreign single copy price $16, except selected special issues. Subscription: $125 a year; $230 for a two year supscription; Canada/Mexico $150 for a one year supscription; $270 for a two year supscription (Canada Post Publications Mail Agreement No. 40031729. Foreign $170 a one year supscrption; $325 for a two year supscription (call for air mail rates). Digital Subscription: $87 one year supscription; $161 two year supscription. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631 and additional mailing offices. Printed in USA. POSTMASTER: Send all address changes to brand, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200. Copyright ©2021 EnsembleIQ All rights reserved, including the rights to reproduce in whole or in part. All letters to the editors of this magazine will be treated as having been submitted for publication. The magazine reserves the right to edit and abridge them. The publication is available in microform from University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for product claims and representations.

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Now Hiring: Female CEOs Wanted THE ONGOING TR ANSFORMATION OF FOOD RE TAILING WILL SOON E X TEND TO THE C-SUITE. eople in the retail industry love to make predictions. We study lifestyle behaviors that inform product development and shopping preferences to make more accurate sales forecasts. We leverage artificial intelligence to digest huge data sets to make predictions about inventory, pricing and promotions. Often, predictions are based on unique insights gleaned from data that’s run through a proprietary algorithm. Retail has become highly scientific, and so has Progressive Grocer. We employ a rigorous methodology with our annual Top Women in Grocery (TWIG) program, and it yields some unique insights. Now in its 15th year, TWIG is the food retailing industry’s longest-running, most prestigious program that recognizes the talent of women at all levels throughout the grocery industry. This program employs much of the same procedural and data-driven rigor that retailers and suppliers might use to develop joint business plans or create a seasonal promotion. My colleagues, Executive Editor Gina Acosta and Managing Editor Bridget Goldschmidt, see to that. No corners are cut, and strict rules are followed, when it comes to assessing the merits of those who enter the program. This disciplined approach, applied to a growing number of high-quality submissions, enables Progressive Grocer to predict that within 10 years, women will occupy 25% or more of the CEO positions of companies in The PG 100, which most recently ran our May 2021 issue. The PG 100 is our annual ranking of the 100 largest retailers of food and consumables in North America. Currently, 8% of the CEO positions are held by female executives, but looking ahead, our confidence in the 25% figure stems from the fact that the leadership pipeline is filled with talent. We know this because the TWIG program affords Progressive Grocer unique insight into the future of female leadership. Our three-tiered program, which recognizes Store Managers, Rising Stars and Senior-Level Executives, honors 91 senior executives this year, up from 88 last year. As a testament to how far TWIG has come, during the first year of the program, there were only 62 women recognized as TWIG honorees overall. It is apparent from reviewing the accomplishments of this year’s senior executive honorees that many are poised to ascend to higher levels of leadership. A debate could be had about whether a prediction of women occupying 25% of The PG 100 CEO roles within 10 years is adequate progress or a fast-enough time frame. Howev8

er, there’s no disputing the fact that it’s light years from where the industry was not that long ago, or from where it began. For example, some sectors of the retail industry were so dominated by men that as recently as the early 1990s, a major trade association that held a popular annual event for senior executives featured on its agenda a “First Ladies Luncheon.” Go back even further, say nearly 100 years, to when Progressive Grocer was founded in 1922, and my counterpart at the time described the brand’s mission in the inaugural edition as being “dedicated to the grocer who believes in his business and is anxious to improve his opportunity to serve his community.” Today, we cringe at that statement — and rightfully so — but the structure of American society and the business world was very different 99 years ago. The grocery industry comprised independents or small chains that were run by men focused on serving female shoppers. Change happened slowly in the decades that followed, but more recently, change of all types has accelerated throughout retail, much of it driven by the female executives among this year’s TWIG honorees. Change has been slower to show up with regard to C-suite gender diversity, but that, too, will accelerate, with more change happening in the next 10 years than in the past 100.

The Top Women in Grocery program affords Progressive Grocer unique insight into the future of female leadership.

Mike Troy Editorial Director, Grocery Group




National Dog Month Family Fun Month National Back to School Month National Brownies at Brunch Month

National Catfish Month National Goat Cheese Month National Panini Month National Sandwich Month



National Raspberry Cream Pie Day


National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. Make shoppers aware of your peerless selection of this hot-weather frozen perennial.


National Watermelon Day









National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. Regardless of whether they’re dunked in milk, these all-American baked treats always hit the spot.

National Oyster Day. Send shoppers to the seafood section to learn more about preparation of these surprisingly versatile mollusks.

National Root Beer Float Day

National Mustard Day. This popular condiment goes with practically everything — ask your shoppers for their most creative uses.

National Grab Some Nuts Day


National CBD Day. This is the perfect opportunity to acquaint customers with the benefits of products containing this ingredient.


National Rice Pudding Day. How many ways can this ultimate comfort food be prepared? Find out from your customers.


National S’mores Day. Place all of the fixin’s for this beloved campfire snack on a prominently located end cap.

National Raspberry Bombe Day. Provide step-bystep instructions in your in-store magazine for making one of these spectacular desserts at home.

National Julienne Fries Day. Otherwise known as shoestring potatoes, these can be made from scratch or picked up in the frozen aisle.

National Prosecco Day National Filet Mignon Day

National Creamsicle Day. On a hot day, there’s nothing better.















National Cuban Sandwich Day

National Waffle Day



National Lemon Meringue Pie Day. Keep the in-store bakery well stocked with this iconic baked good.

National Bao Day. Teach uninitiated customers about these tasty Chinese steamed buns.


National Lemon Juice Day. Remind home chefs of the many recipes that benefit from a dash of tartness.


National Rum Day. Yo ho ho! Encourage customers to release their inner pirate by imbibing this venerable spirit.

National Sponge Cake Day

National Beach Day

National Nonprofit Day. Urge shoppers and associates to give to the worthy cause of their choice.

National Peach Pie Day

National Trail Mix Day. Whether consumers buy it ready-made or create their own, let them know that you can provide what they need to stay fueled on a hike.

National Fajita Day. Host a sizzling online demo to show folks how this TexMex favorite is done.

National Banana Split Day. Position a mobile display of the main ingredient in the ice cream section to inspire home iterations of this timehonored creation.

National Potato Day. Anyway you slice it — and boil, bake, fry or otherwise prepare it — America never tires of its favorite vegetable.

National Dog Day. Run an online contest to determine which pooch-andhuman pair looks the most alike.

National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day. The day we learn the answer to “What’s better than pecan pie?”

National Pots de Creme Day. Those with bakeware sections can highlight ramekins to make this delectable French custard in individual servings.

National Spumoni Day. Actually, this could be any day at the height of summer.

National Red Wine Day. Offer a series of small, socially distanced in-person tasting events to spotlight your best varietals.


Research & Analysis

Breaking Bread and Bakery Trends During the pandemic, it seems that everyone has discovered the hobby of scratch-making sourdough bread. Sourdough has been trending on restaurant menus (up 14%) over the past four years, well before pandemic baking trends began. According to Datassential’s Trend Watch, “27% of consumers say they have been baking more in general since the pandemic began.” At the beginning of COVID-19, it was almost impossible to find a bag of flour, as consumers were using comfort food as a way to distract and self-soothe. Due to shortages in the supply chain at the beginning of quarantine, many consumers turned to local mills for flour to make their own bread, as grocery stores were often low on such baking supplies. Since then, consumers have turned an occasional hobby into an everyday occurrence, and their sourdough starters have almost become part of the family. Bomboloni MAC stage: Inception – International markets, global independents and fine dining. Trends start here and exemplify originality in flavor, preparation and presentation. Bomboloni (plural form) take doughnuts to the next level. This Italian-style doughnut hails from Tuscany and is often referred to as “bomba” or “bombe,” which translates to “bomb,” because it looks like a small grenade. Traditionally, filled with sweet pastry cream, this baked treat made from yeasty dough has been transformed by American operators with the inclusion of different fillings such as Nutella, seasonal jams and even gelato. On <1% of U.S. restaurant menus

Monkey Bread MAC stage: Adoption – Global foods aisle at supermarkets, casual independents, fast casual. Adoption-stage trends grow their base via lower price points and simpler prep methods. Still differentiated, these trends often feature premium and/or generally authentic ingredients. This homestyle classic has been adopted by restaurants as more operators add comfort foods to their menus. Pull-apart monkey bread consists of tiny balls of dough coated in butter, cinnamon and sugar, and then gathered in a Bundt pan and drizzled with a creamy vanilla icing, similar to the coating on a cinnamon roll. On <1% of U.S. restaurant menus

Up 40% over the past four years Up 56% over the past year 16% of consumers know it/7% have tried it/3% love or like it Menu Example Bombobar Bomboloni Classic (salted caramel, raspberry, vanilla bean custard, Nutella) or Over The Top (apple pie, cookies & cream, banana cream pie, pb&j, s’mores, cherry cheesecake, fruity pebbles & cereal milk)


70% of consumers know it/ 48% have tried it/39% love or like it Menu Example Topper’s Pizza: Raspberry Cheesecake Monkey Bread Bite-sized pieces of freshly made dough, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, and then baked and drenched in cream cheese icing and raspberry topping

Chocolate Croissant MAC stage: Proliferation – Proliferationstage trends are adjusted for mainstream appeal. Often combined with popular applications (on a burger, pasta, etc.)

Biscuit MAC stage: Ubiquity – Ubiquity-stage trends have reached maturity and can be found across all sectors of the food industry. Though often diluted by this point, their inception-stage roots are still recognizable.

This classic French pastry, also known as pain au chocolat, is a simple yeast-leavened laminated dough with a few pieces of dark chocolate baked into the center. With a texture similar to that of puff pastry, chocolate croissant dough goes through many stages of rolling and resting to create its thin, buttery, flaky layers.

While “biscuit” means something different from country to country, this Southern American staple has been adopted by restaurants for increasingly popular dishes like biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, and breakfast sandwiches. Traditional recipes are simple, usually consisting of flour, butter and leavening, along with buttermilk to impart a tangy flavor. This beloved American pastry can be enhanced with cheeses, peppers and seasonings.

On 1.3% of U.S. restaurant menus Up 19% over the past four year 83% of consumers know it/ 54% have tried it/48% love or like it Menu Example Common Grill Warm Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding Mocha and vanilla bean crème Anglaise, caramel sauce

On 14.0% of U.S. restaurant menus Up 10% over the past four years 95% of consumers know it/ 90% have tried it/76% love or like it Menu Example Biscuit Belly Biscuit Brisket House-smoked brisket, Alabama white barbeque sauce, caramelized onion, crunchy cabbage slaw


Shelf Stoppers

Fresh Produce

Basket Facts

Total Department Performance Latest 52 Wks W/E 3/27/21



Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 3/28/20

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 3/30/19



Top Produce Categories by Dollar Sales Pre-packaged Salads






How much is the average American household spending per trip on various produce items versus the year-ago period?





on all produce items, up 10.9% compared with a year ago




Latest 52 Wks W/E 3/27/21

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 3/28/20

Latest 52 Wks YA W/E 3/30/19

Source: Nielsen, Total U.S. (All outlets combined) – includes grocery stores, drug stores, mass merchandisers, select dollar stores, select warehouse clubs and military commissaries (DeCA) for the 52 weeks ending March 27, 2021.

The pandemic has not only impacted consumer shopping behavior, but it also forced many of us to return to the kitchen and cook more. As a result, we have seen a number of food categories lead CPG growth over the past year (latest 52 weeks to March 3, 2021), with produce being one of the beneficiaries. Produce sales jumped an impressive 10%, which is 3.5 times the rate for the previous year. But not all is equal: If we look at the top five sales categories in produce, convenience and cooking ingredients are fueling growth (pre-packaged salads up 14%, tomatoes up 15%, potatoes up 13%), whereas snacking-based produce were relatively static (apples up 2%, grapes down 1%). Household demographics played a polarizing role, with higher-income and larger households spending more on produce. As we navigate through 2021, we can expect sales to normalize and growth to slow, but produce still plays an important role in driving the basket, not only as an anchor, but as a complementary product to both center of store and other perimeter categories.”


on apples, up 2.0% compared with a year ago


on green beans, up 19.9% compared with a year ago

—Carman Allison, VP Consumer Intelligence, NielsenIQ

Generational Snapshot Which cohort is spending, on average, the most per trip on oranges?


on lemons, up 9.1% compared with a year ago Millennials

Gen Xers


The Greatest Generation





Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Feb. 20, 2021


Source: Nielsen Homescan, Total U.S., 52 weeks ending Feb. 20, 2021


FRESHDELMONTE.COM 1-800-950-3683

Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A.,Inc

DEL MONTE and the Del Monte Shield Logo are registered trademarks of Del Monte Foods, Inc. used under license. BUNCH OF GOOD and PEOPLE, PLANET, PRODUCE are trademarks of Del Monte International GmbH © 2021 All rights reserved.


Global New Products Database

Nonalcoholic Beverages Market Overview

2020 was a year distinguished by more at-home beverage occasions, stocked pantries and health concerns, balanced with a willingness to indulge, from which most nonalcoholic beverage categories benefited. Most impactful to the nonalcoholic beverage industry was the significant reduction in dining-out options, prompting consumers to shift much of their spending to package beverages, elevating sales for the majority of the industry.


you (BFY) ingredients are driving the market, which suggests that the future of innovation in nonalcoholic beverages will be a blend of BFY and indulgence, and sometimes a healthy dose of both. Most consumers reach for what they’re familiar with, choosing berry (53%), citrus (53%) or tropical flavors (48%). That doesn’t mean innovation should rely solely on these flavors, as there’s also interest in new flavors, especially among younger adults: 23% of Gen Z and 32% of Millennials say that they go out of their way to try new flavors.

The market is dominated by carbonated soft drinks and juice, both mature categories that have benefited from connections to comfort and immunity during the pandemic, but that have also historically been challenged to align with evolving consumer health-andwellness priorities.

Key Issues

44% of consumers consider flavored beverages a treat. Still, well-being and healthy formulations featuring better-for-


of Millennials say that they’re interested in beverages flavored with superfoods, and 38% say that they like indulgent beverage flavors.

What Consumers Want, and Why Going forward, consumer interest in BFY offerings in the pursuit of healthier lifestyles will continue to inspire consumers to seek out new beverages that support these goals through unique flavors and ingredients, reformulations, cleaner labeling, and even functionality. While food and beverage trends certainly point to healthier innovation, there will always be a place for indulgent flavors in nonalcoholic beverages, which will make finding the right balance a challenge for brands.

ALL’S WELLNESS By Molly Hembree

Healthy Eating Convenience

Convenience and taste continue to be king when it comes to food choices, and marrying the two is the ultimate duo in attracting shoppers’ attention. Weave in a positive Nutrition Facts panel, and your customers have something to be excited about. New products launched in the past year that meet these criteria include:

HELP SHOPPERS DITCH PANDEMIC-DRIVEN E ATING HABITS AND ADOPT A MORE NUTRITIOUS DIE T. s the COVID-19 pandemic begins to ebb in its spread across the country, Americans are venturing more outside their homes and, therefore, their kitchens. As retailers revert to normal operations, restaurants open back up for regular dining, extracurriculars resume for shoppers and their families, and calendars begin to fill with various appointments, the forecast is that consumers will again be seeking out opportunities for shortcuts when it comes to food. Now is a perfect opportunity to present a spread of easy and convenient items through your grocery stores that will also continue to support customers’ health goals and lifestyles. The COVID-19 crisis affected most U.S. operations beginning in March 2020 until the present. During these past 15 months, the average American household cooked more at home, and often turned to delivery and pickup services for their groceries, but also experienced an uptick in salty and sweet snack food consumption and weight gain. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 36.9% of all American households transitioned to working from home more frequently than before the pandemic, with up to an astounding 73.1% of households at the highest income level switching to telework as a result of the crisis. More time indoors, less access to exercise facilities, and job requirements demanding loads of time perched at a home desk have left many Americans with challenges in controlling their weight. Redirecting efforts toward showcasing lower-calorie, reduced-added-sugar, less-added-oil and portion-controlled snacks and easy meal ideas may now be your best bet in connecting with consumers.

Vegetable-centered Simple Truth Plant-Based Cauliflower Dips (Simple Truth is a Kroger private brand) Saturated fat-free pre-portioned cheese-and-legume Laughing Cow Blends wedges Just Egg Folded omelet-like high-protein mung bean-based breakfast food Lean Cuisine Bowls like Korean-Style Rice and Vegetables, with 7 grams of fiber and less than 500 milligrams of sodium per serving Otamot’s line of fruit- and vegetable-blended pre-made sauces Green Giant Simply Steam Made with Dash Salt-Free Seasoning flavorful low-sodium sides Kroger CARBMaster bread, with only 30 calories per slice Gerber Veggie Bites and Veggie & Grain Bowls for toddlers (and adults, too)

Retail dietitians can encourage healthier eating habits as shoppers emerge from pandemic-imposed lockdowns.

A dilemma often observed at the grocery store is consumer hesitancy in making a purchase based on unfamiliarity with the product. Break down this barrier with eloquently executed COVID-friendly sampling stations, or free individually wrapped trial sizes of products like trail mixes, nut butters, granola bars, applesauce, guacamole or crackers from manufacturers upon request. This juncture in our nation’s history also presents a prime time for shoppers to connect with a dietitian at retail. Dietitians can offer one-on-one nutrition appointments — virtually, telephonically or in person — to assist shoppers with establishing and progressing toward health goals that likely include weight loss and eating well while on the go. If your dietitians don’t provide direct counseling services, seek out their expert help by positioning them to support shoppers along their path to purchase with targeted nutrition messaging on the shelf edge, input on healthier product ideas at checkout, or materials in-aisle for healthy, quick recipe ideas.

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian for Kroger Health.


Unifying the Grocery Shopping Experience With Relationshop President Randy Crimmins For Industry-leading digital provider Relationshop, the best way for grocers to win the everRandy Crimmins accelerating race to digital relevance is to take a holistic, unified view of customers and apply that to the digital experience. President Randy Crimmins says, “An example is what we describe as ‘Connected Commerce’. It’s all about meeting the shopper where they are and based on how they want to shop right now.”

PG: “How does Relationshop’s Connected Commerce approach apply to grocery? “Connected Commerce allows the customer to seamlessly and easily shop for what they need, when they need it and how they need it via website, mobile or app. That may be a full-store shop for groceries, and, if they’re having a get-together on the weekend, a party tray, beverages, even a custom cake order, all in one app and a single user session. Even pre-pandemic, food service was a growing perimeter category for grocery, but the pandemic certainly accelerated that and the opportunity for carryout orders. And that’s a behavior predicted to persist well beyond the pandemic. Connected Commerce is convenient commerce. ADVERTORIAL

PG: How does a Unified Digital Platform answer the retailer’s data and digital challenges? “Thinking about the online aspect of grocery as being similar to an expansion of the physical store base is key to optimizing the brand’s digital experience. It needs similar focus, emphasis and relative investment. Visiting your store online is becoming as important as visiting your physical store. And having a Unified Digital Platform helps keep shoppers in your brand’s eco-system, rather than handing them off to another site or fulfillment provider. The experience remains connected and allows you to understand, interact and optimize each shopper’s journey. Grocers

should be asking ‘How do you want to shop today?’ In-store, online, from the app, off your desktop, or with a scan-and-go app with zero contact? Meeting the shopper where they are and making it easy for them to shop now is the core of Connected Commerce and the Unified Digital Platform.”

PG: How can grocers capitalize on Personalized Engagement? “Grocers need to rethink what personalization means or could mean for their customers. It’s not just adding their name to an email or sending targeted ads. As consumers shop in so many different ways — online, in-store, curbside or delivery — personalization is as much about HOW they’re buying, as it is WHAT they’re buying. Personalized Engagement is really about curating the experience to what matters most to ‘me’, and connecting those things so we can help the shopper shop the way they want to shop. Buying groceries today is a multi-faceted, omni-commerce experience, and personalization should make that experience more convenient, seamless and valuable.” Learn more about Connected Commerce solutions at


2021 Top Women in Grocery

This year’s record-breaking slate of outstanding women in the industry took on the pandemic and won. By Progressive Grocer Staff


See You in Orlando!

uring an incredibly challenging year, as the grocery industry stepped up to meet the needs of concerned shoppers and associates, women working at stores, warehouses, suppliers and marketing research firms, from entry-level positions all the way up to the C-suite, rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to keep product moving, and employees and customers safe. Now that the threat of COVD19 is receding and people are finally venturing out into the sunlight of what promises to be a celebratory summer, women across the industry are ready to help get the party started and keep it going with all of the necessary items and services. Reflecting the exemplary ways in which the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic was vanquished, nominations for Progressive Grocer’s 2021 Top Women in Grocery awards program flooded in at a never-before-seen rate — more than 1,000 were received, smashing all previous records. To assess these candidates, who already represent the best and brightest at their respective companies, PG recruited its first-ever all-female judging panel, made up of 12 women possessing a vast collective breadth of retail knowledge. Working long hours in teams of two, the judges painstakingly sifted through the hundreds of nominations, eventually winnowing them down to 437 honorees — another record. This herculean task was made all the more difficult by the sheer quantity — not to mention quality — of the nominees. It was truly humbling for the judges to read about the myriad achievements of the nominated women, ranging from creative programs in the workplace to activities to support the wider industry to selfless efforts to uplift their local communities. Although these feats would be impressive in any year, they took on special significance at a time when people relied on the grocery industry more than ever, and found that it was there for them. In that spirit, Progressive Grocer would like to pay tribute to all of the women — honorees or not, nominated or not — whose hard work and sacrifices helped grocers, suppliers and others stay afloat and able to serve their customers through a once-in-a-century public-health crisis. There may be “only” 437 Top Women in Grocery this year, but every last one of you is a winner.

This year, after a successful all-virtual program in 2020, Progressive Grocer is excited to meet up in person with attendees of several events, including our flagship Top Women in Grocery, at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, in Orlando, Fla., for our groundbreaking Grocery Industry Week, taking place Nov. 1-4. The other featured events are the GenNext Symposium (Nov. 2), which will address crucial issues shaping the future of the grocery industry; the brandnew Impact Awards (Nov. 2), showcasing the positive impact that retailers, suppliers and solution providers are having with environmental, social and governance efforts; and Retail Foodservice Innovation (Nov. 2-3), which will provide ways to grow meal revenue after COVID-19. Capping things off is Top Women in Grocery (Nov. 3-4), including expert speakers, networking activities, and an evening awards reception and gala. For more information, visit https://

Hall of Fame Inductees

The 2021 Top Women in Grocery Hall of Fame will receive two inductees this year. Each has been nominated an impressive five times over the course of her career. Crystal Rossel, of Advantage Solutions/Advantage Sales, and Barbara Walker, of The Save Mart Cos., will receive special recognition during the Top Women in Grocery event, slated to take place on Nov. 3-4 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, in Orlando, Fla.


2021 Top Women in Grocery 2021 TRAILBLAZER

Kelly Caruso

incredibly important to me. When I was at Target, I learned the importance of fostering a culture that allows everybody to bring their most authentic selves to work. It’s important to the culture, but it’s also important to the business. Engaged team members from a diversity of backgrounds contribute more and think more creatively as a whole.

By Gina Acosta / Illustration by Jason Seiler

PG: Retailing was a male-dominated industry when your career began. Were there female role models that you looked up to early on?


ince becoming CEO of Birmingham, Ala.-based Shipt in 2019, Kelly Caruso and her team have grown it into a leading same-day grocery delivery marketplace, scaling to more than 5,000 cities, tripling its membership, adding more than 300,000 shoppers and partnering with more than 120 retail partners — much of this during a catastrophic pandemic. Caruso has more than 25 years of retail experience, holding roles in operations, supply chain and merchandising. Before taking over as CEO of Shipt, she was SVP of merchandising at Minneapolis-based Target. Prior to that, she was president of Target’s independent global sourcing business, supporting the company’s owned-brand growth. Earlier in her career, she held a number of merchandising and inventory planning roles at Target, May Merchandising, and Abercrombie & Fitch. PG: Did you ever think, while at the University of North Dakota, studying accounting, you would be leading one of the world’s top grocery delivery companies in 2021? Can you talk about why you decided to pursue a career in retail and how your career has evolved? KC: I did not! But what I did know at that time was that I did not want a

job as a CPA. I had an interest in design and travel, and wanted a career that had both a creative and a numbers side. I also knew that I wanted to be part of a family. Retailing allowed me to do that in a way that accounting didn’t. Throughout my career in retail, including my time at Target and now at Shipt, I’ve been able to live a life where I can have a career that feeds my soul with art, travel, design, different cultures and new ideas. And importantly, this career gives me the opportunity to focus on being an executive, a mom and a wife. Having a career that supports that balance is critical, and it was part of my value system early on. PG: Can you talk about some of your early career influences, who they were and what lessons you learned from them? KC: Early on in my career, I had examples of the type of

leader I wanted to be, but also the type of leader I did not want to be. I had bosses that were not inclusive and who prioritized style over substance. I learned early on the power that leadership can have in creating cultures that people thrive in. That has stayed with me — I have always wanted to create inclusive, creative environments that allow people to thrive and reach their potential. A sense of belonging and fulfillment is also 22

KC: I’ve had two sponsors in my career, both of whom were women. They advocated for me when I wasn’t in the room and gave me opportunities to stretch myself. But equally important, they told me hard truths. Because I knew it was coming from a place of trust and respect, I embraced their feedback and was able to learn and grow, becoming a better leader. Progress is not linear, however. Due to the pandemic, women’s participation in

the workforce is at the lowest level it’s been in the last 30 years. It’s on today’s leaders to ensure we’re supporting women to stay in the workforce and to provide those opportunities. I’m proud that Shipt has a number of female leaders that younger women and men in our organization can look up to. That progress was earned, and if we don’t put a re-energized focus on this, coming out of the last year, some of that progress could be lost. PG: Target, which owns Shipt, has done so much for the causes of diversity, equity and inclusivity. Talk about what’s being done to move the needle on diversity among senior leadership at Shipt, but also at other levels to ensure that there’s a strong pipeline of diverse female talent. KC: I believe that creating a diverse and inclusive culture is

not only essential, but also what is best for our team members and for the business. By “diversity,” I’m referring to both diversity of ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, as well as diversity of thought, experiences and worldviews. To me, an inclusive culture means that everyone in your organization feels they are able to bring their most authentic self to work. It means they have a true understanding of purpose — it’s what gets them out of bed every morning. That includes clear rules of engagement, what’s acceptable and what’s not. It means more honest conversations. We are laser-focused on keeping diversity at the forefront of all we do at Shipt. It’s always been ingrained in our culture, but in the last year we’ve taken steps to formalize processes to ensure equitable seats at the table for our team. As a 7-year-old company, we’re still at the beginning of the journey. We’ve done a number of things over the last couple of years to further diversity at Shipt and in our communities, including increasing the diversity of our executive team, our tech team and the entire Shipt team. This year, we’ve launched Shipt’s first employee resource groups, which include groups dedicated to our diverse team members and allies. We’re also investing in the diversity and equity of our home city of Birmingham. We’re engaged in a local program called VITAL, which exists to ensure locally grown businesses are engaging with diversely owned vendors and suppliers, and we’re investing in Birmingham Promise, which offers college scholarships for Birmingham City Schools students, and apprenticeship opportunities at local companies like Shipt. The last year has been difficult for all of us, but we recognize it has been especially challenging for communities and people of color. Our leaders have worked to create spaces and programs for our team members to reflect on what’s going on in the world around us, including acts of violence and hatred against the Black community and the AAPI community. In these instances, it can’t be “business as usual” — for us, we seek to meet team members with empathy and flexibility through employee assistance programs, days of reflection, and extra time off to help team members unplug in a way that’s meaningful for them individually. PG: At Shipt, how do you remove barriers for women and other groups to advance? KC: Each and every day, we remain focused on advancing di-

versity and inclusion in all aspects of our business, and at Shipt,

Throughout my career in retail, including my time at Target and now at Shipt, I’ve been able to live a life where I can have a career that feeds my soul with art, travel, design, different cultures and new ideas.” —Kelly Caruso, CEO, Shipt

women are at the heart of our business. Many of the Shipt Shoppers across the country are women, and in households across the country, many women are making the purchasing decisions in the home, so it’s important that we can understand and relate to the most common needs of our people. This means it is imperative that we have diversity at all levels — first, so that our team members can see themselves reflected in our executive team and understand that there are career and growth opportunities right here at Shipt, and second, to fully unlock the power of mentorship. I believe that mentoring relationships can be even more powerful when grounded in a shared understanding and a relatable background. I’m excited about how we are bringing that to life at Shipt to create trust, respect and deeper relationships that can unlock professional and personal development for our team members in a meaningful way. PG: How would you describe your leadership style, and how was it developed? KC: There are three pillars at the core of my lead-

ership: being values-led, being approachable, and caring for our employees, shoppers and customers. I’ve really embraced this approach by being authentic, vulnerable and letting my guard down. By taking note of different approaches and mentorship styles, I’ve discovered a leadership identity which is core to who I am and enables me to show up as my best, most authentic self. PG: How do you strive to inspire others, to instill a spirit of helpfulness and service in Shipt employees that drives success? KC: Everything we do at Shipt is guided by our

purpose — to spark the connections that show why every person counts. This lays the foundation for a business rooted in relationships, trust and care, which is what truly sets Shipt apart. To me, an inspiring culture means that everyone in your organization feels they are able to bring their most authentic self to work. It means they have a true understanding of purpose — it’s what gets them out of bed every morning. I believe PROGRESSIVE GROCER June 2021



2021 Top Women in Grocery strongly in creating this kind of workplace for each and every individual at Shipt.

PG: Can you share how technology and supply chain solutions are changing the way we shop?

PG: How has your average workday changed due to the pandemic?

KC: At Shipt, we’re constantly testing and looking

for new ways to diversify and grow our business with the latest technology and fulfillment solutions. KC: As a company founded in Birmingham, with an office in Shipt is in the early stages of a test in Minneapolis San Francisco and retail partners all over the United States, to help Target deliver packages to local Target guest we were adept at leveraging remote tools well before the pandoorsteps daily. In this test, Shipt picks up a batch of demic hit. Given this existing use of these tech platforms, we packages destined for a specific neighborhood from were able to seamlessly take our work fully online, all while a sortation center and delivers them to guest doorrapidly scaling our business to meet the growth in consumer steps. In addition to increasing efficiency, this innodemand. While our teams are slowly beginning to return to vation lowers the retailer’s cost to serve, all while the office in person, tools such as Slack and Zoom will conproviding an amazing experience for the customer tinue to be a part of our culture and toolkit. by infusing the human element in an otherwise conAlthough it was not difficult to functionally tactless transaction. We look foradapt, we’ve made high-impact changes to our ward to seeing how this innovation culture to ensure employees feel valued, prohelps us grow in 2021. I have always ductive and engaged. Early on in the pandemic, This test is one of the many we recognized the reality of employee burnout ways we’re focused on reaching wanted and implemented wellness initiatives to provide to create inclusive, creative and connecting with more people support, including incremental days off when through Shipt, as well as building the office is closed, no meetings on Friday af- environments that allow a differentiated business in the internoons throughout the summer, a day of ob- people to thrive and reach dustry. Connection is at the heart servation on the anniversary of George Floyd’s their potential.” of all we do at Shipt. While we’re murder, and a day of service for Juneteenth. always looking for new ways to —Kelly Caruso, CEO, Shipt innovate and be more efficient, we PG: What do you consider to be the most believe that technology without essential keys to food retail success in 2022 and beyond? human connection is not relevant for the future.







KC: Coming out of the pandemic, more than ever, consumers

are craving experiences. As the world reopens and we’re faced with the choices of what we’ll return to doing, companies who prioritize the customer experience will continue to thrive. For Shipt, this translates to a need to continue to prioritize the connection between shoppers and customers as well as our retail relationships. Over the next year, our team is focused on both expanding our capabilities for retailers and adding new verticals to our marketplace, including national, local and regional retailers, and deepening our existing retailer relationships so we can continue to grow our businesses together. PG: What one new retail trend do you believe will have the biggest impact in 2022, and why? KC: While it may seem obvious coming from my point of

view, convenience will be king for consumers in the coming years. Last year saw an unprecedented spike in the demand for same-day home delivery. While the COVID-19 pandemic initially fueled this growth, indications are that online shopping and fast delivery are here to stay; same-day delivery services like Shipt are no longer a “nice-to-have,” but rather a must-have. Shipt was the resource individuals relied on to stay out of public spaces and keep others safe, all while keeping the household running. In addition, our customers have found value in the convenience and time saved through using Shipt, and we anticipate that will remain the case even as pandemic restrictions are lightened. 24

PG: What are the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of being a woman CEO in food retail and tech? KC: Only 8% of CEOs are women, so the privilege

I have to serve as CEO is not lost on me, and I don’t take it lightly. As a woman in my role, I have the opportunity and the challenge to create pathways for other women who want to forge a similar path. As CEO, I prioritize three things: I work with Shipt’s leaders to bring our purpose and values to life, I challenge our team to root all that we do in strategy, and I invest in nurturing the amazing talent at Shipt. It’s been difficult at times to look around and realize that I am the only woman at the table. But in those moments, I remind myself of what a challenge and an opportunity I have as a female CEO to ensure that I’m doing what I can to get other women to the table. PG: How do you inspire your workforce to be innovative and inclusive? KC: At Shipt, we believe that technology without a

human component isn’t relevant for the future. This is why we maintain a trusted community of more than 300,000 personal Shipt Shoppers who provide




2021 Top Women in Grocery an unparalleled experience for our customers. Over the past few years, as we have expanded our marketplace of goods to connect consumers directly with the fresh foods, kitchen goods, wellness products and essentials they need the same day, the personal relationships between Shipt Shoppers and customers have only strengthened. For example, customers can build their cart and place the order days to hours in advance of their scheduled delivery time, allowing their Shipt Shopper to review and then ask any questions in real time while shopping the order, to cater to any substitutions or product preferences.

KC: I’m so proud of the work we’ve done to create a

PG: What advice would you give to a Shipt Shopper on their first day?

KC: Yes, I do believe that last-mile delivery ser-

dynamic, diverse team at Shipt. The fact that the majority of our executives are women means something, not just to Shipt Shoppers, but broadly to women in business and young professional women. We no longer have to say that it can be done hypothetically; this is our reality at Shipt, and we’re proud of it. We wanted to create a company where team members could look to their executive team and feel that it reflects them. PG: Do you believe same-day delivery is the future?

vices will continue to fuel both retail and grocery growth, whether the fulfillment be sameKC: It’s an accomplishment to become a Shipt Shopper! Our hour, same-day or next-day. It will certainly look recruiting team is incredibly choosy, only onboarding three different based on the retailer, but the demand out of 10 shoppers who apply. That’s because we know that from consumers is what is crucial, and will drive Shipt Shoppers are our secret sauce. Shipt’s future success. Even before they deliver that first order, From the early days of Shipt, we we know that Shipt Shoppers will go above placed a bet on the power of the perI’m proud that and beyond for customers, shopping the way sonal shopper. We’ll continue to scale Shipt has a they’d shop for themselves. and to innovate, but we’ll keep conSo, knowing all of that, I would encourage number of female leaders nection at the heart of all that we do. shoppers to be themselves, shop for their customthat younger women and PG: How do you work with your ers as if they were shopping for their own family, grocery partners? and let their personality and attention to detail men in our organization can look up to.” shine through. KC: Shipt exists to enhance the retail —Kelly Caruso, CEO, Shipt PG: What advice do you have for women experience, not replace it. We care climbing the ladder in retail and tech? deeply about being good stewards of our partners’ brands and an extension of their in-store KC: There are a few pieces of advice I would give to anyone experience. Our team takes great pride in ensuring a looking to advance their career. First, know your personal why. mutually beneficial relationship with our retail partThis means knowing your personal value system and making ners. We put great care into building these relationships decisions about your career through that lens — it will help and work to find solutions that meet each individual you find work and an environment that is meaningful to you. retailer’s unique needs. Each retail partner we work Second is to surround yourself with people that know differwith has a dedicated partner success manager who is ent things and come from different backgrounds than you do. backed by an entire cross-functional team within Shipt When I’ve been put in roles outside my comfort zone, I develop to ensure full support of our partner’s business. We and lean on a network around myself to learn and grow alongprovide our retail partners with data and insights into side the job opportunities I was given. Finally, be an ally. Know their Shipt marketplace business and take a collaborawhat allyship and sponsorship look like, and what they mean. tive approach with our partners in order to drive the This has been incredibly important to me, and I would not be business. And, of course, Shipt does not share data or where I am today without the help of so many great women insights about retailers with anyone but that retailer. and men who coached, developed and led me along the way. PG: How did COVID-19 impact your business? PG: Who are Shipt Shoppers? What communities and lifestyles gravitate toward becoming Shipt Shoppers? KC: Shipt Shoppers are a reflection of their community — men,

women, racially diverse and belonging to a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. What makes shopping with Shipt special is the ability to work as much, or as little, as you like — we find that everyone from parents to college students embraces Shipt shopping to create a flexible channel of income. PG: What is your proudest accomplishment?


KC: Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shipt

has experienced substantial growth. We rapidly scaled to now serve more than 80% of the U.S. and more than 5,000 cities nationwide, and have grown our shopper community from 100,000 to 300,000 to meet this exciting increase in demand and need. In the most recent holiday season alone, Shipt witnessed order volumes increase 200% compared to 2019’s holiday season. We’re excited to further fuel this growth as we enter this post-pandemic phase.

Denise Algire

Christine Ang-Herrera

Alexandra Ball

Teresa Beck

Rebekah Bernal

Vicki Bittner

Director Risk Initiatives

Manager, J4U/OMS Support, Rewards/Offer Redemption Support

Technical Business Analyst, Food Safety & Quality Assurance

Meat Assistant Sales Manager

Store Director

Service Deli Operational Specialist

Josie Blake Store Director




Portland Division

United Division

Southern California Division

Portland Division

Tomi Branson

Karen Brophy

Divina Gracia Buenafe

Kimberly Buschenfeldt

Helen Carver

Robin Cash

Alice Chan

District Manager

Program Manager, Strategic Sourcing

Director/Chief Administration Officer - Philtech

Human Resources Manager

District Manager

Manager of Loyalty and Personalization

Vice President Sales & Marketing, Own Brands

Portland Division

Supply Chain


Shaw’s Division

Northern California Division

United Division


Jessica Chavez

Katherine Chin

Sharee Cochran

Rosie Connolly

Danielle Cremer

Alina Cruz

Anupama Dande

Florial Operations Specialist

Sr. Director Strategic Sourcing

Sr. Buyer and Lead

Manager Human Resources

Sr. Store Planner

Assistant Sales Manager Starbucks/Service Deli

Lead DevOps Engineer

Northern California Division

Supply Chain

Supply Chain

Supply Chain


Southern California Division


More Top Women in Grocery! Shelley Danner

Marlowe Dias

Cathy East

Kim Eilers

Reannon Emmot

Angela Fish

Grocery Senior Buyer

Quality Assurance Director

VP, Corporate Procurement Meat/Seafood/Deli Food Service

Store Director

Store Director

Bakery Operations Specialist

Supply Chain


Supply Chain

Southwest Division

Northern California Division

Portland Division



2021 Top Women in Grocery 2021 TRAILBLAZER

Linda Rendle THE CEO OF THE CLOROX CO. ALWAYS KEEPS PEOPLE IN MIND WHENE VER SHE MAKES IMPORTANT BUSINESS DECISIONS. By Gina Acosta / Illustration by Jason Seiler inda Rendle was named CEO of The Clorox Co. in September 2020. She began her career with Oakland, Calif.-based Clorox nearly 20 years ago as a senior sales analyst in the company’s charcoal and insecticides businesses. Before becoming CEO, she was Clorox’s president, overseeing all of its businesses, corporate and business development, corporate strategy, and the five core global functions: marketing, sales, product supply, research & development, and information technology. Previously, she was EVP — cleaning, international, strategy and operations. She was also VP and general manager of home care and held roles of increasing responsibility within the sales and product supply organizations. She joined the company in 2003 after a three-year stint at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. Progressive Grocer: Did you ever think when you were studying economics at Harvard that one day you would be worried about the manufacturing capacity of disinfecting wipes during a pandemic? Can you talk about the supply chain challenges of the past year? Linda Rendle: No one could have expected the challenges that would

come our way over the past year and a half, including unprecedented demand for our products. While prioritizing our people’s safety — especially our teams who remained on site making, producing and shipping our products — we put all our efforts into producing as much of our products as possible and getting them to our retail partners and consumers as fast as possible. We left no stone unturned in trying to increase supply. In the case of our disinfecting products, we ran certain manufacturing facilities 24/7, focused on the SKUs that were the fastest to produce, brought in more third-party supply partners and added another disinfecting wipes line in our home care facility in Atlanta. Today, we continue to produce more disinfecting wipes than ever before, shipping about 1.5 million canisters every day to stores. I couldn’t be prouder of how Clorox people around the world stepped up to support our consumers, retailer partners and communities. PG: Looking back to your college days, what was appealing to you about the consumer packaged goods industry, and what made you decide to go to work at The Clorox Co.? LR: My dad worked in consumer packaged goods, which meant that, grow-

ing up, we lived and breathed detergent, shampoo and toothpaste in our household. So when it came time to choose a field when I graduated from 30

college, it was an easy decision for me, because I’m passionate about the role brands play in people’s everyday lives. CPG was also attractive because the majority of household purchasing decisions are made by women, so who better than women to add their perspectives and experiences as consumers ourselves to help us build brands that women want to buy? I joined Clorox because it’s a company that is values-led and genuinely cares for people and communities. PG: The Clorox Co. has done a lot to diversify the ranks of leadership. What’s being done to move the needle even further on gender diversity, not only among senior leadership, but also at other levels, to ensure that the company has a strong pipeline of female talent? LR: Less than 8% of the Fortune 500

CEOs are women, and even fewer are women of color. We have a lot of work to do — as a company and as a society. Inclusion and diversity make us a bet-

ter company. If our teams mirror the diversity of our consumers around the world, we’ll have stronger insights and innovation, and ultimately be able to better serve them. To support diversity among our leaders, we’ve been investing in our talent pipeline and retention. This includes a focus on career development through focused development plans and executive-level sponsors to ensure our leaders of the future are supported today. I’m proud that our board of directors has significantly more gender and ethnic diversity than the Fortune 500 average, and that women make up 50% of our executive team. PG: Thinking about your own career, how did you overcome some of the challenges you faced? LR: No matter the challenge, I’ve found you need to lead with

values and tell the truth, even when things aren’t going well. This builds trust, but it takes courage, especially when it may be counter to what other people are doing or willing to see. I’m also an introvert, so I knew it would take practice going into a meeting to voice my opinion in a way that I was able to be heard. It starts with being a good listener. Then focus on the facts and hopefully deliver your message with some grace. It’s also important to allow others to be heard. PG: What do you think is the role of a leader? How would you describe your leadership style? LR: First and foremost, it’s important for

tected. We’ve seen these types of behaviors stick in the past, especially around difficult cold and flu seasons, and we expect them to continue. Both CPG and retail have also experienced a rapid rise in e-commerce. Even as we turn a corner in the pandemic, people don’t want to give up on the convenience of shopping online. PG: What new retail technology or trend do you believe will have the biggest impact in 2022, and why? LR: Consumers have new expectations around how

they shop. They want things delivered right to their door, ready for them for pick up, or recommended based on their past shopping trip. Technologies and companies that enable frictionless shopping will be critical to winning with consumers. At Clorox, we believe personalization is critical to building more meaningful relationships with shoppers. That’s why we’re investing in solutions that can help us really get to know them, enabling us to deliver tailored experiences as they engage with our brands.

Less than 8% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and even fewer are women of color. We have a lot of work to do — as a company and as a society.”

PG: What’s next for grocery shopping? Can you elaborate on grocery tech trends affecting CPG?

me to be a human-centered leader. When LR: Retailers and delivery compawe make decisions, we need to appreciate nies are focused on the “last mile,” our impact on people — whether they’re investing to ensure consumers get our teammates, consumers, communities or things when and where they need —Linda Rendle, CEO, The Clorox Co. business partners. them, whether it’s in-store, at After I stepped into the role of CEO last year, home or curbside. we crystalized our purpose and refreshed our values to better exPG: If you had a daughter going to work at The press who we are and what we stand for as a company. These Clorox Co. today, what advice would you give reflect how I believe we’ll deliver long-term value for our business her as she headed off to begin her first day? and society. Our purpose is to champion people to be well and thrive every single day, which speaks to Clorox being a healthand-wellness company at heart. Our values, which I expect our LR: Raise your hand for the big assignments. Do Clorox team to live by, are, do the right thing, put people at the different things in your career even when they center and play to win. don’t seem logical. Time and again, I was willing For me, winning requires playing 100% offense all the time. to do things that were off the beaten path, and that It starts with setting a clear vision and priorities. And I try to served me well. remove barriers that stand in the way so that our team can Also, speak the truth. Don’t be afraid to offer a focus on the things that matter most. I also challenge people point of view even if it isn’t the prevailing thought to be bold, take risks and learn from failures. It’s not about at the time. And finally, be yourself. It’s the only failing, but what you learn from it. person you’ll ever be good at being. PG: How has consumer behavior has changed in the past year, and how have CPG and retail changed?

PG: What is your proudest accomplishment so far? LR: I’m proud to see how our team has stepped up

LR: The pandemic has changed consumer behaviors and ex-

pectations for the long term. There has been rapid acceleration around health and wellness, and a broadening of how people think about hygiene. This extends to cleaning, which is no longer just a chore, but a means to stay well and pro-

to serve consumers and communities around the world throughout the pandemic. We took to heart our role in supporting public health, and from that experience, our company purpose to help people be well and thrive has never been clearer. PROGRESSIVE GROCER June 2021



2021 Top Women in Grocery Stacy Cooper

Senior-Level Executives

VP of GM/HBC, Acosta

Cooper developed a COVID-19 tracking system for out-of-stock items and provided daily updates to Albertsons and WinCo, ensuring that products wouldn’t be discontinued due to supply chain issues. She worked with clients to negotiate allocation quantities and provide a fair-share breakdown by distribution center to maximize sales and minimize long-term out-of-stocks. Cooper is a member of the Idaho regional group of the Network of Executive Women; raised funds for children through her work with Interfaith Sanctuary, in Boise; and participated in a food drive for the Idaho Food Bank.

Angel Scheid

SVP, Client Growth, Acosta/Mosaic

Scheid supported and/or led opportunities resulting in more than $10 million in new business wins, creating 55-plus full-time jobs, a new service vertical offering for Mosaic and entrance into the emerging brands category.


Lori Wahl

VP of SalesPetSmart and Chewy, Acosta/ The Pet Firm

With a focus on securing drive aisle/register presence, store expansion and filling holes left by other manufacturers, Wahl helped the company’s top vendors achieve increases in sales ranging from 20% to 148%.

Crystal Rossel

VP Client Solutions, Advantage Solutions/ Advantage Sales

Rossel grew existing annualized client revenue by $11 million, including $3 million in organic growth, and led a team to overdeliver on budget and growth targets by 15%.

She spearheaded the agency’s internal Mosaic 180 thought leadership series that brought brands and retailers together for stimulating conversations designed to tune attendees into pandemic-fueled trends, insights and strategies.

She launched several highly visible brands at PetSmart, including ROAM Pet Treats, which had the best-selling end cap in category history, and Mary’s CBD. Five new brands are set for launch in the chain this year.

During the pandemic, she quickly developed an incremental retail execution proposal that delivered more than $7.7 million in incremental consumer sales, and played a critical lead role in the development and execution of Advantage’s strategic digital plan and digital playbook initiative.

Scheid pays it forward as a mentor to young advertising professionals for 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Intern Program and for Girls in Tech Inc.

Wahl is a board member and volunteers at several animal-focused organizations, including Maricopa Animal Care and Control.

An active supporter of several charities and organizations, Rossel volunteers with the American Cancer Society and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.


Chandra McCormack CFO, Acosta

As an operating finance partner, McCormack advocated for high-margin investments in e-commerce, leading to an increase in click-and-collect grocery and other digital marketing offerings. She improved reporting with insights that brought the company to life, built tools to steward sound future projections and growth plans, and worked cross-functionally with teams across the organization to reach goals. As the chair of Youth With Faces since 2017, McCormack has helped reduce recidivism among juvenile minority offenders living below the poverty line by up to 87% through job training, character building and connections.

Kimberly Senter EVP, Analytics, Insights & Intelligence, Advantage Solutions/ Advantage Sales

Senter is a founding member and co-chair of the Advantage Solutions Diversity Equity & Inclusion Board, which in its first year drove significant positive change across the enterprise. She defined, articulated and executed a strategic plan to focus on clients, customers and capabilities that drive shopper conversion and lead to brand and category growth for manufacturers and retailers. Senter is a member of the Network of Executive Women and serves as the board ambassador for the Black and African American Network Diversified employee resource group.

your momentum is unstoppable.

meijer congratulates all of the top women in grocery, including our own. Lynette Ackley • Denise Bower • Emily Brzezinski • Christina Fecher • Amy Griffis Cherie Hacker • Carla Hendon • Jen Pawlowski • Andrea Pickens • Kim Prall Kelli Quintana • Cassandra Robinson • Holly Roelofs • Liz Rzepka Calli Schmid • Kristen Schroeder • Kristen Williams


2021 Top Women in Grocery Aimee Becker

SVP, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

Becker grew her team to include a new integrated marketing practice designed to help connect private brands to consumers on the digital shelf, and also assumed responsibility for thought leadership and PR. She now holds a board seat on the Daymon/Yonghui joint venture and is one of 10 board members responsible for providing guidance to the board and the team on growing private-brand sales. The team launched more than 1,000 new items and boosted penetration by 50%. An expert in private-brand strategy, Becker is a frequent featured speaker at key industry events.

Liz Fogerty

Chief Strategy Officer, Advantage Solutions/EDGE Marketing

Fogerty has been integral in delivering new business wins and incremental business growth, achieving 14% growth in gross margin in 2020 versus 2019. She re-engineered the agency’s existing strategy and planning team into a strategic services department, with three distinct pillars: strategic communications planning, digital and e-comm integration, and measurement and analytics; this new operating structure has resulted in additional revenue, growing the team by close to 30%. Fogerty led the creation of the EDGEGivesBack initiative; in one year, this program has exceeded donation and service hours by 100% of set objectives.


Christine Gard

VP, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

As COVID-19 started to affect supermarket conditions, Gard deployed retail merchandising teams throughout Texas and Mexico to deliver support services to the business unit she leads. She continued to emphasize business growth as her sales team successfully launched several hundred new items, and also invested in and launched new technology to support product development and sourcing, while leading a virtual training program and recruiting diverse associates. Thanks to Gard’s past experience initiating a work-from-home program, her team was able to shift to a 100% work-from-home setup virtually overnight.

Cyvellis Vidal

VP, Experiential, Advantage Solutions/Eventus

Vidal was instrumental in working with Walmart on major experiential programs throughout the year, creating opportunities that were safe for customers yet provided the interaction that people craved; she leveraged various teams across the company to continue growing the experiential business by more than 80%. She led and executed more than 550 events, including Walmart’s Drive-In Movie program, which encompassed 360 events over the course of 10 weeks. Vidal leads a Latinx employee resource group committee at Advantage Solutions and works on an event board for Habitat for Humanity.

Fran Brinkman

SVP, Measurement and Analytics, Advantage Solutions/EDGE Marketing

In the past year, Brinkman established EDGE Decision Analytics as a stand-alone department within EDGE Marketing, successfully transforming the agency’s analytics and measurement services from one-off projects to a clearly articulated, functional process that’s projected to deliver $1 million in revenue in the next 12 months.


Jen Collins

VP, Business Leadership, Advantage Solutions/EDGE Marketing

Collins created and rolled out EDGE Marketing’s retail and shopper training program to ensure that associates have the tools and resources needed to support their clients.

She grew her team from outsourced support to four full-time dedicated analysts, and also created a training process for all associates in analytic and performance measurement.

A strong advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, she helped create Advantage Solutions’ Black and African-American Network Diversified (BAND) employee resource group mentoring program, and co-chaired EDGE Marketing’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee focused on associate training, community outreach and recruiting.

Brinkman sits on EDGE Marketing’s executive leadership team.

Collins is an emergency medical responder and firefighter with a local volunteer fire department.

Sarah Bell

VP, Client Services, Advantage Solutions/IN Connected

In 2020, Bell oversaw innovative programs such as Walmart Winter Park, a walk-thru sampling experience complete with socially distant photos with Santa; this event resulted in a triple-digit lift on sampled items and a much needed boost for the photo department. She was selected to be part of the Advantage Solutions Culture Crew, a group that supports and shares best practices for team culture across the company. An active member of the Network of Executive Women, Bell recently became a mentor for the Future Women Business Leaders organization through the University of Arkansas Sam Walton College of Business.

Whitney Ray

VP, Client Experience, Advantage Solutions/ Sunflower Group

Ray’s team led a drive to consolidate 13 warehouses across the country; her review of assets led to recycling and donation of 30% to 50% of obsolete activation inventory, and to eliminating more than $267,000 in storage costs. During COVID-19, she oversaw weekly shipments to support key retailer initiatives; her team fulfilled 1,000-plus unique shipments in a three-month period, with 97% accuracy. Ray reimagined her team alignment during the pandemic to incorporate new tactics, partnerships and customized solutions for clients; her activities beyond work include the Network of Executive Women and an Advantage employee resource group.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Julie Swift

SVP, Advantage Solutions/Waypoint

Recently promoted to SVP from VP client development, Swift joined Waypoint’s seven-member executive leadership team covering business development; She also served on Waypoint’s COVID-19 team, which, in addition to internal tasks, provided help for foodservice operators struggling to stay in business. Recognizing the needs of foodservice operators, she developed and implemented an inside sales team of 10 operator business development specialists. Swift helped sponsor the formation of Waypoint’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, and helped in the formation of WIN – Women’s Interactive Network.

Julie Grant

Director of Application DevelopmentMerchandising, Retail Business Services

Grant leads the perpetual inventory project for Ahold Delhaize, which progressed to a pilot phase in 2021; she and her team also helped Giant Food Stores stand up its own merchandising team and helped get Hannaford and Food Lion up and running on click-and-collect. Her team implemented a centralized pricing and promotion database, and helped distribution centers prorate available stock of items in short supply across stores. Grant serves as an active mentor to younger, less experienced members of her team, and each holiday season she coordinates adopting a family with the team.


Rebecca Lupfer

VP, Center Store Merchandising, The Giant Company

During 2020, Lupfer led the instore transformation of the center store; her team reflowed the aisle and assigned aisle lineage, based on the way customers shop today.

Margo Peffer VP of Human Resources, Hannaford Supermarkets

In response to the pandemic, Peffer established a command and control response team of stakeholders from across the company to ensure associates’ physical and emotional safety.

She has developed specific and measurable plans for each of her category teams, so they’re clear on expectations and their accountability, and also restructured the merchandising department to allow for better career paths and alignment with the company’s values.

She advocated for a thorough analysis of the associate lifecycle regarding people of color and other dimensions of diversity, and insisted on wise financial investments in community and educational organizations for long-term, sustainable partnerships.

Lupfer served as co-chair for The Giant Company’s women’s business resource group, LINC, in 2020, and is now the executive sponsor for the group, as of 2021.

Peffer promoted job opportunities externally and engagement internally through a marketing program in which associates expressed what flexibility and balance meant to them.

Christy Phillips-Brown

VP, Communications, Retail Business Services

To help associates stay connected while working remotely, Phillips-Brown drafted, designed and distributed more than 40 weekly associate newsletters called “Caring for You”; her team also developed “Manager Minute,” which outlined important information for managers to share with their teams. She created a virtual reading program featuring senior leaders providing five hours of educational entertainment for children who weren’t in school during the pandemic, and also developed a COVID-19 response site. Phillips-Brown and her team built guides to address social injustice.

Alice Chan

VP, Sales and Marketing, Own Brands, Albertsons Cos.

Chan oversees a cross-functional team responsible for developing, commercializing and executing strategic go-to-market sales and marketing initiatives, delivering more than $14 billion in growth. In 2020, she pre-wired initiatives nationally to drive organizational alignment for one voice, and anticipated issues through proactive discussions with business owners to mitigate concerns, resulting in a new best practice of 12 individual presidential division growth summits to drive enhanced execution. Chan is an active member of the Network of Executive Women; her most recent position in the organization is that of the north Texas event planning lead.


Natalie Dupill

VP, Omnichannel Strategy and Chief of Staff, Peapod Digital Labs

Dupill helped facilitate various workshops with U.S. local brand executives to redesign their commercial planning process to incorporate an omnichannel strategy. She created and deployed an acceleration project for digital and e-commerce, resulting in a rapid installation of more than 400 additional click-andcollect locations. Dupill developed associate feedback forums and conducted more than a dozen listening sessions designed to seek feedback, input and ideas from associates; as a result, the company boosted its total engagement index score to 86%.

Cathy East

VP, Corporate ProcurementMeat/Seafood/ Deli Foodservice, Albertsons Cos.

Throughout 2020, as the meat industry faced unprecedented supply constraints and channel shifts, East acted as the supply chain point person, creating innovative supply chain solutions to maximize retail sales while avoiding product loss at foodservice distributors. She was invited to join the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and serves as a volunteer mentor to current and former students in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. East represents retail on the North American Meat Institute’s newly formed Trust in Animal Protein Task Force.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Sharon Hall

VP, Strategic Sourcing, Corporate and Shared Services, Albertsons Cos.

Hall partnered with the crisis management team to lead the search and negotiations for an end-to-end provider of self-administered COVID-19 test kits to be used in all California retail locations and plants; the program has now expanded to New Mexico locations, replacing the previous provider and netting a savings per kit of $30 and a monthly savings of $120,000. She leads the Supply Chain Diversity and Inclusion Council and has been selected to participate in McKinsey’s Black Executive Leadership Program. Hall sourced a third-party firm to help recruit diverse candidates, and facilitated Albertsons’ engagement in an academy for African-American leaders.

Angel Singh

VP, Marketing Technology and Operations, Albertsons Cos.

Singh and her team led an entire overhaul of Albertsons’ marketing technology tools and partner agencies to provide relevant and personalized customer communication touchpoints that increase customer engagement and loyalty. Her key customer engagement and retargeting emails have significantly improved both revenue and orders. During the pandemic, Singh launched a hugely successful pharmacy program to support a landing page that captures users’ emails and SMS information to give them vaccine information.


Suzanne Long

GVP, Strategic Sourcing and ESG, Albertsons Cos.

Long oversees approximately $10 billion in annual company spend across 13 divisions, including nearly 2,300 stores and 18 distribution centers. When she took over strategic sourcing, the projection for the indirect side of the organization was $45 million-plus under target; despite spending the spring focused on the company’s COVID-19 response, she led the indirect team to surpass its original target by year end. Long is a volunteer and supporter of the ANA (Agency for New Americans), including acting as a mentor to refugee families, and she’s a board member for the Small Village Foundation, a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of rural South Africans.

Bhargavi Whatley

VP, Technology, Merchandising, Albertsons Cos.

Whatley drove an initiative on predictive promotional forecasting and insight-driven planning, using data science that resulted in a multimillion-dollar promotional ROI.

Kelly Mullin

SVP, Merchandising and Marketing, Albertsons Cos.

E-commerce business grew rapidly in 2020 with the rollout of 90 new Drive Up and Go locations in the Portland division, for which Mullin developed the marketing strategy; through her leadership and expertise, the division’s e-commerce business is growing at more than 500%. After mentoring and direction, five of her direct reports were promoted to higher-level leadership positions in the past year; she also spearheaded diversity and inclusion efforts in the division as an executive sponsor of the women’s affinity group. In September 2020, Mullin was promoted to her current role and has already accelerated market share improvement and sales growth.

Michelle Larson Division President, Albertsons Cos.Southwest

Larson cultivated a richer environment of associate recognition, distributing weekly “spotlights” on team members who exceeded expectations and announcing associate job promotions on the intranet and via email.

She established the technology strategy and approach for the consolidation of two Albertsons divisions, with store operations continuing smoothly post-cutover, and she helped set up round-the-clock monitoring and support to handle any issues.

She promoted three women and one person of color to district manager positions in just one year; the three female associate promotions represented a 30% uptick in female district managers.

As chair of the Pleasanton, Calif., chapter of the Women’s Inclusion and Inspiration Network, Whatley doubled membership.

Larson led the division through double-digit sales growth every quarter and grew e-commerce sales by more than 200%.


Chris Rupp

EVP and Chief Customer and Digital Officer, Albertsons Cos.

Rupp drove e-commerce to focus on the customer first and created a vision to develop deep relationships with the customer, dramatically transforming customer metrics such as customer contacts, on-time delivery, product metrics, loyalty programs and innovative marketing to target. She brought in an innovative culture within the digital group to drive solutions such as Walk Up and Go and spur immense expansion in Drive Up and Go, Immunization Scheduler, Scan and Go, and innumerable other products, to be competitive with rival retailers’ offerings. All of Rupp’s efforts have resulted in a more than 200% increase in e-commerce over the past three quarters.

Jessica Matisz

VP, Shopper Marketing, American Greetings

Matisz created a shopper marketing organization that brought together end-to-end marketing capabilities in strategy, shopper marketing and social media; she pivoted the newly created team to an entirely new strategy and successfully launched a new campaign across retailers. She delivered 11 new campaigns to be launched between June 2020 and February 2022. For the first time ever, Matisz led marketing strategy and capabilities developed to change shopper behavior online and pickup in store, which led to an impressive 50% sales increase.


to our ur Rising Stars Giant Food’s 2021 Top Women in Grocery

Rayma Alexander

Sabina Avery

Rising Star

Rising Star

Director, Talent, Diversity and Inclusion, and OC

Brand Marketing Manager

Ashley Gray

Marci Legg

Rising Star

Rising Star

Rising Star

Category Manager

Store Manager

Category Manager

Shirlette Russell

Bobbi Majors

Monica Simmons-Dolce

Rising Star

Rising Star

Store Manager

Direct Edible Grocery, Diary and Frozen


2021 Top Women in Grocery Sarah Holt

Director of Marketing and Community, Bi-Rite Family of Businesses

When the pandemic hit, Holt shifted BiRite’s communication strategy to create a sense of calm and safety, and then evolved the company’s messaging to increase meaningful connections with customers. She launched a new e-commerce site that generated 230% revenue growth in December. Holt partnered with a local restaurant to donate free meals to front-line and restaurant workers, and increased the number of families served by Bi-Rite’s Mo’MAGIC Healthy Holiday Meals program.

Pamela Goldberg CEO, Dah!

Responsible for building her company’s yogurt into a leading plant-based private and branded label, Goldberg has guided the India-inspired product portfolio onto the shelves of many national retailers and natural/independent sellers. Over the past year, she and her group saw growth of 300% over the prior year, won four new private label sellers, expanded the company’s production facility, and doubled the company’s workforce from 25 to 50. In addition to winning awards for her company’s product, Goldberg is a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization, platinum group.


Shelley Costantino

VP, Field Human Resources, BJ’s Wholesale Club

Under Costantino’s leadership, the company’s field center of excellence increased recruiting efforts by up to 1,000 per week. As a lead member of BJ’s Inclusion and Diversity Council, she helped coordinate education sessions on inclusion and diversity for more than 700 leaders from every team within the organization, and was also a key contributor to the council’s mission and roadmap. In April 2020, Costantino was named Honorary Operator of the Year, a distinction given to one exemplary team member selected by BJ’s leadership.

Ashley Tyrner

Founder and CEO, Farmbox Direct and FarmboxRx

Once a single mom on food stamps, Tyrner built Farmbox Direct to help eradicate food deserts; during the pandemic, the company’s grocery and food delivery service grew 2,200%. She offers her staff parental leave, the option to work remotely, and a flexible schedule with no Zoom meetings after 2 p.m. so everyone can connect with their families. Tyrner ran virtual mentorship programs for new entrepreneurs and was a keynote speaker at several national events; she also advised those who had to leave their jobs due to COVID-19.

Mariah Calderon

VP, Client Strategy and Partnership, C.A. Fortune

Overseeing all client relationship managers nationwide, Calderon created a client connectivity map so that all clients are treated with a boutique-style approach. She recruited new high-level talent to the company, with four hires being promoted in less than a year; during the COVID-19 pandemic, she developed virtual meetings that could be held remotely, such as Coffee Meetups and other themed virtual events. Calderon is a board member for the Good Food Accelerator and a mentor for Metro Achievement Center for girls.

Kelly Donohue

VP, Vitamins, Feldkamp Marketing

Managing all client business, including Kroger, Harris Teeter and Vitacost, Donohue beat 2020 financial sales by 41% versus the prior year. Under her leadership, the company’s vitamin business unit launched 460 new items, growing annual sales by $56 million over budget and outpacing category trends. An active member of the Network of Executive Women, Donohue, who was recently promoted to her present position of VP, is also on Feldkamp Marketing’s leadership boad, which led the firm’s vitamin business expansion into three distinct internal divisions in 2021.


Catherine Willis Cleveland

CEO, Central Co-op

CEO of an independent grocery cooperative with locations in Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., Cleveland oversees almost all areas of the company. COVID-19’s effects on shopping habits and small grocers caused her to work to avoid mass layoffs and hour reductions, and to keep cases to the fewest number of staffers possible; she streamlined administrative staff significantly in favor of retaining in-store jobs. Thanks to Cleveland’s leadership, Central Co-op turned a small profit in 2020 — the first time the business had done so in five years.

Diane Cleven

Director, Deli/CMS/ Sushi/Bakery, The Fresh Market

With 10 direct reports, Cleven is responsible for more than 24% of total store revenue and 32.1% of store profit dollars. During the pandemic, she demonstrated leadership by helping keep The Fresh Market stores well stocked and her team motivated; her long-term relationships with manufacturers and distributors helped the retailer work through supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and ensure that there was steady product coming into stores. Cleven is a member of The Other Voice Class, which is part of the Greensboro, N.C., Chamber of Commerce.


TOP THREE CONSUMER COFFEE TRENDS Deliberative prioritization of at home coffee continues post pandemic.

Demand intensifies for premier quality, yet affordable indulgences.

Desire for Organic and Fair Trade Certifications continue to grow.


Meritage Coffee®, and the stylized Meritage “M®” are Registered Trademarks of Meritage Coffee & Tea LLC. © 2021 Meritage Coffee & Tea LLC. All Rights Reserved.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Sara Ciotti

VP, Procurement and Merchandise Operations, Giant Eagle

Ciotti led cross-functional teams through the complexity of the pandemic, creating innovative ways to get product from vendors to stores to meet demand. She set up a sales-planning and operations execution area and managed inbound and outbound capacity to maximize product flow to the stores during the surge of early stock-up sales; this streamlined the core work with fewer resources, encouraged cross-training and led to multiple promotions of team members. Ciotti’s passion for development has driven her to mentor women leaders both inside and outside the organization.

Rhonda Demello

Director of Associate Relations and Store Excellence, Harris Teeter LLC

Demello designed the company’s latest iteration in its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) journey, adding a new “equity” pillar to the company’s Service Excellence program, re-establishing a senior-level Diversity Advisory Council, creating a DEI Committee and launching two new associate resource groups. With corporate office employees were working at home, she planned and hosted a drive-thru bonus check/profit-sharing celebration including lunch and free gifts, an event repeated in March. Demello and her team were responsible for COVID-19 protocols such as health screening and temperature checks for more than 35,000 associates.


Julie Patten

Regional Business Leader, Giant Eagle

During the pandemic, Patten was the first regional business leader to pilot a dark store with curbside-only service, providing a safe shopping experience for vulnerable shoppers. She rolled out several special projects, including a rotation calendar to ensure that all stores were offering the freshest, best product available, and championed a lottery projection to raise awareness of cash shortages. As well as mentoring and promoting people at work, Patten has received the YMCA Cleveland Women of Professional Excellence award, and the You Make Difference award three years running.

Jessica Enos VP, Training and Education, Hy-Vee Inc.

In her current position, Enos has been charged with revamping Hy-Vee’s training, education and customer service initiatives, in furtherance of the grocer’s goal to become a Best Place to Work in America. She developed a strategic workforce plan for stores to ensure smooth recruiting and onboarding, and implemented new training, engagement and retention strategies, as well as playing a pivotal role in the implementation of a new human resources information system. Enos launched a tuition assistance program for employees and their families, underwriting up to $10,000 annually for the pursuit of select degrees at Nebraska’s Bellevue University.

Katie ShireEngleman VP, Growth and Retention Marketing, Giant Eagle

As part of the COVID-19 response task force, Shire-Engleman stood up the organization’s first personalized SMS experience in March 2020; it expanded to support vaccination efforts this year. She increased digital activations more than 70% by scaling and optimizing their strategy, and brought the first fully integrated omnichannel campaign to market for the supermarket enterprise. Shire-Engleman developed and launched the first Giant Eagle Great Neighbor Award; she’s also a member of the Asian-American business resource group.

Joan Driggs

VP, Content and Thought Leadership, Information Resources Inc. (IRI)

Driggs began producing COVID-19 thought leadership for CPG brands and retailers before the country went into lockdown in March 2020; her colleagues have relied heavily on her work to keep clients informed.


Jenni Smith

Regional Business Leader, Giant Eagle

To help reduce food waste, Smith is currently piloting and leading retail operations in the Flashfood initiative at 10 stores, and she championed the bag ban initiative for Cuyahoga County. Having been promoted three times in the past four years, she makes a concerted effort to give back and develop those next in line by playing an active role in the women’s business resource group and organizing events at the Great Cleveland Food Bank and for the Salvation Army. Smith took the lead on organizing vaccination efforts and ensuring that staffing is in place for the various waves of vaccinations.

Jonna Parker

Principal, Fresh Center of Excellence, Information Resources Inc. (IRI)

Parker was instrumental in developing IRI’s Integrated Fresh shared data model for point-of-sale and shopper tracking.

Under her guidance, nearly 40 reports were developed covering COVID-19’s impact on such areas as customer behavior, holiday shopping and unemployment benefit spending; she also produced 50-plus podcasts featuring talks with CEOs of major retail and CPG organizations.

More than 100 suppliers in the United States and abroad use Integrated Fresh to track weekly and monthly sales and consumer behavior across all five perimeter fresh segments, each report has yielded almost 350,000 impressions in trade magazines, and Integrated Fresh has generated 40% incremental revenue growth for IRI’s existing market measurement services.

Driggs hosted webinars on COVID-19’s impact, and has presented related trends to retailers, CPG suppliers and trade organizations.

Parker belongs to the Phoenix Women’s Leadership Council and is a pro bono mentor to young women balancing careers and parenthood.

Kristina Samuel

Rochelle Cummins

Bridget Faughnan

Jacquelyn Love

Rising Star

Rising Star

Rising Star

Rising Star

Stacy Cooper

Chandra McCormack

Angel Scheid

Lori Wahl

Senior Leader

Senior Leader

Senior Leader

Senior Leader

A step ahead together Today’s marketplace requires innovative, scalable solutions that move brands one way – upward and forward. Acosta congratulates our winning leaders and rising stars for Progressive Grocer’s Top Women in Grocery. See how our team can deliver progressive sales and marketing solutions that enable brands to win with shoppers in the modern retail environment.

Learn more about Acosta at

Ina Cavin

Daira Driftmier

Store Director

Director, Hy-Vee KidsFit

Christina Gayman

Jessica Enos

Director, Public Relations

VP, Training and Education


WOMEN In Grocery


2021 Top Women in Grocery Sally Lyons Wyatt

Executive VP and Practice Leader, Client Insights, Information Resources Inc. (IRI)

Wyatt manages budget oversight and development of clients and people in the center store and produce practice, ensuring that thought leadership is relevant to clients and future growth; in 2020, she overachieved her annual plan by 4%. She presented thought leadership in more than 30 webinars, including IRI’s State of the Industry conferences in New Zealand and Australia. In 2020, Wyatt became an executive sponsor of IRI’s Early Career Professional employee resource group; she also serves on the strategy and planning committee of IRI’s Diversity Advantage Program.

Barbara Thomas

VP of Training and Front End Operations, K-VA-T Food Stores/Food City

Thomas led the implementation of COVID-19 programs, policies and procedures; this included creating the role of safety manager at each store to oversee temperature checks, mask compliance and sanitation procedures. She and her operations team created a reserve team of corporate and retail associates trained to assist with warehouse operations to prevent supply chain disruption. For United Way of Southwest Virginia, Thomas introduced and implemented the Ignite Program, designed to teach high school students critical workplace skills.


Dani Dudeck

Chief Communications Officer, Instacart

During the pandemic, Instacart became an essential service; for Dudeck, this meant new responsibilities and issuing constant updates to 500,000-plus professional shoppers and 600 retail partners, so, to handle the load, she executed a multichannel communications plan. Her team worked with health and food safety experts to develop Shopper Health & Safety Guidelines; Instacart Shoppers received vaccine support stipends, extended sick pay, daily in-app wellness checks, and free health and safety kits, while Doctor on Demand provided free access to COVID-19 telemedicine consultations. Dudeck helped launch Instacart’s EBT SNAP program.

Kris KowalskiChristiansen CEO, Kowalski’s Cos.

Located in the Twin Cities region, Kowalski’s was at the geographic epicenter when George Floyd died in Minneapolis; in response, Kowalski-Christiansen leveraged her relationship with the founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the local University of St. Thomas to develop a company-wide racial justice initiative.

Sarah Mastrorocco

VP and General Manager, Instacart Pickup, Instacart

Mastrorocco’s team responded to America’s need to socially distance by adding 2,100 curbside pickup locations, more than doubling Instacart’s total number; the 100 new partners included Aldi, Food Lion, Publix and Wegmans. The team enhanced Instacart’s technology to support the expansion; this included integrating order fulfillment with retailers’ hot food systems and enhancing staffing models and guidance so that retailers could plan accurately and meet demand. Mastrorocco has been a featured speaker for the California Grocers Association, NACDS, and other events and organizations.

Terri Bennis

Chief Merchandising Officer, Kowalski’s Markets

While customers were homebound at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bennis helped store directors increase their production capacity and offerings for home delivery — including heat-and-eat, grab-and-go and family-style meals — and to partner with DoorDash and Grubhub to make deliveries right to shoppers’ doorsteps.


Stephanie Adkinson

VP, Retail Sales, JBS USA

Leading a team of seven managers who call on retail customers, Adkinson influences test market projects, and manages the East Area customer marketing budget, programming and new product launches. She spearheaded execution of the successful 1855 Black Angus/Taste of Inspirations Beef co-branding rollout at Stop & Shop, and also developed and launched the JBS Beef E-commerce Framework in collaboration with JBS interns. Adkinson has volunteered with various Cincinnati-area organizations, including FCA, Cincinnati Works Workforce Development, CityLink Center, Freestore Foodbank and Crossroads Church.

Kristin Foster

VP Data Science, The Kroger Co.84.51° Division

Due to an organizational restructuring during 2020, Foster was transferred from leading the data science team in merchandise and operations to take charge of a team of 30plus data scientists aligned with Kroger Precision Marketing, the company’s strategic retail media business.

During COVID-19, she authorized regular and overtime wage increases for associates, full wages for associates who contracted the virus, and other initiatives to support workers.

She also helped stores implement curbside pickup and online pre-order and prepay programs to meet customers’ higher demand for e-commerce.

She’s now the leader of 84.51°’s Chicago office, known as a technology hub, where she manages the location-specific office strategy for 120 employees.

Kowalski-Christiansen is a board member of Kowalski’s 4 Kids, a nonprofit organization devoted to at-risk youth.

Bennis serves on the board of Kowalski’s 4 Kids and on the leadership team for the Midwest Active Citizenship Initiative.

In both of these positions, Foster coached and mentored data science professionals and their teams.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Melissa Stimac

VP of Merchandising, The Kroger Co.Columbus Division

Stimac implemented a new sales and merchandising strategy based on a simplified picture-based execution guide for store teams that improved consistency and execution of merchandising plans in all departments; the initiative drove incremental sales by more than $200 million in comparison with other Kroger divisions. Her monthly selling challenges during the summer not only elevated sales volume, but also morale; these competitions drove an average of $1 million in incremental sales per week for the division. Stimac serves as the executive sponsor for the Women’s EDGE associate resource group.

Dawn Gilmore

Head of Talent Acquisition, The Kroger Co.General Office/ Human Resources

Confronted with COVID-19’s prevalence, Gilmore focused on an immediate need for qualified talent in Kroger’s pharmacies. She and her team are working with communications and marketing partners to launch new marketing and branding to better align with Kroger’s purpose and value of inclusion; this includes reaching out to Historical Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Gilmore’s was a key candidate for the steering committee of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion associate resource group, of which she is a founding member.


Lee Cassiere

VP of Audit, The Kroger Co.General Office

Cassiere and her team assisted in removing old, outdated systems and transferring all financial data to a more flexible and nimble cloud-based platform; she also led her team to create training for the new configuration launch and helped ensure a smooth rollout of the new platform. Charged with working to achieve cost savings within the finance department, she collaborated across functions to realize more than $4 million in savings in 2020. Cassiere serves on the board for the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired and participates in many industry organizations, including NRF and FMI.

Kimberly Busdieker

Chief Customer Officer and Senior Marketing Director, The Kroger Co.Kroger Personal Finance Division

In the wake of the pandemic, Busdieker shifted her new product development resources toward focusing on financial solutions that would benefit customers; she led her team through a series of sessions to identify and validate incremental financial products. As the lead for the University of Cincinnati recruitment team for Kroger, she pivoted her approach to hold virtual training sessions on interview skills. Busdieker sits on the executive steering council for Kroger’s 10 associate resource groups.

Valerie Jabbar Group VP, Center Store Merchandising, The Kroger Co.General Office

Jabbar’s team onboarded hundreds of new suppliers to ensure that shelves were full during a challenging year; under her leadership, the team grew diverse suppliers’ spend by 29% and increased diverse supplier relationships by 7%. Her general merchandise team built an innovative store of the future in Portland, Ore., that reinvigorated and introduced new brands, including Nespresso and Martha Stewart, to the home department; the initiative also created an interactive shopping experience for customers in photo electronics. Jabbar co-chairs Kroger’s KePasa associate resource group.

Rachel Ross

VP of Merchandising, The Kroger Co.Louisville Division

Ross led both the Houston and Louisville division teams to achieve record sales (she moved to Louisville in June 2020). She managed an end-to-end merchandising transformation and built cross-functional teams within both divisions’ merchandising teams, and also launched the Price Impressions signage program to create a bold statement in the aisles. Ross is the executive leader for the Women’s EDGE associate resource group and has organized networking opportunities for women; she also serves as a mentor for high-potential leaders.


Lanell Ohlinger VP, HR Business Partner for Supermarkets, Retail Operations and General, The Kroger Co.General Office

As the pandemic wore on, Ohlinger’s work evolved from helping office-based associates adjust to home working environments to a much broader and long-term workplace strategy. For more than half the year, she served as workstream leader for the organizational health workstream in Kroger’s business transformation. She and her team conducted extensive work that contributed to Kroger’s Blueprint for Business, which detailed all of the best practices that Kroger had gained as the company operated during the pandemic.

Paula Ginnett President, The Kroger Co.-MidAtlantic Division

Ginnett oversaw an aggressive growth strategy for pickup and delivery in her division, which increased sales by 139%; she also piloted a new in-stock process for the Kroger enterprise and helped develop key strategic initiatives. She led a successful labor negotiations strategy, including internal and external campaigns, for the West Virginia contract, resulting in a mutually beneficial ratified contract. Ginnett revived the AfricanAmerican associate resource group in her division, and also led a timely roundtable discussion with the NAACP.


Dorrie Francis VP of Technical Services, Litehouse Inc.

As the assigned COVID-19 task leader for all Litehouse facilities and programs, Francis developed, led and implemented mitigation strategies to help lessen the impact that COVID-19 had on the workforce, supply chain and consumers, and also oversaw the creation of a company coronavirus resource center. When, during this time, Litehouse acquired Veggiecraft Farms, she oversaw the integration of the brand into the the company’s portfolio. Francis sits on the executive board of directors for the Better Together Animal Alliance (BTAA), and is an active member of the Association of Dressings and Sauces.

Angela Santiago CEO and Co-Founder, The Little Potato Co.

Having started The Little Potato Co. with her father in 1996, Santiago leads operations in Canada and the United States, with 400 employees from 30 countries. When the pandemic began, she supported employees working remotely by helping digitize several parts of the business, and launched a mental health program to assist staff; during COVID-19, bottom-line results increased 38% over plan. In addition to winning numerous awards in Canada and the United States, Santiago serves as an advisory board member to startup companies such as Earth Water and Bond Bakery.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Caite Rought

Senior Business Manager, Litehouse Inc.

In 2020, Rought gained oversight of Litehouse’s private label business, working closely with the executive team to rewrite the corporate private label strategy, and creating a formal process with clear expectations and guidelines for evaluating opportunities. As COVID-19 led to lockdowns and social distancing, she had to quickly adjust to a completely new process of product development by working with customers virtually; despite all of the challenges that this presented, she and her team successfully launched 15 new private label SKUs at several key retailers. Rought won the CEO award from Litehouse for her model leadership.

Danielle Mariano

Founder and CEO, Mariano Events

Mariano changed the direction of the company to focus on digital marketing, creating services such as social media management and grocery hauls; additionally, all live events moved to digital and streaming during the pandemic. She and her team worked to change the in-store demo to digital grocery hauls; focusing on social media, she centered on new brands sold at target retailers, and oversaw the creation of a new digital marketing division. Mariano volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club, helping children with virtual learning and tutoring.

Susan Serne

Abbey Walker

VP of Manufacturing, Litehouse Inc.

Director of Sales, Litehouse Inc.

Serne was promoted to VP of manufacturing in 2020, and despite the difficulties of the pandemic, she led the manufacturing teams to achieve 13% growth in cases shipped. She worked with the executive team to implement safety precautions for manufacturing employees, and even directed a program in which employees sewed masks for themselves and for donation. Serne focused her work on ergonomics, overseeing a job analysis to understand the physical requirements of each position and how to minimize ergonomic strain; she also boosted employee retention by developing engagement programs.

Lynette Ackley

On the value-added side of the business, she and her team had to make some tough decisions, such as when to move forward with new product and when to scale back. Walker has volunteered for six years with Edgewood Auxiliary, an organization that helps families dealing with mental illness or behavioral health issues; she volunteers with several other organizations as well.

Calli Schmid

VP, Fresh, Meijer Inc.

VP, MerchandisingGrocery, Meijer Inc.

Ackley reacted swiftly to customer behavior changes during COVID-19, adapting her team and changing 100-plus stores from full-service seafood to self-service — a move that contributed to a healthy increase in sales during fiscal year 2020. As customers continued to eat at home more, she and her team saw a need for restaurant-quality meal solutions, so they joined with a third-party partner to run a pilot in 10 stores. Ackley and her team donated more than $1 million in frozen turkeys in partnership with Flashfood, bringing short-dated perishable product to those in need and reducing food waste.

When COVID-19 hit, Litehouse’s foodservice division was hugely affected; in response, Walker began weekly meetings with planning teams to make sure that the most critical products for foodservice were prioritized, and as a result, fill rates improved by 10%.

According to Schmid, who leads a cross-functional team driving Own Brand growth, she is most proud of leading her team through COVID-19 and the fight for social justice in 2020. A high-level summary of her fiscal 2020 results versus last year included a sales increase of 18%, a margin increase of 24% and inventory turnover of 15%; the grocery business at Meijer is approximately $8 billion in annual revenue, and her work covers more than 245 supercenters that operate across a six-state region. Schmid has served on the advisory board of Great Sports, Great Kids, which supports athletics in schools.




2021 Top Women in Grocery Kristen Williams VP, Customer and Digital Technology, Meijer Inc.

Williams is responsible for all customer-facing technology such as Meijer’s website, app and loyalty program, as well as all digital, data and analytics; her total budget is $152 million. She supported a full data and analytics program to enable Meijer to become a data-driven decision organization, modernizing data storage and reporting. Williams works with the Girl Scouts of America, focusing on technology, and also gives her time to First Robotics, serving as lead coach of the Lego Robotic team.

Kalin Berry

VP of Legal and Central Services, Save A Lot

When the pandemic struck, Berry was tapped to serve as one of five on Save A Lot’s COVID Response Team to ensure the safety of team members and customers. She helped Save A Lot’s effort to increase the pace of revitalization and remodeling of both corporate-owned and retail partner stores by streamlining the process and condensing the time needed for a complete remodel from 26 weeks to nine. Berry took leadership of the Central Services team, immediately inspiring her teams to re-analyze projects and ensure that contracts and relationships with vendors would fit with the new Save A Lot model.


Susan Phelps

President, Phelps Market/Oklahoma City Division

Phelps oversees the daily operations, finances, human resources and public relations of a company of 75 employees. She achieved 45% growth over the previous year during the COVID-19 pandemic; using every resource at their fingertips, she and her team went beyond the original goals of customer and employee retention. Phelps sits on the board of directors of the Oklahoma Central Credit Union, ensuring that the relationship between Phelps Market and its future growth partners is poised for future success.

Karen Procell EVP and Chief Legal Officer, Save A Lot

Procell was instrumental in the negotiation and finalization of a full recapitalization of the business, an out-of-court initiative that eliminated $500 million in debt and provided an infusion of $350 million in new capital; this put Save A Lot back on solid financial footing and set the stage for further acceleration of its ongoing transformation plan. She played a vital role in Save A Lot’s conversion of corporate-owned stores to retail partner ownership, a key component of the company’s broader business transformation. Procell raised housing funds for women leaving shelters and to build playgrounds for shelters with children.

Marcy Benton VP of Human Resources, Publix Super Markets

Benton led Publix to hire and onboard more than 90,000 new associates; she also contributed to other company-wide efforts, including a gift card program for associates, a celebration program for Publix’s Great Place to Work rating, and communication programs with senior leaders. She received Publix’s highest internal honor, the George W. Jenkins Award, for demonstrating her commitment to the values and culture of the company’s revered late founder. Among other activities, Benton participated on the United Way Community Invest Team.

Lee Gelb

VP, Human Resources, The Save Mart Cos.

Gelb reduced the time to fill jobs by 50%, and upgraded the company’s talent by hiring people from the restaurant and hospitality industries. Her team reduced training time to focus on key learnings necessary to accomplish the job; cashier training was condensed from five days to three, accomplished with the help of “cashier champions” identified at store level to assist. Gelb implemented proactive policies and programs to help team members through COVID-19, including the creation of the COVID-19 sick leave bank at the start of the pandemic, and three paid days off to arrange day care.


Q. Rhoneda Hyatt

VP, Commercial and Marketing, Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

Hyatt developed a Coke Energy giveaway program designed to thank first responders, a program that was replicated by bottlers across the country, and she’s driving local launch efforts for Coca-Cola North America’s first bottles in the United States made from 100% recycled plastic Supporting the Las Vegas Raiders’ inaugural season, she innovated custom co-branded 16-ounce cans, resulting in $450,000 in gross profit. Hyatt is actively involved in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., through which she supports nonprofits and mentors young girls.

Barbara Walker

SVP, Chief Marketing Officer, The Save Mart Cos.

Walker successfully developed and deployed strategic plans repositioning the company’s FoodMaxx value format proof-of-concept stores, resulting in a significant increase in traffic, unit movement, market share, and customer price perception and loyalty. Her teams placed community relations at the forefront of their efforts, including purposefully increasing food bank donations and helping local restaurants and chefs during the pandemic. Walker has overseen innovation in the company, including the recent partnership with Starship Technologies to provide contactless robot grocery delivery at the Save Mart flagship store in Modesto, Calif.

Kelly Brigham


2021 Top Women in Grocery Kelly Brigham

IT Director, Schnuck Markets Inc.

Brigham and her team had to create new processes and implement new solutions quickly while ensuring that current projects were on time and on budget.

VP, Private Label, Smart & Final

Narain’s efforts are responsible for $1.2 billion in annual private label sales across 250-plus stores in three states; she and her team are responsible for 33% of Smart & Final’s total gross margin dollars.

She and her colleagues developed several tools to allow the business to directly manage orders, since there wasn’t enough manpower at the distribution centers to support the overwhelming demand; they implemented a new category management solution.

She completed a total packaging redesign across more than 3,000 private label products, and also completed a total packaging redesign of the Sun Harvest line, consisting of Smart & Final’s better-for-you natural organic products.

Brigham is a member of the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion task force and the Women at Schnucks group.

Narain is a member of the Wise Diversity Organization (Women Impacting Store Brand Excellence).

Yvonne Trupiano

EVP and Chief Human Resources Officer, SpartanNash

Trupiano established and led a COVID-19 preparedness task force to oversee all COVID-19-related processes and procedures for 19,000 associates working in 16 states, and she implemented front-line associate safety processes and procedures in partnership with safety, retail operations and supply chain teams. She partnered with the SpartanNash Foundation to oversee a $250,000 grant for COVID-19 relief to Feeding America-affiliated food bank partners in the states where SpartanNash operates. In 2020, Trupiano led the effort to improve SpartanNash’s human resources processes, communications, systems and technology.


Michelle Narain

Karen Cox

SVP, Sales Operations, Swire Coca-Cola USA

Cox sponsored the restructuring of the commercial team and helped onboard system-leading technology to empower both internal sales functions and the stewardship of business results; this drove a 30% improvement in the distribution of new products to targeted outlets. She launched the 2020 Inspiration Tour, introducing the front-line selling team to Swire’s big bets to drive growth of the beverage portfolio; the tour, which resulted in unprecedented space gains and off-shelf inventory opportunities, returned in a virtual format this year, with similarly impressive results. Cox supports United Way and is an active member of her church.

Nicole Zajack

VP, Assistant General Counsel. Smart & Final

Assisting the general counsel and human resource department in employment matters, Zajack was a key contributor during the pandemic, providing support by navigating the rules and regulations of various local and state governments.


Amy McClellan VP, Fresh Merchandising, SpartanNash

McClellan oversees operations that generate more than $550 million in sales annually, including 20 supermarkets, 18 pharmacies and seven fuel centers.

When the human resources department was swamped with the influx of COVID-19-related requests, she pitched in to help lessen the workload.

She teamed with a local chocolate company to get more than $100,000 of retail product into the supermarkets for the Easter season; retail proceeds were donated to local United Way agencies to aid COVID-19 relief.

Promoted to her current role of VP, assistant general counsel, Zajack is acting general counsel; outside of work, she’s on the Loyola High School Mothers’ Guild board.

Through the chamber of commerce, McClellan participated in weekly COVID-19 update calls for local business leaders, giving guidance and perspective from the health community.

Lisa Roath

SVP, Merchandising, Food and Beverage, Target

Roath drove market share growth within Target’s food and beverage business, supporting the organization to deliver meaningful market share gains. She led strategic initiatives to speed the digital growth of the company’s food and beverage business, including its fulfillment services, which amid the pandemic saw 235% growth across Drive Up, Order Pickup and Same-Day Delivery with Shipt. Roath invested in the sponsorship of STRIDE, an internal grass-roots organization dedicated to supporting the development and career growth of Target’s entry-level diverse team members, a key component of the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Diane Colgan

SVP, Tops Markets LLC

Colgan’s community relations team stepped up to staff Tops’ crisis communications hotline 24/7, assisting stores with questions about safety protocols, restrictions, how to address exposed associates, and more. She helped drive the company’s $40 million capital improvement plan with upgraded, modernized store décor and virtual grand openings, allowing Tops to continue all planned remodels; these events invited press and shoppers to participate via video to create a sense of occasion. Colgan redesigned fundraising campaigns, resulting in a record-breaking Food for Families event to support local food banks.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Tiffany Carreker General Manager and VP of Sales, White Castle Retail Products Division

Carreker leads the retail product division for one of the first restaurant brands to enter the CPG industry. Not long after joining White Castle, she led the division to strong growth, with a more than 40% increase in branded frozen handhelds; her recommended changes led to a new in-house team selling directly to major accounts, saving millions of dollars in commission fees and strengthening retailer relationships. Carreker serves as an ambassador for Project Heal, a nonprofit organization delivering access to eating disorder treatment and recovery support.

Christina Minardi

EVP of Operations, Whole Foods Market

Minardi collaborates with teams to develop and execute the retailer’s operations strategy across more than 200 stores; she also coleads the Amazon integration. She was instrumental in increasing delivery capacity by more than 160% and tripling pickup locations; she also guided the culinary group on new fast-casual concepts, launched a food innovation task force, and helped sponsor the opening of 19 new locations and three regional support offices. Minardi supports Hot Bread Kitchen, which provides opportunities for women, immigrants and others who need a chance.

Season Elliott President, WiseChoice Foods LLC

As the leader of WiseChoice Foods and its WisePies Pizza brand, Elliott directs the company, guides product development, and builds a foundation for tactical and infrastructure growth through careful investments. Under her leadership, WiseChoice has expanded its distribution into 10 states and more than 750 grocery stores; she also helped the company win a regional National Minority Supplier Development Council Minority Business Enterprises IDOL award. Elliott is a board member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation in New Mexico.


See you in Orlando!

The 15th annual TWIG leadership development program, awards reception and gala will be held live and in person at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress on Nov. 3-4. P.S. Did we mention it’s in person?

Rising Stars

Bridget Faughnan

Director of Grocery, Acosta

Faughnan helped boost a client’s sales in her region by 32%, significantly outpacing the client’s category and market performance. She strategically reworked Acosta’s merchandising strategies to recoup lost sales due to supply constraints. As consumers shifted to online shopping due to COVID-19, she focused on capturing Acosta’s newly transitioned online shopper and developed strategies to enable company growth both in the e-commerce and brick-andmortar spaces. Faughnan volunteers at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.


Jacquelyn Love Senior Director, Acosta

Love led a cross-functional team that integrated distributor shipment data with the retail data platform; the project enabled Acosta to identify voids and place orders while in-store, ultimately decreasing out-of-stocks by 23% and yielding incremental revenue for a top client. The project transformed Acosta’s capabilities and established the company as the industry leader in retail intelligence. Love is involved with seven charitable ventures, which includes holding a board position on the Melting Barriers charity and helping St. Vincent DePaul generate funds for homeless families in her community.

Congratulations to our 2021 Top Women in Grocery

Aaysha Noor

Angela Stine

Ashley Flower

Brenda Brown

Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Store Manager

Manager of Public Relations

Store Manager

Caron Sanders

Darla Rieg

Erin Arnold

Ginger Baker

Director of Human Relations

Director of Category Management

Store Manager

Store Manager

Rebecca Lupfer

Sabita Singh

Stacey Kegel

Terra Pierce

Vice President of Center Store Merchandising

Store Manager

Brand Manager of Loyalty Marketing

Store Manager



2021 Top Women in Grocery Kristina Samuel Director, Product, Acosta

Samuel was awarded Acosta’s Gold Ovation Award for her work on a team recognized for securing Acosta Europe as a client’s sole field sales provider. She received an internal Applause award from Acosta’s director of business operations for managing and contributing to the creation of direct store delivery-style work. As a member of Acosta’s Engagement Council, Samuel is part of a focus group that reviews and provides feedback on potential new initiatives and projects that affect her associates.

Ashley Tussing

Senior Director, Retail Experiential Marketing Operations, Advantage Solutions/ Advantage Customer Experience

Tussing was instrumental in leading a reorganization that streamlined support offerings and increased flexibility of retail operations; the move reduced overall costs and optimized parttime field use by more than 30%, and reduced turnover by 8%.


Rochelle Cummins

Senior Director, Acosta/Mosaic

Cummins’ team worked with Impossible Foods and Chelan Fresh to develop an omnichannel strategy that accelerated awareness, consideration and distribution for both brands. She helped innovate sampling experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, including direct-to-consumer box subscriptions for Chelan Fresh, and retail food trucks at Walmart locations across the country for Impossible Foods. Cummins worked on Civic Nation’s Vote Together campaign to get young people excited and informed about voting.

Erin Heikkinen

Senior Director, E-Commerce Strategy, Advantage Solutions/Advantage Digital Commerce

Heikkinen’s team worked to eliminate silos and bring cross-functional teams and centers of excellence together to help her clients maximize growth opportunities that arise when consumer shopping behaviors shift.

Laura Sylvester Compliance Director, Advantage Solutions/ Advantage Customer Experience

The first operations compliance director for the dedicated Walmart business unit, Sylvester built out the operations compliance program, which drove the expansion of marketing programs to include complex food recipes, raw-protein cooking demonstrations and a food-sampling service. With sampling no longer possible during the pandemic, she focused on developing updated COVID-19 impact monitoring and regulatory risk assessment tools. Sylvester is a supporter of Feeding America.

Dee Hall

Executive General Manager, Advantage Solutions/ Advantage Marketing Partners

For the largest beer company in the world, Hall oversaw 175plus field sales associates and doubled agency revenue during a challenging year; her innovative reimagining of the in-store demo experience during COVID-19 was critical to the brand’s success.

She was a founding member of an inaugural employee resource group focused on improving gender equality at her company.

She was instrumental in developing and executing the rollout of the Advantage Solutions Digital Sales Strategy, a plan that helped position Advantage Solutions as a leader in retail sales and marketing.

She created and launched Culture Council, a collective of marketing professionals across various disciplines, to leverage their collective passion for multicultural marketing.

Tussing is a member of the Network of Executive Women and volunteers with youth at North Texas Performing Arts.

Heikkinen is a frequent featured speaker and expert panelist, and serves as a volunteer for The Salvation Army.

As co-chair and host of the REGGIE Awards, Hall helps spotlight the best marketing campaigns of brands and agencies.


Amanda Albert

Account Planner, Strategy and Planning, Advantage Solutions/ Advantage Customer Experience

The retail beauty sample box that Albert launched for a client secured end cap placement and secured significant new household trial for the beauty category, generated $125,000 from new category shoppers, and increased spend among brand shoppers by 27%. The successful interactive augmented-reality program that she created for an adult-beverage client included in-store point-ofsale events and an out-of-store geo-targeted media campaign. Albert is active in several organizations for executive women.

Valerie Whittaker

Senior Human Resources Manager, Advantage Solutions/ Advantage Sales

Advantage’s COVID-19 response was led by Whittaker, with a cumulative infection rate of 4% compared with the U.S. grocery worker rate of 20%. She created resources to cope with COVID-19, such as the “Safety First Retail Field Guide,” to give associates the necessary tools to maintain safety at work. Whittaker collaborated with customers and clients during COVID-19 to ensure best practices and personally connected with 700-plus retail representatives from the beginning of the pandemic about attending work.

Celebrating this generation of women in the industry

©2020 Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery, Modesto, CA. All rights reserved.

while empowering the next

Learn more at:



2021 Top Women in Grocery Mary Llanos CDS District Manager, Advantage Solutions/Club Demonstration Services

Llanos played a key role in establishing new practices, protocols and cultural/behavioral changes in front-line management teams due to COVID-19 restrictions; she worked with the HR team to implement new compliance procedures, communicate major changes and manage employee-related issues. Her operational prowess and precision led the operations team through the first-ever stickering project at the company, a huge undertaking. Llanos works with her church to support ministries for children and young adults.

Mariana Manzano

Director of Sales, Advantage Solutions/Club Demonstration Services

Manzano developed and executed a marketing strategy for the U.S. Dairy Export Council, with more than 1,800 demos performed and a spend of $220,000; the success of the program led to an increase in spend and targeted demos for 2021. She developed Cocina Gourmet, a new marketing program for Costco that showcases multiple vendors and products to create quick and easy recipes. Manzano works with Sunrise Bonita, an organization dedicated to helping senior citizens, and volunteers at an orphanage for special-needs children in Mexico.

Katherine Burkhardt

Joelle Dove

Senior Manager, Brand Strategy, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

Recognizing an opportunity to build private-brand momentum during the pandemic, Burkhardt quickly developed frameworks to identify and prioritize categories best suited to long-term private-brand development, leveraging promotions to encourage additional purchases and integrate private brands into digital offerings. Her focus on pushing the boundaries for private brands has won significant new business for her company. Burkhardt works with PennPAC, a nonprofit that matches University of Pennsylvania alumni with volunteer opportunities.

Director of Business Development, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

As team lead for Daymon’s private-brand partnership with Big Lots, Dove has helped drive significant growth for the retailer in terms of customer loyalty, differentiation and enhanced margin. She led her team to support faster speed to shelf on new items, trimming significant time in the packaging product development pipeline. Dove received the Daymon Creative Services Annual Sales Partner Award in December 2020, and she has been a member of WISE (Women Impacting Store Brand Excellence) since 2019.

Erin DeWaters

Julie Grant

Director, Communications, Retail Business Services

Director, Application Development, Merchandising, Retail Business Services



2021 Top Women in Grocery

Sarah Fair

Trish Myers

Senior Director, Account Management and Growth, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

In 2020, Fair helped deliver 16% top- and bottom-line growth for the packaging division. Her 2020 strategy included expanding into new packaging options, including sustainable ones; other new services were a COVID-19 signage solution as a turnkey option for retailers, and a bioengineering solution that helps brands prepare for new regulatory requirements. Fair expanded Daymon Creative Services’ capabilities to better support e-commerce; the agency now offers photorealistic solutions that help get products online 12 weeks faster.

Manager of Analytics, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

Myers retained all previous client relationships and grew Daymon’s analytical consultancy through the sell-in of new retainer roles and ad hoc consulting project work, increasing her team’s revenue by 17%. She launched a new category management education and certification program within Daymon, while also taking over responsibility for the company’s analytical share group. Myers is an active member of WISE (Women Impacting Store Brand Excellence) and team lead for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Connecticut chapter.

Stephanie Norton

Supply Chain Manager, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

Norton used her supply chain expertise and business experience to manage more than 48,000 purchase orders across 200-plus manufacturers during a pandemic year. Last summer, she onboarded and trained a new forecast analyst, and then led her team of forecast analysts in creating, modifying and customizing Daymon’s forecasting tools, systems and processes; this work helped to improve a key supplier’s service level by more than 10%. In recognition of her business achievements, she received the Milty Award, named after Daymon co-founder Milt Sender.

Betsy Parker

Senior Business Manager, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

Parker used her 10 years of retail grocery experience to assist key center store suppliers in their decision-making during the pandemic; her work resulted in double-digit top-line sales growth, with minimal disruption in supply across key categories. She began 2020 as business manager and was promoted to senior business manager in July; during this transition, she successfully onboarded and trained two new business managers. For the past five years, Parker has led the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of San Antonio work mentorship program for the local Daymon team.

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR TOP WOMEN IN GROCERY! Your leadership, care, courage and teamwork make it possible for us to deliver on our promise to provide innovative solutions so our partners can focus on building great local brands.

Christy Phillips-Brown

Lisa Sobataka

VP, Communications & Omnichannel Service Center, Retail Business Services

Business Consultant, IT, Retail Business Services


2021 Top Women in Grocery Jean Ryan

Senior Director, Brand Strategy and Design, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

As the longterm nature of the COVID-19 pandemic became evident, Ryan identified ways that Daymon could help retailers thrive; in one example, she developed a signage program for COVID-19 safety guidelines that retailers could use. At the same time, she kept a strong focus on new product development, redesigns and strategy planning, as she saw that private brands were going to thrive during and after the pandemic. Ryan made the Adopt-a-Family program available to all of Daymon’s Strategic Advisory associates across the country.

Sara Jarocki

Junior Account Planner, Advantage Solutions/EDGE Marketing

Jarocki has helped build visibility and value of the analytics team across EDGE Marketing’s client roster; in this role, she supports more than 40 brands across 15 retailers. In the past year, she played a critical role in developing a standardized, post-promotional analysis and scorecarding process to ensure ongoing alignment among sales, trade and brand management. Jarocki’s team planned and executed $8.4 million in omnichannel marketing programs and delivered more than 380 best-inclass post-promotional analyses.


Danielle McCormick

Senior Manager, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

During her short tenure at Daymon Creative Services, McCormick has transformed the packaging management group. By launching new services and implementing new processes to deliver better pricing, she helped achieve year-over-year growth of 16% in 2020. Thanks to a new bid protocol that Daymon’s partners get the best pricing and service terms, she ensured that none of the company’s clients went out of stock in packaging during the pandemic supply chain crunch. McCormick was promoted in November 2020 and named a 2020 Store Brands Rising Star.

Hillary McTeer

Senior Business Development Manager, Advantage Solutions/Eventus

McTeer’s Red Bull - Back to College drive-thru event, including scholarship opportunities, giveaways and a chance for college students to show school spirit, achieved more than 200,000 impressions. Her Crown Royal - Purple Bag Program, a 24-store initiative supporting Packages from Home, which sends care packages to deployed military personnel, had customers fill recycled purple bags with pre-selected goodies and a handwritten note. McTeer helped drive revenue for the overall Retailtainment team and overdeliver on budget.

Anne Hubele

Senior Manager, WIC, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

As WIC eligibility was expanded to include new types of products during the pandemic, Hubele diligently submitted more than 9,000 additional products across 40 states for WIC eligibility. Known as an industry expert in WIC marketing, education and registration, she provides insight to retailers, and educates WIC state agencies on the importance of approving private label products in their respective states. Hubele represents Daymon and its store brands as an active member of the National WIC Association; additionally, she serves on FMI’s WIC Task Force subcommittee.

Brayanna Montoya

Client Services Manager, Advantage Solutions/Eventus

When sampling programs were put on hold, Montoya led the development of a successful Mother’s Day drive-thru pilot program for Walmart, with only two weeks to plan and execute the effort with her team. She also managed an online pickup and delivery sampling team for Walmart, and was project manager for the sampling aspect of Walmart’s Drive-In Movie program. Montoya serves on Advantage’s Latinx employee resource group and the company’s women’s employee resource group.


Elizabeth Croisetiere

Senior Account Executive, Advantage Solutions/EDGE Marketing

Croisetiere developed a program to help drive impulse purchases of magazines at Kroger stores; the initiative featured cart signs that enabled shoppers to download a $1-off coupon for magazine purchases, resulting in a 13.8% sales lift. She won an EDGE All-Star award for her work on East Coast grocery and as EDGE’s diversity, equity and inclusion community outreach chair. Croisetiere developed EDGE’s annual Acts of Kindness program, in which employees track small acts of kindness; 50% of employees took part in it.

Laura Cosgrove Embedded Strategic Planning Manager-Business Development, Advantage Solutions/ Retailtainment

Cosgrove developed a plan for trained “beauty advisors” to help Walmart customers with product selection, answer questions and keep sections stocked; test stores with a beauty advisor showed 5.15% year-over-year growth versus regular departments in control stores. When COVID-19 paused the program, she turned to merchandising partner SAS to restock and zone Walmart’s beauty aisles during non-peak hours. Cosgrove is a member of the Network of Executive Women.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Jennifer Jones

Business Development Manager, Advantage Solutions/ Retailtainment

By reaching a new shopper base within Walmart’s online pickup and delivery program, Jones developed an annual plan for 2021 that resulted in 116% growth. With one new tactic specifically focused on the e-commerce space, she generated 2 million direct-to-home sampling impressions for her clients, resulting in almost $1 million in incremental revenue for her company. Jones co-chaired a company-wide monthly meeting to come up with ways to reinvigorate content and keep employees engaged in the virtual space; she also mentored her two newest team members during the pivot to remote working.

Kandayce Lee

Senior Manager, Training and Culture, Advantage Solutions/ RSquared Solutions

Lee earned the head trainer title in 2021; known for her speaking ability, she logged more than 100 hours in new-retail-supervisor virtual onboarding, virtual training, new-hire webinar teaching, and conference calls during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Culture Crew captain, she focused on driving diversity, equity and inclusion, encouraging people from all walks of life to seek common ground, and still found time to volunteer with employer diversity task forces. Lee increased her staffing goal of 92%, ending the year at 95%.


Jennifer Todd

Account Director, Advantage Solutions/ Retailtainment

Todd’s achievements include new business stand-up and incubation for some of Advantage Solutions’ largest and fastest-growing revenue streams; her work was critical to winning the business and getting the program off the ground. She was instrumental in expanding the Retailtainment demo group from Walmart to an additional 20 major retailers, including Kroger and Whole Foods Market, and created a custom reporting system to track and manage across 20 teams. After winning a large piece of online/pickup delivery at Walmart, Todd led this business to distribute millions of samples monthly into shoppers’ hands.

Carly Athey

Director Operations, Advantage Solutions/ SAS Retail Services

Athey changed roles in process/ product management for Kroger to lead a new program called Kroger Synergy; her new work included data collection, magazines and display compliance in every Kroger banner and non-Kroger banner store. She developed training guides, videos, and narratives for all new and existing associates. Athey managed an out-ofstock data collection project and helped improve Kroger Our Brands’ on-time delivery scores; she’s also a Big Sister and a NICU cuddler at Good Samaritan hospital, as well as being active in March of Dimes.

Taylor Williams

Business Development Manager, Advantage Solutions/ Retailtainment

Over the past year, Williams has managed more than $3 million in Walmart’s online pickup/delivery program; with the production team, she helped create videos showing product benefits and availability at Walmart, resulting in more than $300,000 in growth that would have been lost due to lack of demos because of the pandemic. Brought in as a digital expert on client calls and brainstorming sessions, she has published more than $2.3 million of on-site media for the Advantage team since March 2020.


Sharri Johnson

Retail Operations Manager, Advantage Solutions/ RSquared Solutions

Johnson’s team of 32 associates provides sales and merchandising services in 1,010 grocery stores, generating $4.6 million for major grocery and wholesale retailers. In a down year due to COVID-19, between April 2020 and February 2021, her sales team produced $14.6 million in sales revenue, a 110% increase over the prior year.

Williams is an active supporter of Susan G. Komen and Feeding America branches in her area.

Many sales records were exceeded by Johnson’s team in 2021, such as the New York contingent known as the Inner City Independents, which saw its greatest success in more than five years; she’s also a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and Metropolitan Ministries.

Courtney Brown

Karen Hunstiger

Director Operations, Advantage Solutions/ SAS Retail Services

Brown manages single-source retail and reset operations for an industry leader, in which capacity she’s responsible for end-to-end financial accountability. Overseeing a multimillion-dollar budget, she delivered a 10% increase in profit margin over last year. Brown led her team through the startup process of a major customer software upgrade, developing customized training documents as well as working with multiple departments on the upgrade process; she also serves on two SAS pillar committees for recruiting and company culture.

Director Operations, Advantage Solutions/ SAS Retail Services

As program director managing in-store merchandising such as full store resets, Hunstiger and her team doubled top-line revenue in 2020, going from in-store execution to a dedicated model. Amid the pandemic, she delivered 207% revenue growth over last year, for which she received an award; she was also nominated for and serves on two task forces focusing on recruitment and retention. Hunstiger and her team were awarded a banner at one store for their assistance during the time of civil unrest, and she mentors at all levels and offers best practice advice for HR.






2021 Top Women in Grocery Julie Rank

Director Operations, Advantage Solutions/ SAS Retail Services

Having worked her way up in the company from entry-level merchandiser to her current role as program director, Rank has been a key part of more than 900% growth over the past eight years. Her team was able to help drive record-high revenue in 2020 in spite of the pandemic, and maintained its 99.6% completion rate of key performance indicators; she also launched a support team to take on a large-scale magazine program with a limited launch period. Rank has volunteered with the Appalachian Service Project and Special Olympics.

Becky Griffin

Manager, Operations Initiatives, ADUSA Distribution

During the six months that Griffin operated one of the largest distribution centers in the supply chain network, the campus had a 20% increase in overall volume, and her leadership during the pandemic created a culture of care and concern for associate well-being. She led and directed the rollout of a new training program featuring a more personalized onboarding experience that resulted in a 40% boost in retention rates. Active in her community and in her church, Griffin is regarded as a leader with an ever-positive attitude who inspires others to believe in themselves.


Karey Todd

Retail Operations Manager, Advantage Solutions/ SAS Retail Services

When the pandemic hit, Todd helped develop a completely virtual training/development program, with new technology replacing in-person training. Thanks to her leadership, a new development day structure rolled out, and she helped organize new technology for Mars Wrigley, which bolstered the relationship between the client and Advantage. Tasked by senior leadership, Todd developed an unconscious-bias training program for Advantage; her deep involvement with diversity, equity and inclusion includes work with three employee resource groups.

Linda Stiller

Director, Associate Relations, Food Lion

Stiller and her team developed COVID-19 policies and procedures reflecting local, state and federal guidelines, and Food Lion’s internal commitment to associate health and wellness. She created an associate COVID-19 case-tracking system, which included a simple process for Food Lion’s store managers to track and access data; this process also helped departments gather real-time data on active cases; her department also leads the process for tracking associate COVID-19 vaccinations. Stiller and her team received an award for their work after Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.

Kelly Silence

Zone Director, Advantage Solutions/ Waypoint


Liz Ziegler

Director of Culinary, Advantage Solutions/ Waypoint

Managing one of the largest West Coast territories in geography and revenue, Silence led a team that generated sales across restaurants, chain accounts, business/industry, colleges/universities and group purchasing organizations.

In April 2020, Ziegler launched a food safety and handling initiative that resulted in 599 sales team members receiving food handler certification nationwide; this certification was used in company advertising.

When COVID-19 affected her Northwest territory first, she developed virtual training for her team, advocating for professional mental health resources and COVID-19 assistance programs; she also created an incubator for women seeking leadership positions.

At the same time, she directed her team to focus on changes in the foodservice industry, creating new weekly recipes for a threemonth period, and also directed a shift to assisting clients in introducing new products.

Silence is a member of Waypoint Culture Champions and of Women’s Interactive Mentorship.

Kari Wilhelm Director, Merchandising, Food Lion

The sole director of merchandising for Food Lion’s Southern division of 180 stores. Wilhelm worked directly with business owners and company VPs to realize her division’s merchandising strategies. She led her team through an organizational restructuring, and even though her own position was eliminated and she had to apply for a new job, she focused on caring for her team and helping them through the process. As director of merchandising, Wilhelm relied on her experience in operations, categories and merchandising to inform her cross-functional understanding.

Ziegler donates food to a youth center, conducts cooking classes at a community center and raises donations for a Culinary Institute of America scholarship fund.

Ashley Flower

Public Relations Manager, The Giant Company

As part of the company’s brand refresh, Flower successfully launched a brandnew company page, complete with new imagery, copy and content strategy; engagement is at a brand high. She was able to bring the company’s small-business grant program from concept to implementation and payout in 41 days, getting $500,000 of critical funding into the hands of more than 100 recipients. Flower supported the launch and rollout of The Giant Company’s new brand platform, For Today’s Table, which generated a whopping 1.2 million earned media impressions.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Stacey Kegel

Shopper Marketing Brand Manager, The Giant Company

Since joining The Giant Company in 2018, Kegel has built the shopper marketing program from the ground up, turning it into a strategic competency in two and a half years. She pivoted the company’s key free-item program from being a digital, coupon-based initiative to being fully integrated into the grocer’s loyalty program while significantly improving the value proposition for suppliers. In 2020, Kegel played a critical role in leading the teams to deliver revenue for the year — the second year in a row that she delivered significantly over budget.

Rayma Alexander

Director of Talent, Diversity and Inclusion and OC, Giant Food

Alexander played a key role in creating the Gift of Women photo exhibit, giving associates the opportunity to honor women in their lives through pictures. Helping to set the tone and trajectory for Giant’s response to racial injustice, Alexander advanced the internal portion of the Community Response Plan — to energize, educate and engage associates during a crisis – and lent support to the development of longer-term plans. To find a solution for associate engagement this year, Alexander came up with a virtual event, found a video producer, wrote the program, scripted and edited the production, and communicated it to associates.


Aaysha Noor

Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Giant Company

In the wake of 2020’s racial injustice and social unrest, Noor initiated, developed, built guidelines and resources for, and implemented compassionate-listening sessions throughout the company to develop better understanding. She successfully planned and executed racial equality funding of $500,000 by partnering with community organizations. Noor serves on the board of directors of the YWCA in Carlisle, Pa., and on the HACC-Central Pennsylvania Community College Foundation board.

Sabrina Avery Brand Marketing Manager, Giant Food

Giant Food launched its first-ever mobile flu clinic, thanks to Avery; the repurposed Airstream trailer visited several stores as well as underserved communities in the region, providing vaccinations to adults and children. Her innovation, coaching and mentoring with the Healthy Living team were instrumental in its evolution from face-toface consultations, store tours, classes and community events to the adoption of a dynamic online presence. Avery volunteers her time as a board member of the Women’s Inclusion Network, helps out at local food banks and uses her cake-baking skills to raise money at fundraising events.

Darla Rieg

Director of Category Management, The Giant Company

During COVID-19 supply constraints, Rieg and her team worked closely with center store managers, securing additional product and distributing it to stores. She led her team to introduce new local breweries and wineries to store assortments; they continue to engage local vendors with The Giant Company. An active member of the LINC business resource group at The Giant Company, Rieg encourages others to participate to foster individual growth, spark new ideas and support the wider community.

Ashley Gray

Category Manager, Giant Food

To maximize efficiencies with Giant Food and its suppliers, Gray led a new cross-docking program for milk and is currently working on a similar model with eggs. She owned a new collaborative spacing strategy for the yogurt category that helps maximize productivity and CPG investments, and leans into innovation from partners — a methodology that has been embraced by vendor partners and will be expanded into other sets within the stores. Gray volunteers on the sponsorship committee with the Network of Executive Women and as part of Giant Food’s scholarship committee, diversity and inclusion efforts, and corporate council.


Caron Sanders

Director of Human Resources, The Giant Company

Sanders instituted a new communication tool to provide rapid robotic phone and text alert notifications for the organization; provided leadership to the HR team related to case management, using CDC and state Department of Health guidance; and oversaw and provided biweekly updates on COVID-19. She developed a comprehensive benefit pamphlet that drove awareness of such company-provided benefits as mental health support, enhanced paid time off and medical assistance. Sanders oversaw the company’s volunteerism program.

Bobbi Majors

Category Manager, Giant Food

At the start of the pandemic, Majors changed roles from ad planning to category management, built her new team from the ground up, and ended the year with more than 20% sales growth. To enable her team to stay connected, she created a virtual “water cooler” channel of communication where more than 200 people in various roles celebrated their teammates, learned more about each other and asked for help with no judgement. Majors is co-chair of PRIDE, a business resource group within Giant Food dedicated to doing more to advance LGBTQ+ equality in the work environment and in the communities where the company’s associates work and live.







Store Manager

Store Manager



Senior Level Executive

Senior Level Executive

© Copyright 2021 Smart & Final Stores, Inc.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Monica Simmons-Dolce Director of Edible Grocery, Dairy and Frozen, Giant Food

Many team members were onboarded in March 2020 just days before working from home began, and Simmons-Dolce stepped up to reimagine and rewrite the learning plan to train an entire team virtually. With normal supply chain operations taxed, she held daily calls with egg and milk suppliers and found alternative distribution sources for existing vendors to keep store shelves full. Simmons-Dolce’s mission is to nourish others not only at work, but also as a volunteer at the Maryland Food Bank and at her church; additionally, she’s a mentor at U.S. Dream Academy, an organization that aims to give children the skills and vision to lead productive lives.

Jami Jaworski

Continuous Improvement Manager, Peapod Digital Labs

Jaworski created a comprehensive change management plan that supported improved adoption of the master data management tool at Stop & Shop, Giant Food, and The Giant Company from 9% usage to an 80% adoption rate. She helped advise business resource group (BRG) leadership to finds ways to continuously improve chairs’ experiences so that the chairs can help focus on diversity and inclusion events and be change advocates. Jaworski created activities such as coffee talks, seminars, and Readers with Leaders to connect BRG associates and leaders on a variety of topics, enabling participants to grow both personally and professionally.


Yesim Smith

Human Resources BP, Giant Food

Smith was instrumental in the record growth and success of Giant Delivers in 2020, helping to keep associates informed and the buildings staffed by adjusting processes for interviewing, orientation and training. To maintain and improve associate engagement, she led events to honor and bring awareness to Black History Month, Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth and International Women’s Day, and also organized a drive-thru Family Day and celebrations for Pride Inside and Hispanic Heritage Month. Possessed of a strong people strategy, Smith was able to stand up a new business resource group, the Women’s Inclusion Network, and currently serves as its chair.

Andjela Petrovic

Manager III, Omnichannel Strategy, Peapod Digital Labs

Petrovic spearheaded a training program, Omnichannel On Demand, for which she developed the materials, filmed footage and helped distribute the video series. She conducted two large competitive assessments that helped each local Ahold Delhaize USA brand analyze its business relative to its competition, including insights, opportunities and specific recommendations. Petrovic created Peapod Digital Labs’ wellness business resource group to inspire associates to embrace a healthier and more balanced lifestyle; she leads a group of 25 wellness champions that creates events and education for 800-plus employees.

Pallavi Jain

Director II, Product Management, Peapod Digital Labs


Venita James

Trends Manager, Peapod Digital Labs

Jain led her team to a string of experience enhancement launches for Ahold Delhaize USA’s brands, which added great value to their customers’ lives in an unprecedented time; among the enhancements her team delivered were enabling EBT online, same-day delivery, and self-service lockers for clickand-collect customers.

With a sphere of influence spanning multiple layers, categories and peers, James supports all Ahold Delhaize USA brands, as well as e-commerce; she serves as a strategic advisor to category managers, suppliers and third-party partners, and is a key collaborator with Peapod Digital Labs’ sourcing manager in executing events.

Her efforts contributed to a double-digit Customer Satisfaction Index increase among customer brands that Peapod Digital Labs (PDL) serves, and significant positive movements in site conversion, basket size and customer retention.

She helped establish and communicate improved general merchandise/seasonal processes that reduced virtual meetings from three days to four hours, and reduced lead time by 30 days.

A participant in PDL Women in Technology+ activities, Jain also recently completed a Mount Everest base camp hike.

Erin DeWaters

Director, Communications, Retail Business Services

DeWaters is the communication lead for Ahold Delhaize USA’s $480 million supply chain transformation, coordinating across multiple stakeholder groups, providing support for hundreds of associates and spearheading strong external communications. Her focused retooling of Retail Business Services’ (RBS) media strategy to garner more strategic placements with national press by positioning executives on thought leadership, technology innovations during the pandemic, and more led to an 83% increase in media impressions. As part of the RBS Cares program, DeWaters spearheaded a virtual volunteer day of service during which associates donated more than 20,000 service hours.

James is a volunteer and guest speaker at First Gen Success, a nonprofit that provides resources for first-generation female college students.

Lisa Sobataka Business Consultant, Retail Business Services

With a deep understanding of merchandising and IT and in support of the company’s sustainable-retailing ambitions, Sobataka worked to secure funding that wasn’t in the budget and implemented a short-term solution for reporting on plastics to meet governmental regulations. At the same time, she worked with the private-brand and sustainable-retailing teams to start the RFP process for a long-term product packaging and specification solution, which is critical to the ability to measure long-term incentive sustainability goals. Sobataka volunteers her time regularly as treasurer and board member of the Lion’s Share Credit Union.

We are proud to honor our Top Women in Grocery 2021. And we applaud the women across our industry who are leading the way. RISING STARS

Monica Jackson-Russo

Danielle Westbrock

Growth Analyst Director, P&G Family Care

Senior Account Executive – Personal Care, P&G Meijer Customer Team


2021 Top Women in Grocery Claudia Cicerone

Produce and Floral Field Specialist, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co.

Prior to her promotion in August 2020, Cicerone was a perishable manager and assistant store manager whose efforts regarding shrink and budget resulted in more profits added to her store’s bottom line. Cicerone mentors other associates whenever possible and, when visiting stores, walks with assistant store managers who could use more guidance on operations, best practices and available tools. During her time as an assistant store manager, Cicerone was part of Stop & Shop’s Millennial Board, women’s associate resource group and Empathy Engine Project; she also drove her location to be the top fundraising store in her market for the USO.

Denise Algire Director, Risk Initiatives, Albertsons Cos.

In her role as the national medical director for Albertsons, Algire was chosen to lead the company’s pandemic plan development per WHO and CDC requirements for COVID-19 readiness. She developed the company’s exposure risk assessment and clinical protocols according to CDC guidelines, working with local epidemiology officials and conducting a pilot surveillance-testing program at distribution centers. Algire is a member of the CDC Business Health Executive Committee and part of the CDC Pharmacy Vaccine Partnership Strategy team.


Stephanie Duffy Center Store Sales Manager, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co.

Kelly Griffin

Perishable Manager, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co.

Duffy coaches and trains fellow associates as a leader of the women’s associate resource group. She also played a key role in the district’s Rising Stars program and was a vital resource in the promotion of more than 69 associates to full-time positions.

As a member of the Region 3 staffing team for approximately seven weeks, Griffin identified approximately 400 candidates for job openings throughout the region; she also assumes the role of continuing training for new associates.

While her supervisor was on leave, she was entrusted to lead her regional sales group, consisting of 16 employees, in addition to her job managing roughly 650 associates and implementing company sales programs across her 20 stores.

She recently created a stepby-step process for balancing payroll each week with a new assistant store manager, and she is seen as the district’s go-to person when others need questions answered on the topic.

Duffy is a member of the New Jersey Food Council, comprising retailers working on legal issues affecting the business, and she reworked her church’s food bank during the pandemic.

Christine Ang-Herrera

Manager, J4U and OMS Support, Rewards and Offer Redemption Support, Albertsons Cos.

Under Ang-Herrera’s leadership in Manila, her team found a $1.5 million discrepancy in an accounting report, which led to the creation of a process that resolved the discrepancy and lessened the financial impact to the company.

During the holidays, Griffin worked with the Salvation Army to provide additional materials and fulfill donation requests; she also brought in decorations with words of encouragement and COVID-safe snacks for her team.

Alexandra Ball

Technical Business Analyst, Food Safety and Quality Assurance, Albertsons Cos.

Overseeing the movement of about 2.5 million cases annually, Ball ensured that sanitation products were in stock during the pandemic.

Her team saved money with the Train the Trainer program, teaching inside trainers and eliminating the need for external trainers.

When a company recall expert left, she stepped in and became an expert in the recall process, learning the mapping product distribution system as well as creating one of her own; reports that she has developed are shared with top levels of the company.

Ang-Herrera helped raise money for COVID-19 kits and personal protective equipment for front-line workers, and provided assistance to typhoon victims.

Ball participates in the Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network, as well as belonging to a wide range of wine grower and educator groups.


Essence Souffrant

Manager of Social Media, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co.

During lockdown, Souffrant developed and launched Stop & Shop’s first-ever cooking show with Food Network’s Robert Irvine; the event exceeded 2020 benchmarks and garnered 12 million video views, 59 million impressions, 100,000 website visits and 371,000 in-store visits. She led the Beyond the Aisles campaign, which won the 2020 U.S. Social Media Award for Best Use of Social Media in a Crisis; the campaign increased social brand positive sentiment by 27% above benchmark. A member of ColorComm Network for Women of Color in Communications, Souffrant is co-chair of Stop & Shop’s BIPOC associate resource group.

Vicki Bittner

Service Deli Operational Specialist, Albertsons Cos.

Bittner hired and trained service deli associates for a new Pavilions store during the pandemic; helping to organize the virtual hiring of 50 people and training the entire staff via socially distanced methods. Before the pandemic, specialty cheese sales were flat or negative; using her knowledge as a cheese professional, she trained the cheese specialist and worked on displays, which resulted in a weekly sales increase of 52%. A member of the Southern California Diversity & Inclusion Council, Bittner also passed the rigorous Certified Cheese Professional exam.


Tomi Branson

District Manager, Albertsons Co.

Branson’s district led the division during the pandemic in identical-store sales, with double-digit results for the entire year; she improved in-stocks, service and controlled expenses, which led to her beating bottom-line projections every quarter.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Karen Brophy

Program Manager, Strategic Sourcing, Albertsons Co.

In early 2020, Brophy was selected as a program manager reporting to the strategic sourcing GVP; during the initial COVID-19 spike, she created and managed the critical-supplies database to track the most essential items that Albertsons needed to operate safely during the pandemic.

Due to the Almeda Fire in southern Oregon, many associates on her team lost everything, so she contacted each one to ensure that they received needed resources; she also coordinated staffing to keep stores open and supported firefighters on the front line with supplies and food.

Asked by leadership to organize and run a strategy session to get the department’s savings goal back on track, she partnered with teams to create executable plans that enabled the organization to exceed its fiscal year 2020 financial target.

Branson volunteers for Special Olympics and food pantry distribution, and is a group member of Oregon State Developmental Disability Advocacy.

Brophy supports breast cancer awareness and research, as well as mentoring other women in her community, both professionally and personally.

Danielle Cremer Senior Store Planner, Albertsons Cos.

As the company accelerated plans for Drive Up & Go, Cremer led the development and planning to meet the accelerated program target of 1,400 programs launched by the end of fiscal year 2020. She was responsible for facilitating process and development with the store-planning team on executing more than 650 self-checkout plans company-wide. Cremer has been an active member of the Albertsons Community Team, dedicating her time in the community to United Way Holiday Helpers, Toys for Tots and the Shakespeare Festival.

Alaina Cruz

Starbucks/Service Deli Assistant Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos.

The Albertsons corporate national team has recognized Cruz as a vital resource and advisor to partner with on project initiatives; this included working with the service deli operations team to roll out a new hand-crafted sandwich program. She received first place in $5 Friday events and won a contest on building customer loyalty within Albertsons’ Just for U program; also, Starbucks Coffee Co. honored her and the SoCal Executive Leadership team with the Star Award. Cruz is a member of the Southern California division’s Diversity & Inclusion Council.

Divina Gracia Buenafe

Katherine Chin Senior Strategic Sourcing Director, Albertsons Cos.

Director/Chief Administration Officer-Philtech, Albertsons Cos.

With responsibility over 700-plus full-time employees and 200-plus contractors at Safeway Philtech Inc., Buenafe is a certified management accountant, a certified financial consultant and a Certified Partner – Predictive Index. Despite heavy economic headwinds, including an 8% reduction in the foreign exchange rate, she’s on target to close the fiscal year 2020 budget year with a surplus of around $1.3 million. Buenafe spearheaded a variety of programs to ensure that Philtech had transitioned to an 85% work-from-home posture on 48 hours’ notice, and within a week that number reached 98%; this was done seamlessly, with little to no service disruption.

Anupama Dande

Heeding critical feedback from suppliers that would create additional supply capacity, she implemented change within Albertsons to allow it to take advantage of the freed-up capacity; her collaborative approach has positioned Albertsons Own Brands for success and continues to drive incremental sales for the company. Chin created several key initiatives within strategic sourcing to improve employee engagement.

Marlowe Dias

Quality Assurance Director, Albertsons Cos.

Lead DevOps Engineer, Albertsons Cos.

Dande successfully delivered solutions for all new initiatives such as implementing a loyalty platform and rewards initiatives, and she played an active role in containerizing all of the loyalty apps, realizing savings of almost $300,000 per year. She resolved more than 20 critical challenges that teams have faced in the past year, accounting for $200,000 in savings. Dande created a multiregion module solution for driving an unprecedented surge in e-commerce traffic, which has helped to increase the resiliency of the systems.

Responsible for the sourcing of Own Brands at Albertsons, representing more than $13 billion in annualized sales, Chin leads a team that specifically identifies, negotiates and manages more than $5 billion in spend across the Own Brands business.

Under Dias’ leadership, the number of Own Brands product withdrawals significantly declined — down 40% over the prior year. She led the complaint ratio to a significant decrease, and an implementation of risk assessment tools for both product safety reviews and facility certification audits. Dias facilitated the successful implementation of several audit processes, including a virtual facility audit process for manufacturing sites, and an annual organic audit with results that were in full compliance with USDA National Organic Plan Standards.




Debbie Gilboy District Manager, Albertsons Cos.


to all the Nominees on their archievements


Gilboy manages a high-volume district that led the division in identical-store sales during Q1 and Q2. General Mills selected her to take part in its Retail Execution Advisory Board panel and provide feedback on recent innovations and sales-generating ideas; she was invited to present at the company’s annual meeting and coached attendees on selling more product and better employing the field team. For more than three years, Gilboy partnered with PowerCrunch to help the Boys and Girls Club in downtown San Diego and National City fill backpacks with donated goods for the summer, when the kids aren’t receiving school lunches.

Valerie Hund

Senior Manager, SRE Loyalty, Albertsons Cos.

Hund spearheaded and implemented a standard monitoring framework for shopper and loyalty customer-/business-facing services; one key aspect was developing a repeatable pattern across all of the product, and the services would follow. She has a powerful influence on her team, driving engagement on tickets, releases, monitoring, alerting, root causes and major-incident management. 1.800.306.1071

Hund is a founding member and current board president of the Exceptional Needs Network, a volunteer organization started by a group of parents of children with special needs who wanted to reach out and help others deal with raising a child with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or other disabilities.

Joanne Goh

Director of E-Commerce Own Brands, Albertsons Cos.

In 2020, Goh led the marketing team and several agency partners to execute nine brand campaigns in 12 divisions, with a $20 million marketing budget. She increased Own Brands sales penetration on e-commerce to 27.3% year to date, exceeding fiscal year 2020 goals and outpacing brick and mortar for 11 out of 12 divisions, and she delivered a 230% Own Brands sales increase on e-commerce year over year, outpacing national brands. Goh was selected to participate in critical corporate task forces, including Albertsons’ East Coast warehouse integration, COVID supply assurance, COVID vendor negotiations and division cost savings work.

Cathy Ikeuchi

Senior Manager, Energy Procurement Strategic Sourcing, Albertsons Cos.

Overseeing a $63 million natural gas and propane budget that encompasses all retail locations, manufacturing plants and distribution centers, Ikeuchi saved the company well over $3 million through her natural gas hedging strategy, compared with the utility alternative. She led a team to create and implement ACI’s electric vehicle-charging station retail installation initiative, including everything from contract negotiation to internal and external stakeholder coordination. Ikeuchi coordinates a cooperative effort among ACI, Building Bridges and The Home Depot to improve and beautify Camp Parks, a joint military training facility, and the local federal Veterans Administration Hospital.

Proud To Have Them


in the family Kathy Jones

Own Brands Operations Manager, Albertsons Cos.

Jones is a 44-year veteran at Albertsons who manages the setup and maintenance of approximately 1,000 Own Brand suppliers, as well as system setup and maintenance of the item portfolio, currently containing more than 20,000 items across 14 distribution centers. During 2020, she stepped up and took on additional responsibilities to set up control brand items and new suppliers; her leadership allowed the company to respond to changing buying habits quickly and secure product inventory for customers, and sales directly resulting from her work were north of $200 million. Jones runs a wildlife rescue at her home while searching for new placements for the animals.

Nancy Keane

Public Affairs/ Communications Manager, Albertsons Cos.

Managing categories with annual sales of more than $200 million, Keane also provides support and training for new assistant sales managers, as well as support as a Super User to fellow assistant sales managers on the new 12E tool. She oversees Albertsons Foundation charitable giving for a five-state region in the Southwest; annually, she’s responsible for contributing to more than 500 community organizations, with funding that exceeds $2 million. Keane successfully leveraged her strong media contacts to position Albertsons and its Safeway and Vons banners as industry leaders in stopping the spread of COVID-19; her work in this area procured more than 30 million media impressions.

Sheetal Kamble Senior Technical Project Manager, Albertsons Cos.

In April 2020, Kamble adapted quickly to virtually leading a large team of 48 members, and managed to support offshore team members as well. She led the catalog team in the successful launch of a new digital catalog platform, enabling Albertsons e-commerce to scale up the number of the comany’s stores activated for online delivery and pickup from 500 locations to more than 1,000, and to expand assortment from 25,000 items to 50,000. Kamble has Project Management Professional (PMP) and Scrum Master certifications, which enable her to take on the roles of Scrum Master and project manager in complex endeavors.

On behalf of your colleagues and pizza fans around the world, congratulations Season Elliott, President of WiseChoice Foods and Laura Lingad, Director of Operations of WiseChoice Foods, on being honored as Progressive Grocer's 2021 Top Women In Grocery. Thank you for championing our guiding principles everyday - Gratitude. Passion. Growth. You inspire us all. SEASON ELLIOTT President Favorite Pizza: Smoked Bacon Jalapeño Popper Pizza

Flordeliza Krill Senior Director, Albertsons Technology. Albertsons Cos.

Krill served as the head of technology, delivering COVID-19 initiatives for the welfare of Albertsons associates and customers, including rolling out contactless temperature checks across all locations. She also moved quickly to work with numerous teams to help position Albertsons as a COVID-19 vaccine administrator, meeting federal and state requirements, and providing the solution to schedule immunizations through both Albertsons mobile and web platforms.

laura lingad Director of Operations Favorite Pizza: Hatch Green Chile Uncured Pepperoni Classico Pizza

Krill aided the company’s efforts to position pharmacy technology in a long-term service delivery model using onshore and offshore talent, resulting in almost $2 million in savings.


Contact us at (505) 884-3503


2021 Top Women in Grocery Alexa Langona Director of Own Brands, Albertsons Cos.

Senior Sourcing Manager, Albertsons Cos.

Langona has primary responsibility for the Albertsons Own Brands product and brand portfolio across the company’s entire meat and seafood departments; her area of portfolio encompasses more than $2.3 billion in annual sales in 30-plus states and 2,250 stores across the country.

Responsible for managing more than $500 million in spend and 100-pus distinctly different suppliers for the Own Brands frozen business unit, Ly leads a team instrumental in ensuring that all company stores across all banners remain in stock with high-quality frozen products.

Her work was recognized by Progressive Grocer sister publication Store Brands, in which her Signature Select Spatchcock Chicken was a Gold Winner for Best New Product 2020.

Faced with 2020 product shortages, she used her industry expertise to quickly source additional control brand products in certain categories like frozen fruits and vegetables.

Challenged to lead a huge packaging redesign on all Albertsons products to display the Responsible Choice Seafood Sustainability seal, Langona beat the proposed short timeline.

Ly’s organizational skills and ability to multitask, while also making sure that her two young kids stayed focused on their remote learning, was nothing short of a superhero effort.

Sommer McCullough

Manager, FP&A, Albertsons Cos.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, McCullough and her team rose to the added pressure of providing more real-time financial information than ever before, accelerating timelines to break out the e-commerce business. Working with the systems, division finance, accounting and e-commerce teams, she developed the necessary reporting and visibility into the financials of the e-commerce business, as well as providing an easy way for stores to understand the breakout between their different business lines of brick and mortar and e-commerce. McCullough also helped move Albertsons’ finances to Oracle Cloud, converting the hierarchy of departments and accounts to the new structure.


Emma Ly

Manjari Mehrotra

Director, Performance Marketing, Albertsons Cos.

Mehrotra owns the largest media budget in the company, and it continues to grow: Her scope of work started with only e-commerce, but now includes supporting all of Albertsons’ key business areas and priorities through paid digital marketing initiatives. With COVID-19 accelerating e-commerce demand, her team built a playbook for paid media awareness and conversion campaigns that was vital in achieving sustained 200%-plus growth in e-commerce and doubling customer retention from prior years. Mehotra’s efforts have resulted in strong KPIs, including the online return on ad spend improving from $2 to $7, even while almost doubling the marketing budget.

Kelly Malone

Service Deli Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos.

Malone stepped up as the Almeda fire in Oregon burned more than 2,000 residences in the district where she operates, including her own home; she handed out basic essential items such as toiletries and clothing and helped at the local expo center, where families affected by the fire could leave their pets until they found new living arrangements.


Dominika Matthews

Digital Marketing and Analytics Manager, Albertsons Cos.

During her first six months at Albertsons, Matthews had a huge impact not only on the Denver division, but also on all divisions of the company: She was able to grow new registered loyalty households by 10% and to increase active households by 5%.

Amid the fire and the COVID-19 pandemic, she managed to outperform the rest of the Portland division, with a sales increase of more than 7%.

Her new loyalty-driven program targeted at younger families with lower incomes has grown into a mass-scale program that’s driving strong redemptions, category growth and high social media engagement.

Actively involved in training and mentoring district and division deli associates, Malone is a positive leader and an effective communicator.

Matthews has been selected to participate in national business development strategies and is recognized for successful and innovative campaign results.

Laura Perkins Floral Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos.

Taking on her new role managing the floral departments for 339 stores across 15 districts in March 2020, Perkins had an immediate impact, developing training manuals and introducing schedule planners and virtual training sessions for innovative programs such as balloon designs and an expanded floral delivery program. In the first 11 months of her new e-commerce program, her SoCal division ranked No. 1 in the company for floral delivery, with the category seeing triple-digit sales growth. Perkins additionally gave new life to the foliage category by working with the marketing team to focus messaging on the benefits of having these plants in the home.

Denise Pisciotto Senior Manager, Albertsons Cos.

Under Pisciotto’s leadership, supplier onboarding time was compressed from weeks to hours, enabling the company to respond to customer and employee needs much more quickly during COVID-19; She also created a new workflow to streamline the process of collecting paperwork required for new business relationships. Developing a strategy for electronic data interchange partner conversion to a new B2B system and implementing it across various workstreams, she and her team greatly contributed to the reduction of risk and the application of faster resolutions. When her team started working from home, Pisciotto set up a virtual workspace to communicate and collaborate, and she kept morale high with fun activities.


Michelle Turula

Karen Cox

Commercial Director, Digital

Senior Vice President, Sales Operations

Q Rhoneda Hyatt

Lisa Gaylord

Vice President, Commercial & Marketing

Director, Commercial Strategy and Segmentation

Lynleigh Kersting

Kelly Weaver

Senior Manager, Retail Channel Strategy and Planning

Customer Development Manager

Roni Jansen Senior Director, Customer Management Walmart & eCommerce

Cheers to all the 2021 Top Women in Grocery! And a special thank you to our Coca-Cola winners for refreshing the world and making a difference through your remarkable contributions. You are an indispensable ingredient in our secret formula. Congratulations!

©2021 The Coca-Cola Company


2021 Top Women in Grocery Robin Porter

Senior Manager, Maintenance and Purchasing Support, Albertsons Cos.

Ashley Rae

Deli Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos.

Porter was given the responsibility of merging two teams into one, and now leads 42 associates who keep stores running smoothly by ensuring that all maintenance and equipment purchase requests are fulfilled.

Rae has been extremely successful at identifying and developing talent, including training new managers and deli department rollouts such as a new inventory process; she also organized the Women’s Network Grow Your Career event.

Collaboration is extremely important to Porter, as seen by how she encourages her team to improve their skills; she had her team do deep-dive training on refrigeration contract reviews and developed a weekly hour-long “study group” to build teamwork.

Through her leadership, Rae has moved her district from the middle of the pack to being the best in reducing shrink, and her team is consistently first in all sales events, including holiday fundraising, rib events and specialty cheese promotions.

Porter helped her team understand company capitalization policies, identifying work orders that qualified and transitioning those to capital purchase orders.

To improve herself as well as to be a role model for others, Rae is currently enrolled in a Retail Management Certificate training program.

Karen Rasser

Sourcing Manager, Albertsons Cos.

During the beginning of the pandemic, Rasser rushed essential items to stores on a daily basis and spent most weekends cutting purchase orders for divisions that couldn’t keep up with demand. Her sourcing performance drove the largest increase in Own Brands penetration across the store, as these items outperformed national brands on all supply chain metrics within the grocery department. Rasser co-led an initiative to automate some of the tactical work of the Own Brands supply chain team, such as new “bots” that decrease the time it takes to complete a vendor scorecard from 30 minutes to three minutes.


Tina Riddle

Center of Store Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos.

Celebrating 30 years of service with Safeway/Albertsons this year, Riddle takes her mentorship obligations seriously, meeting with three mentees from her district on a quarterly basis to discuss leadership strategy and career advancement opportunities; she’s also a council member of the Seattle division’s Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network. Playing a key leadership role as co-author, she executed a division pilot and master schedule to align with transitioning assistant store directors to a center-ofstore focus. Riddle was the division leader for center-of-store shrink control, achieving an improvement over last year of about $261,000.


Maryrose Rinella

Senior Director Own Brands, Albertsons Cos.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Kristina Sokukawa

Senior Product Manager, Albertsons Cos.

Andrea Telang Director, Cloud and Operations Group/Cloud Transformation, Albertsons Cos.

The private label produce business was on a steep decline, but when Rinella took over the category, she was able to turn it around, raising overall penetration by approximately 5% to the highest it has ever been: 33.4% and climbing.

In fiscal year 2020, Sokukawa launched 59 new items worth $34 million annually, focused on key-growth brands such as O Organics and Open Nature, and, as a result, was promoted to senior product manager in July.

Telang’s primary program management responsibility is the delivery of a multiyear, complex application migration of the entire Albertsons application portfolio to the public cloud, which has achieved many critical milestones over the past year.

In the alcohol business, she identified and led an innovation platform, launching 37 new items in the past 18 months, many of them award winners, for a total of $10 million-plus in incremental sales.

She volunteered to develop and lead an Own Brands onboarding committee for product management, creating the tools and information needed to ensure a new hire feels welcome and prepared from day one.

She, her team and the core infrastructure team developed a robust data center decommission plan to manage the exit of more than 8,000 technical assets.

Rinella formed a task force of sales managers in each division to get their input and support regarding how to drive her produce business work and item innovation.

While not at work, Sokukawa volunteers her time at an assisted-living organization, helping seniors with their exercise routines, running errands and coordinating social activities.

Although Telang’s daughter is now an adult, Telang remains extremely involved with the Girl Scouts of Northern California, using her vacation time to volunteer at overnight summer camp; she also acts as a Red Cross volunteer lifeguard.

Angela Terrazas Quality Assurance Manager, Albertsons Cos.

When Albertsons transitioned to a cloud-based data-warehousing platform, Terrazas took the initiative to learn and train the quality assurance, customer care and risk management teams on the new system, which improved efficiencies in data gathering and supplier traceability. She spearheaded a project to enhance the company’s social accountability program by conducting risk assessments on new certification standards and facilitating meetings with major industry partners. Terrazas is pursuing her master of science degree in food safety at Michigan State University, and she has presented at various scientific conferences.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Stephanie Wendell

Senior Director of Sales, Own Brands, Albertsons Cos.

Senior Product Manager of Martech, Albertsons Cos.

Due to her leadership and abilities, Wendell has increased the scope of her responsibilities from six to 10 divisions to provide a more national view in a decentralized business model.

Yi leads marketing technology development across owned marketing programs; this includes managing program and product managers with third-party agencies.

She meets with each of her peer counterparts to analyze data and come up with win-win solutions, resulting in more efficient division communications and improved sales results — 18.7% growth in 2020 alone.

Working with cross-functional partners, she and her team re-engineered Albertsons’ legacy marketing technologies to create a cutting-edge self-service automated marketing platform; the system generates personalized, targeted digital marketing messages that communicate with l shoppers in a timely fashion.

Wendell created a onboarding and training program leveraging technology to train and develop five new Own Brands sales managers and internal team members; she’s also an active member of Women Impacting Storebrand Excellence (WISE).

Sharon Greco

Deli Ops Specialist, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

Greco is a sales builder who coaches department managers on how to consistently meet customer expectations and drive top-line sales, she helps identify and develop future managers across 17 deli departments, and she influences the team on how to buy at sales shows. She grew sales by 5.39%, 334 basis points better than the division growth; in fact, the increase represented 21% of the division’s sales growth. She also grew gross profit margins by 107 basis points year over year and reduced shrink by 219 basis points. Greco plays a key role in ensuring that all delis adhere to the highest food safety and sanitation standards.


Ji-Ea Yi

Pharmacy is a key focus of the new initiative, with highlights including COVID-19 vaccine awareness communications via email and push notifications.

Jennifer Gresham

Human Resources Manager, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

Gresham led semiannual district meetings to discuss and implement individual succession plans for more than 500 managers and 2,000-plus fulltime employees; working with the district manager, she also implemented a targeted hiring and recruiting initiative for 18 hard-to-hire store locations. She co-chaired negotiations with labor relations for UFCW Local 536, resulting in a successfully ratified meat and deli union contract. In the area of COVID-19, Gresham built a close relationship with the Medcor crisis response team and set best practices regarding associate pay and return-to-work communications.

Lori Latshaw

Senior Buyer, Albertsons Cos.Acme Markets

Meticulous about follow-through, communication and strong vendor relationships, Latshaw cut costs and generated other efficiencies across grocery and GM/HBC categories hit hard by the pandemic: She negotiated $70,000 in vendor-funded refunds from suppliers that don’t historically offer refunds, and also identified opportunities for floor stock protection, gained vendor approval and created $25,000 in chargebacks to vendors. Acting as corporate vendor captain for SC Johnson, Latshaw implemented a process that improved the fill rate of allocated items during the past two months, procuring several thousand additional cases of product.

Kathy Kaupert

Electronic Marketing Manager, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco


Mirna Franjul

TAB Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

Responsible for growing sales and fostering innovation across Jewel-Osco’s tobacco, alcohol and beverage (TAB) segments, Franjul renegotiated all wine and spirits deals so funds came through the back door as cost of goods versus lump sums at the end of each period; as a result, annual profits grew 20%, while gross margin increased 2.2%. She also remodeled many TAB departments, adding wine cellars and luxury spirits cases; sales in these areas increased more than 20%. Dedicated to supporting the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Franjul always makes herself available for packing events and other occasions.

Sarah Kelley

Bakery and Starbucks Assistant Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

Kaupert executes Jewel-Osco’s electronic marketing efforts for CPG and private-brand vendors; during conversion to an in-house system, she launched an initiative that ensured Jewel-Osco was identifying and collecting more than $500,000 in retail performance vendor funds earned during the conversion.

In 2020, Kelley opened five Starbucks kiosks and trained more than 60 associates and bakery operations specialists; within three months, the new kiosks’ weekly sales far exceeded the banner average, and bakery market share nearly doubled in dollar sales and unit movement.

She created a tag process to execute after the system conversion that guaranteed stores would receive the correct tags for electronic marketing promotions, saving an average of $100,000 weekly in tag costs.

Working with the education and human resources department, she teaches new store directors and trainees what to look for when inspecting bakery and Starbucks departments, and how to meet customers’ needs.

Kaupert’s work on processes and programs for the chain’s loyalty app helped boost infrequent loyalty household engagement by 75% within four weeks.

During the pandemic, Kelley helped meet shopper demand by stocking shelves across all departments for two months, in addition to her everyday role.



White Paper


Merchandising Solutions:

STORE FixtureS Space Management & Fixture Considerations to Maximize ROI

S p o n s o r e d By







Introduction: The Power of Merchandising This white paper will examine space management and fixture management considerations to help retailers realize greater shoppability and ROI. AS E-COMMERCE HAS made significant inroads in retail market share over the past decade, many brick-and-mortar retailers have been left wondering how to recapture and retain shoppers in the store environment. With the lines between physical and digital shopping experiences being increasingly blurred, it’s imperative that companies know how to effectively manage shrinking selling space and how their store environments must evolve. To that end, merchandising remains a powerful tool in the hands of retailers that understand how to optimize display space using the right fixtures which can help attract customers, increase sales, and reduce labor costs. “Visual Merchandising is more important than ever in the retail environment,” says global planning, architecture and design firm CallisonRTKL Vice President Ignaz Gorischek, who has 35 years in the industry and leads the firm’s Visual Merchandising team. “Visual Merchandising offers an opportunity to refresh a store in lieu of a more costly remodel. Evaluating sight lines for scale and height helps to maximize visibility and encourage exploration. Repositioning fixtures creates new traffic patterns. Strategically placing visual presentations provides moments of discovery and surprise and drives a customer through the store.” To be sure, Shop!’s 2016 Industry Size & Composition Study revealed that store fixtures, visual marketing, and shopper marketing experienced significant growth over a four-year period, with sales reaching a total of $18 billion in 2015 alone (see accompanying chart from the Shop! study). Further, as retailers look to wring more sales out of their existing customers, effective merchandising becomes even more important to running profitable operations, according to the North American Retail Hardware Association’s (NRHA) landmark Merchandising for Profit study. Retailers are trying to refresh, remodel, and reinvigorate their stores but are spending less money in terms of visual merchandising and are looking for less expensive solutions, the report concluded.



Market Size

US$ 12bn


▲ 9,000


US$ 6bn


2.0% 1.0%




0 US$ mn

Shopper Marketing 2013



Store Fixtures/ Visual Merchandising


● CAGR 2013-15 ▲ CAGR 2015-17

As such, retailers are looking for customized, flexible, and attractive merchandising solutions to position brands/stores as unique. According to a recent IBIS World report, Retail Store Fixture Dealers in the U.S., dealers are stocking portable pieces that break down easily, making it easier for them to either be moved to a different location or discarded. Additionally, material trends vary widely across channels, retailers, and brands, serving as strong differentiators with metal being more common in grocery, drug, and convenience stores, while wood is commonly used in apparel and department stores, for example, according to Shop!’s Industry Size & Composition study. Selecting the right store fixtures and implementing effective Space Management and Visual Merchandising programs can build the brand/ store image, tell the brand story, and create an experiential environment that will keep shoppers coming back for more, as this white paper will illustrate.

2018 Merchandising Solutions: Space Management & Fixture Considerations to Maximize ROI

Space Management Considerations ONCE CUSTOMERS ENTER the domain of brick-and-mortar stores, it’s crucial for retailers to captivate their customers—especially in the digital age of online shopping in which consumers can easily purchase and ship an item they see in-store from their mobile devices. Even so, in-store shopping accounts for an estimated $2.5 trillion or 87% market share compared to online shopping’s 13%, according to Matthew Wood, president of Off the Wall Co., a store design and décor, and fixture and display manufacturer. As such, retail spaces need to be stimulating and attention-grabbing. However, a major challenge for retailers in this effort is the fact that stores are getting smaller, and the number of outlets is shrinking even as retail value sales are growing. Consumers are cutting back on the number of trips and doing more big-box, one-stop shopping trips or shopping online, according to the Industry Size & Composition study. As a result, retailers and brands are asking how they can shrink footprints within brick and mortar establishments and still focus on a targeted product mix for the consumer. “Ensuring that our footprint is smaller and specific to customer needs establishes brand and retail loyalty,” says Cheryl Lesniak at Frank Mayer and Associates. “This also makes it easier to shift focus from trying to sell customers on an item they already know that they want, to upselling them on upgrades and add-ons.” The implications for retailers and merchandisers planning the physical store environment include: a reduced amount of floor space for displays; more effective displays that do more with less; fixtures that maximize space utilization; and a greater number of portable, movable, and/or adjustable fixtures (see graphic below).


SHOPPER MARKETING • Less room for displays • Displays that are included need to be even more effective, do more with less.

STORE FIXTURES/VISUAL MERCHANDISING • Fixtures needs to maximize space utilization and do more with less • Portable, moveable and/or adjustable fixtures are increasingly important.

Valuable floor space in stores means that displays must adapt to the needs of retailers and possess a smaller footprint as well. Additionally, the process of refreshing, remodeling, and redesigning of stores is happening faster than ever before—and successful retailers are the ones who have the ability to change rapidly. According to the Industry Size & Composition study, the effects of this trend on shopper marketing and fixtures is significant and includes: • Increased demand for turnkey solutions (manufacturer that can offer design, engineering, manufacturing, shipping/logistics, and setup.) • Potential for more/less display adoption depending on retailer choices. • Higher demand for fast, turnkey solutions • Increased pressure to anticipate trends

With the pressure to remain agile and fresh with merchandising, it’s important that organization of the floor and clarity of visual displays isn’t sacrificed for novelty. If the process of finding a product becomes difficult, customers will be turned off and may not return. For example, Eric Chiang, co-founder of Perfect Fit Meals, explains that his brand’s food products are best displayed using vertical fixtures with horizontal push racks that the company sources from fixture manufacturer, Trion Industries Inc., which offer a streamlined appearance, efficient use of space, and ease of restocking. The verticality of the rack provides shoppability, browsing, and tight product spacing, while the horizontal tray provides auto feed, forwarding and facing to support sales. Additionally, the trays lift out to rearrange or restock in a matter of seconds. Without them, Chiang says the product may end up looking like the bargain catch-all DVD bins in big box retail stores, or piles of clothes scattered throughout shelves and racks during Black Friday that have little to no organizational value. “People don’t want to shop through that [mess], unless you happen to be a particular type of person that likes to deal hunt, essentially,” Chiang observes. “Most people want to see a particular product displayed neatly and clearly, and have access to that product quickly. In grocery stores, especially, space management is going to be crucial; you want customers to find what they need and to find it quickly,” he adds. With that in mind, a thoughtful store layout using proper space management techniques can have a tremendous impact, even in smaller retail spaces. According to Wood, customers tend to move counterclockwise through a store, “which means any display just to the right of the door is premium space. Shoppers will pay attention to displays located here, so make sure the displays are stocked with high-profit items.” Additionally, Wood says another effective tactic is to place staple items as far away from the front door as possible. “Make customers travel throughout the space to find basic items—milk and eggs if it’s a food store, or paper and printer ink if it’s an office store. This way shoppers will see many other items to buy before they spot what they came in to purchase.”

2018 Merchandising Solutions: Space Management & Fixture Considerations to Maximize ROI


Fixture Management Considerations WHEN IT COMES TO MERCHANDISING and displays, selecting the right fixture for the job cannot be understated, especially as the footprints of retail stores are getting smaller and retailers are required to do more with less. Eric Chiang of Perfect Fit Meals says retailers who take a flexible approach to fixtures and displays will help brands that are seeking to develop an effective merchandising plan within the store environment. “If built in—if they’ve already designed these stores to be very modular in nature—it’s that much easier for brands to come in and plug in because it’s like a common frame that we’re all working from. And it’s cost effective for the retailer because they’re not over-investing in sets of fixtures that may change out every six months or a year,” he explains. Chiang adds that modular fixtures can help streamline merchandising programs in terms of restocking, making the process much more easily managed. Perfect Fit Meals utilizes vertical fixtures with horizontal push trays, which aren’t new, per se, but maximize floor space and allow for ease of inventory changeout without adding significant costs. The industry is following suit with the modular fixture trend, according to the Industry Size & Composition study. Sought-after features across many channels include flexible products, as well as those that are easy and inexpensive to update. Mobility allows retailers to avoid sparsely stocked fixtures during inventory fluctuations and gives them the flexibility to focus on and adjust the store layout as they see fit. To help retailers select the right fixture for the job, Brad W. Cox, director of sales and marketing, and Rich Wildrick, director of engineering for Trion Industries, Inc. offer the following considerations for several fixture-type categories: STRAIGHT ENTRY HOOKS—These fixtures are used for a few reasons: one is to be able to easily place display hooks tightly under shelves without needing to remove the shelves to do so. Standard display hooks need to be steeply angled up to place them in a peg board, whereas straight entry hooks (either one- or two-piece) can be placed straight into the board, hence the name. Straight entry also allows the tightest display and maximum product density throughout the display, not just under shelves.The other reason retailers use straight entry hooks is because it gives them an easier way to change a planogram as they can move a fully stocked hook instead of having to remove the product, as with a standard peg hook that needs to be angled up to remove and replace in the board. SHELF MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS—Shelf management systems are used to assist in organization by keeping items in their own lane as they are shopped. Spring feed pushers can be added to keep the merchandise pushed forward to the shelf edge for best visibility. Some items cannot stand on their own due to packaging constraints, but by using shelf management a retailer can stand the item up to billboard the marketing information printed on the packaging


(bagged frozen vegetables, for example). Shelf management can also be used to limit shelf stock. By using a pusher system shorter than the shelf, a retailer can keep the appearance of the shelves looking full until the last item is sold, which leads to another benefit of shelf management: when a product is sold out it can be easily identified by the retailer to be restocked. Bar merchandisers come in many forms, from thin crossbar to square and rectangular tubing, and often allow tighter vertical spacing with less wasted space than shelves. Simple systems use hooks to merchandise items, while more intricate merchandising trays can be used to offer better product management. SCAN HOOKS—Scan hooks are the primary fixture used to merchandise most hanging or carded items in retail. They consist of a lower merchandising arm and an upper arm that holds the scanning tag (price label) in front of the product for easy identification. The most sophisticated scan hook approaches include flatback backplates to avoid marring the display surface, flip front label holders that swing up for better product access, forward staging areas to billboard visual presentation, and simple, anti-theft profiles to prevent “sweeping” or mass theft of multiple items. These types of fixtures, among others, can result in a number of benefits for retailers, including: increased sales, maximum visibility, enhanced package billboarding, proper product rotation, and increased facings. Additionally, Cox suggests retailers look for several characteristics when making fixture management considerations. “Retailers should be looking to partner with an experienced fixture provider who is well versed in all aspects of merchandising. Fixtures should be consistent in quality, so planograms will look uniform when implemented from store to store,” he explains. It is important to find a manufacturer who has multiple solutions to meet all a retailer’s needs from display hooks, bin systems, dividers, pushers, shelf management systems, and more. Of course, cost is another driving factor, so retailers need to be sure that corners are not being cut to reduce fixture prices that will end up costing them more money down the road. “We have seen reduced diameter wire display hooks not hold up and label holders yellow under UV lighting that was caused by inferior materials being used to reduce costs, when if they would have spent a little more upfront they would have gotten extended use, lower life cycle cost, and better consistency in these types of items,” Wildrick notes.

2018 Merchandising Solutions: Space Management & Fixture Considerations to Maximize ROI


Bar Merchandiser Works Wonders at Supermarket Chain Bashas’, the Arizona-based chain of more than 150 supermarkets, has served customers for more than 70 years, but while tradition is important, so is innovation when it can lead to increased efficiency and better customer service. So Bashas’ has embraced the WonderBar Merchandiser system from Trion Industries, Inc., first for bagged candy sales and then for cough drops, gum and bagged deli products. “This has been a real value to us,” said Ken Kniffen, Bashas’ Director of Merchandising. “It is providing a more customer-friendly system, reducing shrink and labor, and improving the appearance of our stores.” Kniffen said Bashas’ tested WonderBar and its Shelf Works and Expandable Wire Tray (EWT) system in the candy aisle, then installed it in all of its stores. “We tested it in our wall deli and with cough drops, so now we are moving them into every new store and major remodel for both of those categories, too.”

Q. Have you seen gains in sales due to improved presentation? A. The pusher bar system keeps the product available in the front, and it’s easier for the consumer to shop. With the pegged system, it’s difficult for many shoppers, unless they are tall, to see and reach the product after the first couple of units have been sold. But this system moves the product to the front so it is always available, reachable, and looks good. It gives a constant billboard presentation and always looks great. Q. Can the right system reduce shrink and eliminate ripped packaging? A. Yes, and that is significant because we don’t have bags ripped at the prepunched hole, which was common in the pegged bag candy section. We have 800 to 1,000 units and none of them are torn. Previously, those torn bags became shrink (or loss), often resulting in a mess on the floor. Q. What was the effect on labor required to manage the department? A. WonderBar is faster and more efficient. You can rotate the product quickly and properly without things getting ripped. Staff can lift the tray out and rotate every single SKU individually. They just put the tray on the cart, push the spring bar back and drop in the new product at the rear to keep dated merchandise forward. It is far more efficient in terms of labor.

Important benefits, he said, include ease of installation, ability to increase SKUs within the same space, elimination of shrink due to bag tears, and a reduction of restocking labor, all made possible by a flexible system that uses spring-fed pusher trays instead of peg hooks. Here, Kniffen explains more about how the supermarket chain has benefited from using Trion’s WonderBar and EWT system in its stores: Q. By installing the systems, were you able to increase your candy offerings? A. We gained 13 facings. With the trays, we have 68 items; before we had 55. The tray system fits on a square bar and can be tightened left to right, up and down. We think sales increased by an average of 15%, although in some stores, maybe as much as 20%. We increased variety by adding new facings in the same space. Q. Did this success lead to enhancements elsewhere? A. Yes. We asked Trion for a version of the tray in a taller system to accommodate the longer multipacks of gum, which never looked good. Trion created a more vertical unit, and they work great. We have them in all of our Bashas’ stores.

Q. What were the benefits in deli meat and cough drops? A. In cough drops, we added eight new SKUs because of space gained. It is night and day compared to pegged cough drops. It holds them upright and looks perfect all the time. In the wall deli section, we were able to add 10 SKUs, and may expand into the perishable area as well. Q. Does this help with resets? A. Any chain going through remodels or resets can benefit. Just take the tray out, set it on the floor and fill it to reset the section. You save a tremendous amount of pain, headaches, and shrink.

2018 Merchandising Solutions: Space Management & Fixture Considerations to Maximize ROI


Tying It All Back to ROI GIVEN THE NUMBER OF SKUS that are introduced to the market each year (about 30,000), creating effective POP materials and merchandise displays that attract consumers to the product and provide sales lift is key to maximizing a campaign’s ROI. In fact, NRHA’s Merchandising for Profit study concludes that in-store merchandising is still a key component in retailers’ ability to drive transaction size and additional sales. In the words of Trion, “being seen means being sold.” Case in point: Perfect Fit Meals purchased vertical fixtures with horizontal push trays for its prepackaged meals, which has made a tremendous difference in terms of ROI, according to co-founder Eric Chiang. Because the company’s products feature clear packaging, Chiang says they must be merchandised upright, and Perfect Fit opted to use trays that feature back pressure to keep packages easily visible. “For us it was absolutely crucial to be able to maintain our display standards as much as we could because as soon as we saw that retailers merchandised our product laying completely flat, we knew it would not be successful in the long run—it would not have enough traction and the shrink would just kind of bubble up to a point where it would not be sustainable,” he explains. In those instances when a retailer incorrectly displayed the product, Chiang says Perfect Fit would offer another opportunity to the retailer to merchandise it upright, which “suddenly, it would make a difference. It was a slow process, obviously—it’s not a drastic thing, but if [after merchandizing it correctly] the demand starts picking up and it becomes a sustainable program for them, it’s actually very interesting to see.” What isn’t overtly stated but is implied in the Perfect Fit Meals example is that the company was paying close attention not only to sales, but also the way their products were being merchandised in-store, which is a critical factor in improving ROI. According to Shop!’s 2017 ROI Standards: In-Store Marketing Materials, calculating ROI starts with an

understanding of three baseline sets of data to build the ROI equation: in-store execution data on a store-by-store basis; cost factors; and performance data. “The key to measuring the success of any in-store marketing campaign is to have clearly defined goals. These goals must be openly established and agreed upon in the beginning of each project,” the standards document states. “Choosing the right tool to measure the goal is also critical. Attainable goals and measurable KPIs are essential to the success of a program.” Truth be told, many retailers will invest in new fixtures and displays in the hopes of achieving a healthy ROI, but fail to effectively measure the results. In fact, as Erik McMillan, CEO and founder of Shelfbucks, notes in a blog post, “I am surprised CPG companies spend billions every year on in-store merchandising campaigns with no intrinsic measurement capabilities. There is no comprehensive tracking of a display through the supply chain to the back of store, and eventually to the selling space in the front of store. Nor is it known if the display arrives after the campaign starts or even before it starts. It’s been that way for decades, and the operational and economic fail points are astounding,” he explains. To avoid such pitfalls, retailers must not only invest in new fixtures and displays but also measure how well they perform. Additionally, there are several other factors retailers and brands should be paying attention to when it comes to ROI, according to Brad W. Cox, Director of Sales and Marketing, and Rich Wildrick, Director of Engineering at Trion Industries, Inc. In order to help increase facings, maximize visibility, and reduce shrinkage, Cox and Wildrick suggest retailers ask several key questions when making fixtures and display management considerations:

1 2

Are there time savings associated to a new fixture? Will it take less time and man hours to restock it?

Can you get an updated, fresh appearance by adding a new fixture? (Adding a new shelf edge label strip can give the appearance of a new shelf for a fraction of the cost, for example.)


Can the fixture aid in proper product rotation and reduce shrink due to spoilage? (Certain bar-type merchandising and shelf-mount trays can do this for date-sensitive products like prepacked salads.)


Can more products be merchandised in the same space with more efficient fixtures? (Again, merchandising trays can do this, as retailers can often add a row of product once shelves are removed and a bar based system is implemented. Bar systems hold more product space by tightening the display vertically—but previously mentioned straight entry hooks also increase display capacity, and shelf management tray systems with nested dividers save horizontal space on shelves.) Clearly, thoughtful merchandising best practices help drive sales results higher in store environments, but it takes planning, execution, and consistent performance and cost monitoring to do so effectively.


2018 Merchandising Solutions: Space Management & Fixture Considerations to Maximize ROI

Steps for Success AS THIS WHITE PAPER HAS DEMONSTRATED, selecting the right merchandising fixtures can help to increase product sales and thus maximize ROI, if planned, executed, and measured effectively. Nevertheless, retailers must pay close attention to the overall in-store customer experience, which often dictates whether a customer will return to that store. Attractive fixtures and displays can help create a more inviting environment for customers, but many retailers have considered fixtures to be nothing more than a commodity. However, the trend is changing, according to Mike Niemtzow, CFO and founder of WindowsWear. “People have thought about fixtures as literally just tools to hold merchandise, but not necessarily represent or reflect on the brand,” he explains. “There has been demand from certain smaller retailers and brands to have more artistic types of fixtures—fixtures that reflect who they feel that they are. They are literally looking for artists that they feel are a good fit in terms of creating fixtures that are still within their budgets but offer something more than just a commodified fixture that can be purchased in bulk or low price,” he notes. To stay competitive, retailers need to incorporate more creative and unique features in store fixtures and displays in order that customers can experience the excitement and appeal that they are looking for in retail settings. While retailers can (and should) engage shoppers with creative design, the overall marketing goal is to persuade them to buy. To that end, following are several strategies to consider that can be used to accomplish merchandising goals whether used alone or in tandem (see chart at right).



• Attract shoppers by creating stopping power and standing out at the shelf. When it comes to fixtures and displays, this includes considering color, shape, messaging hierarchy, imagery, and shoppability.



• These displays are designed to persuade shoppers to buy something—typically something not on their list already. Placement within the store may come into play more than design considerations. Just about anything placed within the cash wrap area at the checkout is used to suggestive sell, thus generate impulse buys.


Remember, while store footprints may be getting smaller and budgets remaining tight, retailers can still make a big impact on sales and ROI by employing some thoughtful merchandising strategies presented here.


• Cross-selling displays create a convenient shopping experience that typically connects the center aisle with the perimeter such as placing the Oreos next to the milk, for example. Cross-selling displays make it easy for shoppers to pick up items that go together. This is similar to how online shopping works (e.g., “You might also like...” or “Shoppers who like this also bought...”)..



• Retailers can use endcap displays to cross sell products and preview what shoppers will find down the aisle. This type of co-branded display creates a win-win for the products to co-exist.

SOURCES: CallisonRTKL Launches Visual Merchandising Services For Retail Clients Worldwide, (2016) IBIS World, Retail Store Fixture Dealers in the U.S. Interviews: Erican Chiang, co-founder, Perfect Fit Meals; Brad Cox, director of sales & marketing, Trion; Ken Kniffen, director of merchandising, Bashas’ supermarkets; Mike Niemtzow, CFO & founder, WindowsWear; Rich Wildrick, director of engineering, Trion Lesniak, Cheryl. Year in review: in-store merchandising. Retail Environments.

McMillan, Erik. If you can’t measure in-store merchandising you can’t make it better. North American Retail Hardware Association’s (NRHA), Merchandising for Profit Shop! 2016 Industry Size & Composition Study Shop! 2017 ROI Standards: In-Store Marketing Materials Wood, Matthew. Can store design deliver increased sales and customer loyalty? Off the Wall Co.

2018 Merchandising Solutions: Space Management & Fixture Considerations to Maximize ROI


About Trion For over 50 years, Trion Industries Inc. ( has been manufacturing products that provide targeted merchandising solutions for retail businesses. The earliest concepts ranged from simple one-piece to sophisticated, articulated, straight-entry pegboard hooks. Today Trion fields full lines of auto-feed shelf management systems, cooler and freezer merchandising systems, storewide labeling systems, anti-theft and security fixtures, bar merchandisers, display and scanning hooks, and point-of-purchase display components and hardware. These are just a few of the tens of thousands of different products the company has created since it was founded in 1965 earning more than 120 patents. Trion has been a member of Shop! since 1972. About Shop! Shop! ( is the global nonprofit trade association dedicated to enhancing retail environments and experiences. Shop! Represents more than 2,000 member companies worldwide and provides value to the global retail market-place through its leadership in: Research (consumer behavior, trends, and futures); Design (customer experience design, store design, display design, fixture design); Build (manufacturing, construction, materials, methods, logistics, and installation); Marketing (in-store communications, in-store marketing, technology, visual merchandising); and Evaluation (ROI, analytics, recognition/awards).

For additional questions about the information contained in this white paper, please contact us at: or call us at 312-863-2917.

4651 Sheridan Street, Suite 470, Hollywood, FL 33021 Phone 954.893.7300 @shopassociation


Shop! Enhancing Retail Environments and Experiences

© 2018 by Shop! All Rights Reserved No part of this report may be reproduced for distribution without the express written permission of the publisher.


2018 Merchandising Solutions: Space Management & Fixture Considerations to Maximize ROI


Kelly Lejeune

Technology Technician III, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

LeJeune started her Jewel-Osco career as a store associate and rose to assistant front end manager, all while completing her undergraduate and graduate school education; today, she provides IT support for 188 Jewel-Osco stores, giving credit to her background for helping her forge strong in-store relationships. After some stores were damaged during the spring 2020 Chicago riots, which occurred on her day off, she immediately took action to get them up and running as soon as possible. Lejeune was named Top Tech by the division technology service team for her leadership and teamwork in 2020 and the years prior.

Tina Schmitz

District Pharmacy Manager, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

Schmitz oversees 34 Jewel-Osco pharmacies in the Chicago area; since Q1, she has improved her script trend by 95 basis points and sales trend by 141 basis points. Total immunizations have increased 45.3% since Q1, the number of shingles vaccines administered has grown 30.2%, and year over year, the number of flu shots has increased 35.8%, hitting 3,295. Schmitz was instrumental in growing an in-store program for HIV patients, and during the pandemic, when many doctors’ offices were closed, she introduced Execution Medication, which provides injectable medications to people with mood disorders and opioid dependency.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Emi Okano

Patient Care Pharmacist, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

Okano manages patient care services for 37 Jewel-Osco pharmacies, including immunizations and medication therapy management; during a 12-month period, clinical activity sales revenue reached $320,535, a 35% annual increase, and immunizations totaled 8,022, a 14% increase. Shingrix vaccines numbered 14,500, putting her stores 26% above the corporate average, while flu shots totaled 54,000, a 42% increase. Okano also organized COVID-19 vaccine clinics, which provided 6,000 immunizations in four weeks. Okano worked with the Blue Door health facility to provide health screenings and immunizations for low-income residents.

Sarah Stolz

Manager of Pharmacy Field Services and Specialty Medications, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

Responsible for expanding pharmacy field services in her district, Stolz partnered with community groups and drug representatives, growing incremental sales of injectable medications for opioid dependence and mood disorders by $2 million and 1,200 scripts. She worked with pharmacy benefit managers to approve overrides so that patients wouldn’t lack medications during the pandemic; efforts yielded an average weekly sales increase of $30,000. Stolz coordinated Phase 1a and 1b COVID-19 clinics, administering 11,670 vaccinations — 30% of the division total — so far.

Jaime Patel

Assistant Sales manager GM/HBC, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

Patel’s 2020 promotional and merchandising strategies boosted sales across nine poorly performing Jewel-Osco categories; three of them — hair care, skin care and cosmetics — were also hurt by more consumers working at home. Nationally and locally, she negotiated with vendors to provide protective products for associates and customers, buying and securing hand sanitizer, hand soaps, disinfecting wipes, baby wipes and masks, and generating more than $15 million in sales. Patel and the procurement team monitored shipments of COVID-19-related products to ensure that locations had sufficient inventory.

Patty Rodriguez Service Deli Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

A 15-year Jewel-Osco veteran, Rodriguez works to build strong relationships with her team and foster their career goals, providing guidance in key areas like product knowledge, sales, marketing techniques, merchandising standards and meeting targets; last year, she trained and promoted six new deli managers. During the first three quarters of 2020, Rodriguez increased deli sales by an average of 11.4%, and shrink declined 1.5%, ranking her departments third in the district. Last year, specialty cheese was a major focus for Rodriguez: She grew sales by $148,664, a 16% increase over the prior year.

Mary Frances Trucco

Amy White

Director of Marketing, Albertsons Cos.Portland

Director, Government Affairs and Public Relations, Albertsons Cos.Jewel-Osco

Trucco spearheaded the Jewel-Osco Diversity & Inclusion Council, educating 705 associates ahead of deadline and leading all of Albertsons Cos.’ banners in training. In media, her efforts helped exceed local story placement by 400% across key news and business publications; topics included Jewel-Osco’s flu and COVID-19 vaccine initiatives and the retailer’s new e-commerce technology.

With the onset of COVID-19, White was first in the Portland division to ensure that customer safety efforts were top of mind and displayed in-store, online and on social media, while also launching 96 new Drive Up & Go stations with outdoor marketing and in-store point of sale. She went above and beyond her usual role to help oversee both vendor partners and the sales team while working to train new team members virtually.

Trucco often assists local food banks, work that has included helping to raise $4 million at the register for the Nourishing Neighbors campaign benefiting five food banks and depositories.

As a strong advocate for the advancement of women and of people of color, White oversees the Diversity & Inclusion Council in her division, leads a monthly call and has developed the division’s plan for celebrating diversity.




2021 Top Women in Grocery Teresa Beck

Meat Assistant Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

Helen Carver

Jessica Chavez

Sharee Cochran

Chavez brought her two districts’ floral operations from fourth place in identical-store sales and second place in sales in 2019 to the top spot for both metrics in 2020.

Cochran’s team of buyers responsible for equipment procurement completed twice as many projects as their original key performance indicator after she developed standard processes and best practices across all of the departments involved.

District Manager, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

Floral Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

Beck hustled to make sure that meat products were in supply during pandemic shortages, bringing in alternative suppliers and implementing an everyday-low-price/value strategy to draw customers to products consistently in stock.

During COVID-19, Carver implemented an innovative “mini distribution path” to keep shelves stocked in the 21 stores she manages; essential items were shipped in bulk to centrally located stores, and orders were separated for each store.

She was instrumental in developing workshops for new meat cutters in 2020, and is currently creating an advanced workshop for experienced cutters and meat managers to improve quality, salesmanship, and profit-andloss accountability.

When some stores were affected by California’s power shutdowns and wildfires, she made sure that associates were evacuated and remained safe; after stores breached during the civil unrest reopened, she ensured that safety measures remained a top priority.

Her creative, organizational and communication skills paid off in the critical holiday periods: For Valentine’s Day, her districts included the No. 1 floral store in the company and five of the top 20 in the division, and for Mother’s Day, the company’s top floral store was in her territory, and six were among the division’s top 20.

Carver kept her stores staffed and developed a talent bench during the pandemic.

Chavez mentored seven new floral department managers within a team of 33.

Beck worked with Providence Health Care to deliver nearly 30,000 certificates for a free Christmas dinner to employees.

TRUSTED TO ALWAYS DELIVER Congratulations to Becky Griffin, Operations Initiative Manager, at our distribution center in Salisbury, N.C., for being recognized as a Top Woman in Grocery. Thank you for all you do every day to lead the Salisbury team of superheroes and live our culture of care!



Senior Buyer and Lead, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

When the rollout of Drive Up & Go ramped up during the pandemic, her order sheet process enabled the team to complete 800 projects. Cochran worked with design and construction teams to create specifications and an ordering process to support installations of 15,000 square feet of automation for micro-fulfillment centers in existing stores.


Rosalina Connolly

Human Resources Manager, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

Connolly pioneered events and actions to strengthen employee engagement at the Southwest distribution centers she managed; many of these programs have been rolled out across the Southwest, and some are being implemented company-wide. Her ideas increased retention; these included banners thanking veterans, World UFO day activities that engaged employees and families in crafting spaceship models to win prizes, and Mardi Gras parades in warehouses — with carts decorated as floats. When COVID-19 necessitated virtual hiring, Connolly created a template for this process.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Angela Fish

Shelley Danner

Bakery Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

Grocery Senior Buyer, Albertsons Cos.-Safeway

Danner often worked seven days a week to resolve supply chain breaks in grocery procurement during COVID-19. She also helped manage and coordinate the depletion of aged and discontinued inventory in the warehouse, reducing inventory levels and lowering working capital expense by more than $1.5 million. Danner took charge of coordinating the Hunger Bag program, in which customers purchase goods for charitable donations; despite supply shortages during the pandemic, she still managed to deliver more than 131,000 cases to 18 food banks.

Fish led her team of 150 as they implemented significant new COVID-19 safety protocols for the production and handling of bakery products, and she also provided personal protective equipment to customers. She served the district beyond her normal duties, acting as a district champion and trainer for the new VisionPRO computer-based production tool, not only for its rollout in bakery, but also in the produce, meat and deli departments. Fish assists in the weekly planning and organizing at her local food pantry, and volunteers at an area church that provides meals for the needy.

Susan Helderman

Deli Assistant Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

Deli sales were declining early in the pandemic because self-service bars were shut down and business lunch traffic fell off, so Helderman initiated strategies that collectively led to a sales increase of 7.2% in her division. She piloted a prepared meal program and launched a pre-sliced meat and cheese program that’s returning $1,000 per week in the locations that have it; she also generated innovative promotional ideas such as a 25%-off Happy Hour and Cheep Chicken Monday. Helderman mentors many deli operations and deli managers in her division.

Congratulations! To Hannaford’s 2021 Top Women in Grocery, Senior-Level Executive Award Recipient

Margo Peffer Hannaford Vice President, Human Resources




Kristina Krieger District Manager, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

CONGRATULATIONS ON THIS OUTSTANDING CAREER ACHIEVEMENT! We are incredibly proud of each of you and appreciate all you do to bring omnichannel, digital and commercial strategies to life for our partners.

Krieger’s district tops the division in sales and profits, and she produced double-digit identical-sales growth and profits above plan despite the pandemic and wildfires. When two wildfires raged in different parts of her district, she worked with her teams to keep stores open until evacuation orders required them to close, and stores were back in business before competitors when the allclear sign was given.

Natalie Dupill VP, Commercial Strategy and Chief of Staff

Krieger volunteered at a church in her community to make the holidays brighter for needy kids.

Jill McGinnis

Pallavi Jain Director, Product Management

Venita James Manager, Sourcing Trends & Insights

Jami Jaworski Manager, Continuous Improvement

Andjela Petrovic Director, Vendor Strategy

Director of Communications & Government Relations, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

Working with local and state government agencies, McGinnis provided guidance to the operations team on COVID-19 requirements, counsel that ensured that the company’s stores were compliant and customers and employees were safe. She played a key role in fire relief efforts during the West Coast forest fires, working with different organizations and fire officials across Oregon to supply gift cards, truckloads of water, food and funding to local communities in need. McGinnis led the coordination of relief efforts for Portland, Ore., team members affected by crisis events that occurred throughout the year.

Danelle Macias District Manager, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

In June 2020, Macias was promoted to district manager, in which role she drove double-digit identical-sales growth, achieved labor and expense goals, and executed on cost controls; as a result, she exceeded bottom-line projections in every quarter. As a district manager, she motivated her team to collect items for three food banks, providing much-needed resources during the pandemic. As an Own Brands sales manager before her promotion, Macias drove units and profits in the division.

Mabel Perez-Haines

Director, Food Safety NorCal, Albertsons Cos.Safeway

Perez-Haines implemented and managed a Level 3 COVID-19 building and department response, coordinated all store-level crisis response cleanings and disinfections, ensured proper supply of cleaning and disinfecting materials in stores, and led efforts to quickly train and mentor employees in COVID-19-related tasks. Working with purchasing, warehousing and store teams, she helped ensure that all stores had the needed supplies to keep customers and associates safe during the pandemic. Perez-Haines successfully implemented sustainable food safety practices in all stores, boosting food safety results.



2021 Top Women in Grocery Rosalind Green

Kimberly Buschenfeldt

Human Resources Manager, Albertsons Cos.Shaw’s/Star Market

Buschenfeldt worked with the HR and operations teams to implement practices and policies to ensure that new safety protocols were being followed, including health screenings at store level and assessments through the company’s third-party vendor. She led communications to stores regarding the company’s sick leave policies as positive COVID-19 cases continued to climb. Through her church, Buschenfeldt worked on a Christmas gift box program for children in need.

Tiffany Henault

Produce Operational Specialist, Albertsons Cos.Shaw’s/Star Market

E-commerce Operations Manager, Albertsons Cos.Shaw’s/Star Market

Elected this year to serve on the Diversity & Inclusion Council for her division, Green mobilized a subgroup of members to celebrate Black History Month activities in stores.

Henault restructured the training manual, condensing more than 200 pages into a user-friendly checklist for trainers to use when working with new shoppers.

When seasonal staffing for Cape Cod, Mass., locations suffered due to a halt in hiring J1 visa associates during the COVID-19 pandemic, she found a way to hire and transfer associates at the last minute, achieving record sales and profit in Cape Cod last summer.

She led the division in fundraising efforts for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Turkey Bucks (a Thanksgiving dinner for families) and Spirit of Giving campaigns, and motivated front end teams to raise more than $1 million for Boston Children’s Hospital.

Green mentors young Black women in her community.

Henault teaches English as a second language to children.

Lisa Letch

Floral Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos.Shaw’s/Star Market

By focusing on innovative training and development programs for the operations and store teams, and implementing strategic initiatives, Letch has raised floral at Shaw’s and Star Market to new levels. She implemented a new set of standards in merchandising throughout the company that exceed budgeted margin and sales forecasts. Letch serves as co-chair of the Donna Garofano Memorial Scholarship Fund and participates in events to support atrisk and underprivileged youth.

Congratulations to our Food Lion Top Women in Grocery Nominees!

Linda Stiller

Kari Wilhelm

Director, Associate Relations

Director of Merchandising Southern Division

Thank you for bringing our brand, strategy and culture to life every day for our neighbors in the towns and cities we serve.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Kimberly Parta

Division Pharmacy Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos.Southern

Parta helped implement many new strategies to ensure that patients continued to receive quality care during the COVID-19 pandemic. She provided solutions for cost savings, promoted deliveries and conducted many off-site or driveup flu clinics. To benefit the community, she focused on ensuring that a diverse group of patients were served by immunization and clinics at the store; her district led the region in average flu shots per store. Parta serves on the board of the National Charity League, an organization that encourages community service and volunteering opportunities for mothers and daughters.

Robin Cash

Manager of Loyalty and Personalization, Albertsons Cos.United

After identifying gaps in the navigation of the previous website and mobile app that negatively affected sales, Cash led the development of a new website and mobile app for in-store planning and online purchases. She developed solutions for the electronic enrollment of new rewards members, eliminating the need for paper enrollment forms and allowing shoppers to have instant access to their rewards accounts. During a time that guests sought to minimize in-store interactions, Cash led the development of the company’s first platform for ordering party trays and custom bakery cakes on the website and mobile app.


Jennifer Holmes Finance Director, Albertsons Cos.Southwest

Holmes provided outcomes and immunization automator tools enabling the pharmacy team to automatically filter, format and send emails with required information, saving the pharmacy team multiple hours weekly.

Jamie Sturrett

Human Resources Manager, Albertsons Cos.Southwest


Carrie Wright

Human Resources Generalist, Albertsons Cos.Southwest

Sturrett worked with stores to interpret their Associate Experience Survey initiative scores, helping them develop specific plans to improve scores for the following year and identifying strategies for mentoring store associates in the goal-setting process.

Wright drove concerted COVID-19 efforts in regard to tracking, relaying timely communications, and keeping stakeholders updated on changes and strategies, while performing the ongoing day-today duties of her office.

She created pharmacy inventory impact reminders for 340 accounting adjustment entries to give teams forward-looking information on the net impact of write-on/write-off adjustments by store.

Blessed with a positive attitude that inspires and energizes team members in their roles, she put employees first while maintaining a fair and balanced approach to every situation.

She maintained open lines of communication with internal and external connections, and shared and trained associates, ensuring that they understood evolving policies and procedures.

Holmes sits on the BASIS Goodyear Booster board, fundraising and contributing to events for a charter school, and is a Change Champion for the Project OrCA Transformation regarding a new finance system.

A member of the Albertsons Phoenix Diversity Council and a supporting consultant for the Southwest Division Diversity Council, Sturrett was instrumental in helping to organize and launch the organizations.

Tasked to fulfill the multiple HR management responsibilities of a vacant position, Wright stepped in, partnering with various leaders from several offices and covering meetings related to the position.

Kami Golightly HR Business Partner, Albertsons Cos.United

To foster a culture of engagement and recognition, Golightly strengthened the human resources department and leadership team at each branch of United that she serves; her work helped boost retention rates, decrease total warehouse turnover by 13.2% and save the company $363,000. She was the catalyst for partnering with Texas Tech University on an internship program to provide students with firsthand experience of supply chain management. Golightly has reinforced United’s culture of giving back to the community with the creation of a meals-on-wheels route serviced by the leadership teams she works with.

Ashley Gaffey Senior Director, Sales, American Greetings

Gaffey’s influence and results-oriented track record led to American Greetings being awarded full and exclusive distribution of the greeting card business within all 2,700 Kroger stores, one of the largest competitive takeovers in the industry. She and her team built cutting-edge, gold-standard partnership programs with affinity categories such as floral, candy, bakery and gift cards within the Kroger vendor community for cross-merchandising and cross-promotional solutions that enable one-stop-shop solutions placed in strategic locations throughout stores. As an FMI committee member, Gaffey helped shape priorities for the trade show.

Kelsey Haig

Account Executive, American Greetings

Despite a challenging year, Haig surpassed her sales goal, at 102.3%; she delivered positive sales comps for all of her customers, including the company’s highest year-overyear point-of-sale increase for the Christmas 2020 program. She proposed an idea for the first-ever Valentine’s Day coupon campaign as a test at Whole Foods Market, which was extremely successful, delivering nearly 5% growth for the holiday. The initiative also resulted in a new marketing budget with Whole Foods. During the pandemic, Haig took on a wide range of new responsibilities, including a broader customer base and added functionalities such as marketing and UPC communication.


Julie Herceg

Senior Manager, Shopper Marketing, American Greetings

Herceg had a pivotal role in pitching and acquiring full distribution for American Greetings at Kroger; after COVID-19 hit, she helped rework the second half of the 2020 plan for the retailer, and her efforts helped increase holiday sales by 6%. Her 2021 plan for Kroger included partnerships with key affinity categories, such as floral and gift cards; she leveraged the Stratum Kroger shopper data to build proposals for cross-promotions and pitched her ideas to category managers. Herceg leads the test-and-learn agenda for driving greeting card conversion through the clickand-collect and e-commerce channels at Kroger.

Holly Stauder

Sales Director, Anheuser-Busch

In the past year, Stauder, who leads a team of 20 national and regional key account managers, re-established and developed a positive relationship with a major retail chain following a dormant period that lasted for several years. She created and implemented a custom 60-day chain-wide Beyond Beer program that drove more than $1.7 million in incremental sales for a key retailer; overall, she helped bring in more than $1 million in incremental case sales for eight emerging retail chains. Stauder has been a mentor for the new sales employee program at Anheuser-Busch for the past three years, and is a member of the Network of Executive Women.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Sara Sadaghiani Senior Director, Sales, American Greetings

In a challenging year, Sadaghiani was able to secure three contract renewals, yielding $8 million in sales, with no changes to terms. One way that her team grew sales was to add various incremental programs, such as selling Papyrus candle clip strips in the bakery and incorporating Papyrus candles in the baking/cake mix aisle; this strategy surpassed the year’s sales goals by roughly $4 million. Sadaghiani helped develop the concept idea for a new Papyrus selling initiative to help support retailers for Thinking of You Week, as well as Breast Cancer Awareness; the initiative resonated well with retailers and sold above $2.3 million.

Yami Madho

Manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Big Y Foods Inc.

As systemic racism received more attention in 2020, Madho coordinated a Healing Racism seminar for Big Y’s executive team, with the next session scheduled for this month. She worked to reach all of Big Y’s 11,500 employees to give them the opportunity to participate in virtual roundtables, aiming to ensure a sense of belonging at Big Y; through these forums, employees will be able to share their opinions, while leadership teams will learn more about their workers’ needs. Madho’s dedication to her job led to her recognition in 2020 as Big Y’s Employee Services (human resources) Department Employee of the Year.

Rachel Swellie

Account Executive, American Greetings

Swellie spent three years building relationships within Kroger to help American Greetings gain full and exclusive distribution of the retailer’s greeting card business; she and her team oversaw the conversion in six months during a pandemic. She’s also a key sales lead to Kroger’s category management team in Cincinnati, where she has engaged with leadership to explore partnership opportunities. In her work with the CPG community, she’s built a successful relationship with Hershey, partnering with the company to create a shared display for Easter and Halloween in 2021. Swellie is a member of American Greetings’ diversity and inclusion committee.

Morgan Spencer

Manager of Marketing Services, Big Y Foods Inc.

A former category sales manager, Spencer brings a holistic view of the brand to her role; in the past year, she helped further develop the myBigY account membership, achieving 32% growth in the member shopper base and an increase of 43% in app downloads. She worked with Big Y’s business partner agency to execute shopper marketing programs for CPGs and smaller vendors; these programs have brought in close to $500,000 in revenue. Spencer also onboarded a new digital partner agency that supports Big Y in strategy development for search engine marketing, search engine optimization, and both organic and paid social media campaigns.

Jessica Weese

Regional VP, American Greetings

Weese and her team exceeded their annual sales plan by 9.8% and made significant contributions to American Greetings’ EBITDA goals during a challenging period. She pioneered value strategies designed to increase conversion and steal share from the dollar channel; one solution that she implemented was a cross-category multivendor destination that increased conversion by 8% and grew unit sales by 13%. A dedicated trainer in the company, Weese created a “Selling with Data and Insights” training module that will help develop future leaders; she also devised best-in-class training material to help American Greetings better serve retailers.

Courtney Kwartler

Category Merchant, BJ’s Wholesale Club

Kwartler’s ability to react quickly to a dynamic supply chain made an incredible impact on BJ’s growth in 2020; when she sensed that there would be a disruption in paper supply, she reached out to new vendors and forged partnerships, while also negotiating with existing paper goods suppliers. Her strong collaboration with cross-functional teams helped ensure that these essential products made it to clubs and were merchandised correctly. She drove record sales in her categories and achieved double-digit percentage growth. Kwartler has an outstanding track record of training new high-potential associate merchants.




2021 Top Women in Grocery Jennifer Marrazzo

Director, Member Loyalty, BJ’s Wholesale Club

In 2020, Marrazzo exceeded every key performance indicator goal in her areas of responsibility; she also stewarded BJ’s credit card program to the highest net promoter score among retailer-issued credit cards.

Director, Digital Programs, BJ’s Wholesale Club

Ramamurthy was a key leader in growing BJ’s digital business to provide members with more convenient ways to shop during the pandemic; she worked with multiple teams to expand BJ’s digital fulfillment options and scale them chainwide quickly.

She worked collaboratively to deliver the retailer’s first-ever incentive to increase first-year credit card applications by 60%, with a net 50% increase in first-year co-brand membership cards; meanwhile, she also drove robust credit card prescreen campaigns and contests.

In addition to helping create the omnichannel and web member interface to support curbside pickup, she led the team that developed a technical solution that enabled BJ’s buy-online/ pick-up-in-club service to include fresh and frozen items.

Marrazzo developed a unique program that allowed BJ’s to market co-brand memberships to each member of a household individually.

Ramamurthy managed a cross-functional effort to integrate BJ’s Awards and exclusive coupons with same-day delivery managed by Instacart.

Sheri Rains

Director-Benefits and Compensation, Brookshire Grocery Co.

In addition to her regular responsibilities at Brookshire Grocery Co., in 2020 Rains worked extended hours with executive leaders to oversee the company’s COVID-19 pandemic response; this has included everything from monitoring governmental requirements to developing policies and practices to keep associates and customers safe. She even developed tracking systems for employee quarantines and vaccinations. Rains received two of the company’s most prestigious awards in 2020: the W.T. Excellence Award and the Louise Brookshire Spirit Award.


Arthi Ramamurthy

Carmela Hinderaker

Senior Director, Business Continuity and Customer Support, C&S Wholesale Grocers

In the past year, Hinderaker has guided company response to 35 business disruptions, including COVID-19, civil protests, and record-breaking hurricane and fire seasons; these events resulted in new solutions for future events. She enabled a robocall customer service tool that saves 6,000 live calls per month; during COVID-19 peak months, human resources used it to deliver health information to front-line workers. Hinderaker is co-chair of a community-led nonprofit dedicated to early-childhood development and co-chair of Endeavor, a private-/public-sector working group.

Patience Bowie-Edwards

Logistics Operations Supervisor, Brookshire Grocery Co.

An integral part of Brookshire Grocery Co.’s logistics team since joining the company in 1989, Bowie-Edwards is not only an outstanding supervisor, but also a mentor to the growing ranks of women who seek and fill warehouse roles.


Jennifer Dugie Director of Brand and Advertising, Brookshire Grocery Co.

When the pandemic hit, Dugie took on a leadership role as part of Brookshire Grocery Co.’s “war room environment” to ensure that the company successfully navigated massive customer behavioral changes.

Under her guidance, the perishable warehouse experienced a 10% increase in case per man-hour and a 3% decrease in cost per case; she played a critical role in training, goal-setting and maintaining a more effective warehouse to boost performance, all while raising employee morale.

Soon after she was promoted to her current role in January 2021, she spearheaded a process to create closer collaboration between the marketing and category management/merchandising areas, leading to a much smoother communication process and a more systemic approach to planning for holidays and events.

Bowie-Edwards was one of the 2020 recipients of Brookshire Grocery Co.’s Logistics Manager of the Year award.

In addition to her responsibilities as a key strategist for BGC Racing, Dugie volunteers with Christian Women’s Job Corps.

Betsie Zeedyk Director Sales, Southeast, Califia Farms

Responsible for managing Califia Farms’ grocery business in the southeastern United States, Zeedyk decided to capitalize on the tremendous growth of oat products and increased this segment of company growth in the region by more than 250% between August 2020 and January 2021. Already a home-based remote employee before the pandemic, she participates in the new Parents with Califia Kids employee resource group, sharing work-from-home strategies; the group now also supports parents outside the company. Active in her local PTA, Zeedyk participates in The Great American Teach-In.

Lisa Gaylord

Senior National Account Executive-Publix Customer Team, The Coca-Cola Co.

With responsibility for Coca-Cola’s sparkling portfolio for Publix supermarkets in seven southeastern states and at eight bottlers, Gaylord developed a COVID-19 response plan for the retailer that mitigated aluminum can shortages and generated more revenue than the previous year. Her key changes to operations included temporary shelf and planogram changes, increasing flavor availability and offsetting flavors in 12-pack cans that were then in short supply; these improvements resulted in a 32% increase in sales at Publix. Gaylord is a member of the Network of Executive Women.





choose the passion for quality and uncompromising standards. choose increased sales with unequalled support.

choose C a ma ’ R




Chairmans. ®

/™/© 2021 Tyson Foods, Inc.




2021 Top Women in Grocery Lynleigh Kersting

Senior Manager, Category LeadershipKroger Team, The Coca-Cola Co.

When COVID-19 brought a surge in sales along with an aluminum can shortage and softdrink supply constraints, Kersting was still able to sell in 47 new items for Kroger and increase Coke’s space-to-sales index. She saw the need for more space for plastic bottle multipacks, and created a shelf strategy to handle the situation. Kersting is a member of the Network of Executive Women and the Covington, Ky., Firefighters Auxiliary, as well as taking part in a parent-teacher organization.

Dominique Paolini

Business Account Manager, Crossmark

Paolini worked on a project team to vet and build out a new customer relationship management reporting system that will be implemented across the enterprise. She received her category management certification in 2020, a course typically reserved for the analytics team. Paolini completed the 2020 Network of Executive Women Leadership Academy, sponsored by Crossmark’s Network of Women, and she’s a 2021 steering committee member for Crossmark’s Network of Women.


Roni Jansen

Senior Director, Walmart and E-Commerce, Coca-Cola Consolidated Inc.

Responsible for all Coca-Cola Consolidated Walmart and e-commerce business in 14 states and 965 outlets, Jansen started a process of modular void preloads to ensure that every closable space was found and fed into ordering at store level. She helped launch one of the first vendor-managed inventory sites in the Coke system, Amazon PrimeNow. Jansen sits on the academic advisory board at the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business Center of Sales & Marketing Excellence.

Natalie Runyan Director, HQ Sales and Marketing, Crossmark

Kelly Weaver

Customer Development Manager, Coca-Cola Consolidated Inc.

During COVID-19, Weaver grew the enhanced water category by 525% and the juice/nectars category by 107%, and the category mix in her grocery chains grew still beverages by 29.31% over the prior year. She attracted customers through marketing to purchase sparkling beverages in non-aluminum packaging; this caused multipack PET sales to grow 34.47%, while the sparkling softdrink category grew 11.29%. Weaver helped establish a charitable giving campaign at one Piggly Wiggly chain.

Sandi Santa Ana Director, Category Management, Ferrara

As a team leader managing clients inside the convenience channel, Runyan worked with the largest Crossmark convenience client, helping it build strategic growth inside its stores.

Santa Ana spearheaded the first grocery test using Ferrara’s non-chocolate shelving flow; this drove a 2.4-point increase in dollar sales in the category and a 2.9-point increase in trips.

She created a new process for her national team to use when requesting samples, combining more than 70 unique forms into one — a significant time saver — and also worked to streamline the c-store team’s call tracker.

She teamed with the learning and development team on a training module, “How to Ace Virtual Presentations,” during the pandemic.

Runyan is president of Network of Women at Crossmark, and received her Leadership Development Certificate in 2020.

Santa Ana’s philanthropic efforts helped Ferrara support pandemic-affected communities, and she’s also a co-founder of the company’s Hispanic employee resource group.


Beth Faught

Dedicated Retail Team Lead, Crossmark

Faught led an initiative to host a whiteboard session with key leaders from Crossmark and Kimberly-Clark on the future of retail; with changes in data and technology, she felt this would have an impact on the future of retail execution, and sessions will continue in the future. She employed a “Shark Tank” idea with task force teams focused on improving business performance for all management. A Network of Executive Women member, Faught also coordinated an event with the American Heart Association as well as other health events.

Elizabeth Tansing

Senior Director, State Government Relations, FMIThe Food Industry Association

Tansing organized the FMI government relations call, giving retailers a forum to share what was happening in their states; the call currently has upwards of 300 participants. She and her team created the State Issues Crisis Tracker, combining state waivers and local policies to help state association executives manage state and local regulations brought on by the pandemic. Tansing serves as an industry representative on the We Card board, with 25 years of service.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Revae Embs

Shay Dalton

Director of Corporate HR and Team Member Relations, The Fresh Market

Director of Learning and Leadership, The Fresh Market

Dalton selected and launched a new learning management platform that provides foundational training programs and management development programs to all team members and managers; she and her team have developed 140-plus new courses that provide video and in-person learning modules. She created three new Learning Academies to increase team member knowledge of products merchandising standards and procedures, and food safety and sanitation. Dalton built coaching plans for all store managers, regional managers, directors and VPs in which they receive assessments with personalized one-to-one coaching and individual development plans.

Embs led the HR efforts as part of The Fresh Market’s COVID-19 management and response, setting up a call center to address team member questions on safety procedures, leaves of absence, and other issues; to date, the call center has fielded more than 15,500 calls and managed 2,100 leaves of absence.

Lewis-Davis helped create centralized portals by category to organize information and communications for store teams; she also developed the Store Leader Digest, which contains key information that store leaders need to run their businesses.


As the lead merchandiser for the bulk, candy and coffee department at The Fresh Market, Stringer is responsible for budget oversight for more than 7% of company sales.

She created multiple procedures, policy changes and programs to maintain and support all store team members and the work-from-home environment of the support team. Embs’ efforts resulted in a 42% increase in team member experience scores on Glassdoor, and reduced turnover at the corporate office by 67%.

Stringer partnered with The Fresh Market’s local team to add outstanding local coffee suppliers and products to most of the grocer’s stores.

Renee Richardson

Learning Director, Giant Eagle

She took the lead on many of the company’s Standing Up Against Racism communications, and was a key player in developing and rolling out the company’s culture and service training for the supermarket division.

Category Manager, Bulk/Candy/Coffee, The Fresh Market

When the pandemic closed down bulk sections in The Fresh Market stores, she and her team joined forces with store operations to convert bulk product to packaged random-weight items, and updated all display guides for stores; her work enabled the grocer to drive positive comps in all departments.

Jameeta Lewis-Davis

Lewis-Davis helped create a team member portal that served as a centralized hub for critical COVID-19 information as well as general team member communications.

Meredith Stringer

Giant Eagle

Pharmacy Training, Education and Community Relations Senior Manager,

As leader of the BLACC business resource group, Richardson took center stage in the company’s stance against racism, increasing member engagement through community involvement and regular programming. She developed a training strategy across the pharmacy organization to allow for better efficiencies in training completion, reporting and monitoring, and collaborated on a training strategy for COVID-19 testing and immunization efforts. Richardson is an active member of the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association, having created its diversity council.

Stephanie Rovnak

Senior Category Manager, Bakery, Giant Eagle

Rovnak recently led the strategic project of implementing a new online cake-ordering platform across all stores, coordinating and conducting the training sessions and working with business partners on a number of application updates. Both in person and virtually during the pandemic, Rovnak united people by planning volunteer activities with the Pittsburgh Food Bank and creating other team-building events. Rovnak’s focus on continuous improvement, is demonstrated through her commitment to personal education: She is currently in her third year of taking college evening classes while working full-time and raising a family.


Heather Feather Director, Technology Systems, Giant Eagle

Feather set up a Curbside call center to relieve stores from extremely high call volume while customers received help navigating the online shopping experience; it made a huge difference for customers in getting their questions answered. She led the effort to offer exclusive access to Curbside pickup slots for health care workers at local hospitals; at the height of the pandemic demand, she headed the technology teams that enabled a completely new Curbside ordering platform, followed by a change in fulfillment software. Feather recently spoke at a Pittsburgh Technology Council event to discuss STEM careers with local students.

Nicole Case

Communications Specialist, Harris Teeter LLC

Case transitioned the company’s point-of-sale charitable program from a handful of short-term campaigns each year to a 365-day-a-year Round Up Brand, increasing donations by 43%. Each year, she brings vendor partners together to fund Harris Teeter’s presenting sponsorship of the Cooper River Bridge Run; despite the event’s postponement last year, her program enticed vendors to donate without events, exceeding the company’s previous level of giving. Case is the only Harris Teeter corporate office associate to be recognized twice as the monthly Service Excellence Hero in the same year.

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2021 Top Women in Grocery Jill Fenton

Customer Sales Executive, SeasonsWalmart Team, The Hershey Co.

Fenton showcased her agility and leadership by remixing the Halloween strategy during an uncertain time, engaging in multiple checkpoints with the customer, building a trusted partnership and leading the first-ever omnichannel meeting for the season. Valentine’s Day 2020 had the largest share win since 2015, Valentine’s Day 2021 saw gross sales buy increase more than 9%, and Halloween 2020 enabled the largest share gain since 2013, thanks to her work. Outside the office, Fenton is an active member of the Boys and Girls Club, helping plan its Youth of the Year Event, and is a member of Girls on the Run.

Daira Driftmier

Director, Hy-Vee KidsFit, Hy-Vee Inc.

Hy-Vee’s KidsFit program promotes physical activity and healthy eating for kids via online videos, so, building on that concept, Driftmier launched KidsFit at Home, allowing children to stay active and safe during the pandemic; videos have received more than 5 million views. The KidsFit team also worked with Hy-Vee’s dietitians to provide fun activities and healthy meal options for families at home; this series has received more than 9 million views. Starring in many videos with her own children, Driftmier increased membership in the KidsFit Club, a free membership program that encourages healthy choices, by 271%.


Adrienne Karim

Senior Associate Marketing Manager, Amazon, The Hershey Co.

In 2020, Karim launched more than 160 Amazon media campaigns, driving more than $12.8 million in ad-attributed sales; impressions and clicks grew 50%, while cost per click declined 20%. By working with Amazon Marketing and Hershey’s creative teams, she developed stock-up campaigns, closely aligning the strategy back through Hershey’s sales teams; this ensured that products were available and supportable during the pandemic. When Amazon ceased shipping Hershey’s chocolate, Karim ramped up an Ice Breakers initiative that enabled the brand to finish 2020 as the leading candy/ mint/gum on Amazon.

Christina Gayman

Director, Public Relations, Hy-Vee Inc.

Since March 2020, Gayman has led Hy-Vee’s COVID-19 media response, which has appeared in more than 32,000 news stories reaching more than 15 billion people. She leads communications efforts regarding mass community and in-store pharmacy vaccine programs, handling daily interviews and providing talking points for Hy-Vee pharmacy leaders to use in public presentations; she also oversees the grocer’s COVID-19 website and other written vehicles. The recipient of the chairman’s Above and Beyond Award, Gayman meets weekly with the CDC and other agencies for vaccine information updates.

Jackie Schultz

Manager, Category Management, SeasonsKroger Team, The Hershey Co.

Shultz’s strategies and programming drove incremental growth across two mature categories: Hershey’s Syrup, up 26% in dollar sales and 15% in units, and Hershey’s Cocoa, which saw 41% growth in dollar sales and 15% in units. Cocoa also achieved household growth of 45.5%. In stores, she spearheaded a customized, cross-category initiative merchandising baking chips with categories like confections and cookie mixes to reinforce usage occasions. Schultz received the Reggie and Effie Awards’ Best in Class Brand Activation Marketing Campaign honor in 2020 for her work with H-E-B.

Kasey Jamison Advertising Sales Director, CPG Large Customers, Instacart

Jamison’s efforts have helped Instacart offer self-serve and managed ad services for more than 1,000 North American brands, including the top 25 CPG companies and nearly 100% of the top 50 CPG players. In 2020, the number of advertisers on the Instacart Ads platform grew five-fold, and she increased active advertising partners on her team by more than 65%. During the pandemic, Jamison helped educate brands on how to win digital shelf space amid monumental growth in online grocery shopping; this included providing data to help brands understand and measurably improve business.


Katelyn Ishee

Manager, Amazon, The Hershey Co.

In 2020, Ishee helped Hershey overdeliver on its top- and bottom-line Amazon targets, despite 70% of its portfolio being held back for five months as Amazon suspended cold-ship capabilities; she emphasized “non-melt’ products, repositioned Hershey’s media investment and worked back through the supply chain to ensure in-stock positioning. Her knowledge of Amazon’s supply chain helped Hershey prepare for October Prime Day and Halloween, its busiest occasions; year-over-year October sales grew 59%. Ishee belongs to the Network of Executive Women and is studying for her MBA at Villanova University.

Melissa McCall

Pharmacy Special Services Manager, K-VA-T Food Stores/Food City

Having joined the company in 2009, McCall worked full-time while earning her MBA and now oversees 40 pharmacies in Southeastern stores; last year, their overall sales increased 13.44%. She opened one new pharmacy location and made a pharmacy file acquisition, worked with local health districts to bring COVID-19 testing to rural stores, and was instrumental in obtaining approval for all Food City pharmacies to participate in the federal COVID-19 vaccine initiative. McCall is active in her community: She teaches Sunday school, is a basketball coach, and has volunteered with Leadership Kingsport, in Tennessee.


Meera Patel Director of Omnichannel Strategy, Kellogg Co.

One of Patel’s key achievements during 2020 was the implementation of search optimization for Kellogg’s cereal and cracker categories based on new taxonomies, i.e., the classification systems used to organize information so that it aligns with what users expect. She developed a content strategy that focused on health-andwellness snacking as customers leaned into health; one customer following this strategy saw its traffic improve by 18%, clicks and orders by 30%, and revenue by 14%. Patel has been recognized by her colleagues 47 times in the past year through the Kellogg Achiever Program.

Portia Frost

District Manager, The Kroger Co.Delta Division


2021 Top Women in Grocery Pooja Singh

Director of Data Science, The Kroger Co.-84.51° Division

Due to an organizational restructuring during 2020, Singh moved from her position as data science leader on the operations research team to managing data scientists aligned to the data and DNA team. She led the development and release of two new software solutions for data scientists, and guided the successful migration of data science solutions from legacy systems to a cloud-based platform. Singh is a mentor in the TechOlympics, which helps develop a pipeline of high school students for local IT jobs, and is a mentor for WIITCincy, which helps female high school students pursue technology careers.

Andrea Wilson District Manager, The Kroger Co.Delta Division

Under Frost’s leadership, her district outpaced the division’s average on many metrics, including a 16% identical-store sales increase that was 2.4% above the division; her team earned an average sanitation score of 96.6% and a food safety score of 96.5%, the latter one of the highest in the division.

Wilson volunteered to help onboard and train 28 additional supervisors due to an increase in daily order volumes; her assistance helped these associates quickly learn their new roles. She also worked with bottom-performing stores to address issues via regular calls and visits.

She competed as a member of the team that won the Kroger Shark Tank Challenge for best friendly in-store business strategy.

She was a key driver in expanding grocery pickup from 82 to 87 locations, including three of the division’s first smaller-footprint community Pop-up Pickup stores.

Frost was named the Delta division’s 2020 District Manager of the Year in recognition of her business results and her drive and consistency in representing company values.

An active member of the Women’s EDGE and African American associate resource groups, Wilson is also an avid supporter of United Way.

Kris Floyd

Heather Gray

Division Deli Merchandiser, The Kroger Co.Cincinnati/Dayton Division

Human Resources Leader, The Kroger Co.Columbus Division

After leading human resources for the Dillons division, with more than 12,000 associates, Gray was assigned in June 2020 to Kroger’s Columbus division, consisting of 21,000-plus associates; in both positions, she oversaw a rapid hiring strategy to staff stores as their personnel needs escalated.

Floyd and her team found innovative ways to help local businesses that were closed or struggling during the pandemic; these included creating opportunities for them to operate food trucks in store parking lots and pop-up shops inside stores. She collaborated with her deli/bakery team to expand product selection from local vendors — including a bakery, an artisan bread baker and the Killer Brownie Co. — which was rolled out to 70 stores.

She formed a human resources task force to hire, onboard and train new associates, and also led a team to build a centralized process for training associates on the curbside pickup service.

These initiatives and others boosted deli/bakery sales by 33 points as compared with budget; Floyd and her team also drove down shrink by $2.3 million.

Gray promotes diversity, equity and inclusion as the executive sponsor for the Columbus division’s African American associate resource group.

Tami Blatny

Special Assignment for Elevate Rollout and Assistant Store Leader, The Kroger Co.-Dillons Division

Over the past year, Blatny was a center store coordinator, overseeing grocery and general merchandising standards in 11 stores; she then transitioned to assistant store leader and was selected to be an interim store leader, where she led her team to positive sales increases weekly, nine of the weeks by double digits. She was then chosen to serve on special assignment to lead the rollout of retail operations projects in the division. Blatny works with Food Bank for the Heartland, a Feeding America food bank, and is cochair for her neighborhood watch program to advocate for safety and unity.

Kimberly Johnson

Division Talent and Development Manager, The Kroger Co.Food 4 Less

Johnson spearheaded the division’s diversity, equity and unconscious-bias training sessions, leading more than 40 such sessions in 2020 and training 300-plus associates. She was responsible for maintaining a 39% retention rate during the pandemic, an achievement that gained Food 4 Less the No. 1 retention rate spot throughout the Kroger enterprise. Johnson teamed with local law enforcement and city officials to promote safety and job opportunities for residents of the community, and was district coordinator for various fundraising opportunities, including the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.




2021 Top Women in Grocery Sharon Carroll

Senior Labor and Associate Relations Manager, The Kroger Co.Fred Meyer Division

Carroll led the training effort to educate 130 store leaders and division office leaders on unconsciousbias awareness, de-escalation and creating an inclusive environment. She managed the successful mitigation of dysfunction in the workplace, resulting in a 53% reduction in employee complaints and reduced third-party complaints by 42% in support of more productive and engaged work environments. Carroll led the coordinated rollout of a new scheduling process in a key market, which resulted in the elimination of increased payroll costs.

Teresa Dickerson

Corporate Affairs Manager-Delta Division, The Kroger Co.General Office

Dickerson’s efforts last year included donating more than $30,000 for HBCUs Tougaloo College and Jackson State University’s food pantries, numerous Zero Hunger | Zero Waste food drives for Kroger food bank partners across three states, organizing and promoting free COVID-19 testing sites, and helping develop the Race Relations Strategic Plan for Kroger’s South region. During the pandemic, she worked with Lee Harris, mayor of Shelby County, Tenn., to provide food for nearly 600 families affected by the virus. Every November since 2016, Dickerson has helped to provide Thanksgiving dinners for 1,000 military veterans.


Tricia Halpin

Administration/Total Rewards Manager, The Kroger. Co.Fred Meyer Division

Halpin led annual incentive (bonus) processing for 2,900 associates, with an accuracy rate of 98.9%, and launched a wage experience credit program for 132 stores that affected more than 32,000 associates. She created wage progressions for 11 Idaho stores, which affected more than 2,500 associates, created a key control corporate policy for 300 asset protection associates, and developed the first-ever Fred Meyer fuel department leader pay range for 42 stores. At David Douglas High School, Halpin helps prepare high school students for the workforce by conducting mock job interviews.

Gina Johnson

Category Manager, Deli Merchandising, The Kroger Co.General Office

Johnson led the development and launch of a new green salad and sandwich program that completely turned around category performance in both sales and market share. She created a business case to eliminate underperforming salad bars, replacing them with mobile cases for pre-packaged salads and sandwiches that have significantly grown sales, and also launched a new chicken salad program featuring recipes formulated to reflect locally inspired flavors. A member of the Women’s EDGE associate resource group at Kroger, Johnson also serves as an expert panelist for IDDBA’s Future of Salad Bars at Retail industry initiative.

Stephanie Spark Health and Wellness Division Leader, The Kroger Co.-Fry’s Division

Spark managed the rollout of COVID-19 antibody kits in all 123 Fry’s Pharmacy locations, and launched COVID-19 vaccination services at the end of January 2021; by mid-February, Fry’s Food Stores had administered more than 16,000 vaccines through in-store vaccination services and large-scale clinics. Working in partnership with the state and the Maricopa County Health Department, she developed a plan to vaccinate teachers at drive-thru vaccination clinic events where more than 10,000 vaccines were administered. Spark is the current treasurer of the Arizona Pharmacy Association board of directors.

Erin Lickliter

Director of Associate Communications and Engagement, The Kroger Co.General Office

Lickliter developed an employer brand to help differentiate Kroger in the labor market, attract and retain top talent, and serve as an umbrella for the full associate journey; development included the immersion of 400-plus associates across functions and focused on recruitment and the use of pre-boarding and training sites. Her team hosted listening sessions with Black associates to identify ways to make meaningful change, and then devised a Framework for Action for a more inclusive and equitable company. Lickliter participates in various mentorship opportunities and programs supporting associate growth and development.


Pat Achoe

Manager, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Kroger Co.General Office

Achoe worked with the Kroger Technology department to develop a process for hiring college interns with autism and developed intern training to align with leading organizations in autism training. Her team worked with the associate resource groups, Kroger Television, the associate communications team and leaders from across the enterprise to create the Fresh Pitch event, a platform that gives associate resource groups an opportunity to pitch their business ideas. Achoe was invited into the Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society for starting a new career in diversity and inclusion.

Chelsea Roberts

Category ManagerGrocery Center Store Edibles, The Kroger Co.General Office

Roberts has assisted the entire grocery department on how to approach category management; she also stepped up to be a department liaison on the future work of online sales and future revenue streams in regard to Kroger’s digital platforms. She took leadership of a new quarterly shipper program that helped Kroger drive more than 60,000 incremental displays to divisions during Q4. Roberts leads the associate committee for the grocery department, creating inclusion and a healthy work environment, and also leads the department’s associate First Promise committee, which has organized a cannedfood drive, among other events.

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2021 Top Women in Grocery Victoria Uti

Director, Principal Research Engineer, The Kroger Co.General Office

In 2020, after Uti was promoted to her current position, she looked at how artificial intelligence could apply to call center technology, identifying a solution that removed friction from the existing cloud used for the call center, reduced the cost to serve, and ultimately provided a positive customer experience. She worked with Kroger’s associate technology team to optimize pickup fulfillment. Uti takes the time to meet with and mentor all interns who are part of the Kroger Technology & digital R&D team; in early 2021, she was selected to be a founding member of Kroger’s first-ever Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council.

Michelle Izor

Health and Wellness Division Leader, The Kroger Co.King Soopers Division

As the pandemic hit, Izor worked around the clock to ensure that pharmacy patients were served with fully stocked and staffed pharmacies, while maintaining a healthy and safe workplace for her team. She led King Soopers’ COVID-19 diagnostic testing, antibody kit rollout and vaccination efforts throughout Colorado; to ensure that all 147 Colorado pharmacies were enrolled as Phase 1 providers to administer the vaccine, she worked tirelessly with state and county partners. Izor recently completed the Executive Presence Certificate Program through Cornell University.


Olivia Kinney

Manager, Clinical Program Development, The Kroger Co.General Office/ Kroger Health and Wellness

As part of a thesis project to obtain her master’s degree, Kinney designed and implemented a prescription-dispensing tool to identify inappropriately prescribed pain medications. Since the pandemic began, she has designed the best practices, processes and training to support the delivery of more than 100,000 drive-thru COVID-19 tests provided by Kroger’s pharmacy locations; recently, she’s been leading clinical program development of COVID-19 vaccine initiatives. In 2020, Kinney was recognized with two awards for her work in pharmacy.

Amanda Puck

Director of Strategic Brand Development, The Kroger Co.Mariano’s Division

As COVID-19 intensified, Puck transitioned several in-store customer experience events to a virtual platform, spending countless hours arranging more than 100 virtual events. She led Mariano’s community efforts to help fight food insecurity during the pandemic, which included coordinating grants totaling more than $200,000 to hunger relief organizations. To assist restaurants during the pandemic, Puck and her team developed the first-ever Mariano’s cookbook and donated $20,000 of the proceeds to the Illinois Restaurant Association Education Foundation Employee Relief Fund.

Martha Taylor

District Manager, The Kroger Co.Houston Division

Under Taylor’s leadership, Kroger’s Houston division increased grocery pickup sales and maintained best-inclass operational metrics for the company, and she launched new technology solutions designed to reduce out-of-stocks. She showed exemplary leadership through the pandemic, two devastating hurricanes and complex contract negotiations, and also guided her department through a restructure. Taylor received the Houston division’s Blue Heart award, its highest recognition for individual leadership, and she’s a mentor for the division’s Young Professional associate resource group and an advisor for the Women’s EDGE associate resource group.

Alex Spurlock

Produce/Floral Field Specialist, The Kroger Co.-QFC Division

Overseeing and supporting the produce and floral departments in the QFC division’s Districts 1 and 4, Spurlock helped roll out Produce Suggested Ordering in February 2020, which helped to improve department profitability and accuracy. Her efforts have helped Kroger achieve great results in produce, including sales that are 4.49% favorable to budget, and an increase of 7.74% versus last year; QFC produce also achieved its selling gross-margin goals and targeted shrink rates. Before the pandemic, Spurlock, who has always been passionate about giving back to the community, volunteered for Food Lifeline once a week.


Jodey Ellis-Spansel

District Manager, The Kroger Co.King Soopers Division

Under Ellis-Spansel’s leadership, the “Mighty D5” — her nickname for District 5 in Denver — achieved an 8.8% increase in identical-store sales over 2019; it was also the most improved district in food safety across the entire King Soopers/City Market division by 7.25%. When social-injustice protests were taking place across Denver, she prioritized the safety of her customers and associates, remaining in constant communication with her store managers and the local police. Ellis-Spansel was named chair of the Women’s EDGE associate resource group at King Soopers.

Emily Brzezinski Manager, Marketing Operations, Meijer Inc.

Brzezinski transformed many marketing productions during COVID-19, such as converting all of Meijer’s weekly ads to a virtual format and reworking/updating all required project plans across marketing; she also moved large in-person planning events to a virtual platform, using Agile. She identified nonessential work and repurposed hours to other needs such as integrated leave management or the Customer Contact Center. Brzezinski served as a panelist at a National Retail Federation webinar and graduated from Meijer’s Experienced Leaders Program; she is also a member of two of the company’s team member resource groups.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Christina Fecher

Manager, Public Relations, Meijer Inc.

Cherie Hacker Director, Own Brand and QA-Food, Meijer Inc.

As company spokeswoman, Fecher guided her team from normal work toward communicating Meijer’s response to ensure the health and safety of customers and team members during COVID-19.

Ensuring that Meijer’s Own Brands meet or exceed national brands is Hacker’s primary job; she oversees Meijer Fresh and Own Brand food products, which accounted for 24.3% of total food business sales in 2020.

She handles all communication regarding the Meijer LPGA Classic, a golf tournament that benefits Simply Give, the grocer’s hunger relief program; more than $5 million has been raised since the tournament’s inception and Meijer became involved.

During this record year, she underwent cancer treatment and is now in remission; with the advent of COVID-19, she and her team made use of small kits to test all product remotely.

Fecher is a regular volunteer for Stand Up for the Cure and the Meijer YoPro group.

Kim Prall

Senior Regional Asset Protection Manager, Meijer Inc.

Prall is responsible for managing more than 500 individuals, both direct and indirect reports, in the five markets comprising the Southern region, which she led to achieve the lowest shrink rate in region history, at 2.11%. She received the Excellence in Execution award from Franklin Covey in 2020 for the company’s work reducing shrink. Prall is a volunteer and sponsor at the Oxford Women’s Care Center, and is also an active leadership participant in ongoing Inforum diversity, equity and inclusion peer coaching.


Hacker is a volunteer for Kids Food Basket, which is committed to ending childhood hunger, and a member of Network of Executive Women.

Holly Roelofs

Manager, Customs Compliance, Meijer Inc.

Roelofs was charged with keeping Meijer from any risk of import shipments that would harm its supply chain, reputation or customers by managing the Meijer Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program. In May 2020, she launched the Section 301 Duty Recovery Program, allowing the Meijer customs broker team to review all products subject to China tariffs; since then, $750,108 in actual refunds have been recovered, and another $700,000 is anticipated. Roelofs volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club, among other organizations.

Carla Hendon

Director, Supplier Diversity, Meijer Inc.

Hendon enabled Meijer’s four sourcing streams and business owners to grow spend with diverse supply partnerships by ensuring a diverse supplier base was included in the procurement of goods and services. She led the establishment of Meijer’s supplier diversity initiative in 2020, planning and conducting the company’s first Supplier Diversity Summit, which resulted in 10 potential relationships, and she also co-chaired the peopleof-color team member resource group (Mosaic). Hendon is a volunteer at Northpointe Christian School, and at Kids Food Basket.

Elizabeth Rzepka

Manager, Merch Inventory, Meijer Inc.

Promoted from dry grocery buyer to consumables and automotive in the merchandising department last July, Rzepka transitioned to helping align short- and long-term business decisions and strategies. In her new role, she adjusted to leading a new team during a pandemic, and managed some of the highest-demand categories, including bath tissue, paper towels, surface cleaners and cleaning wipes, finding ways to inspire her team to overcome obstacles during a difficult time. Rzepka volunteers at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.


Jen Pawlowski Manager, Merchandise Inventory-Meat, Seafood and Packaged Meat, Meijer Inc.

Pawlowski led her team through the many issues of 2020 and its effects on the meat and seafood department; the result was a 23% increase in fiscal 2020, and a record-breaking holiday season, with sales up 19%. She used her background in finance and supply chain logistics to reinvent the product flow process, adding automation for store-ordered and random-weight categories. Pawlowski is a member of Network of Executive Women and works with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

Kristen Schroeder

Director, Human ResourcesNorthern Region, Meijer Inc.

Schroeder played a key role in her region’s COVID-19 efforts with a plan to mobilize teams across the region; she led two teams that used improved staffing processes to increase hiring time, and also boost seasonal team member hiring, with viability as permanent team members assessed. She led a 52-week Workforce of the Future project, and also led the 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) company-wide implementation, as project manager. Schroeder volunteers in sports at local schools, and at Bryant University.


DIANE CLEVEN Senior-Level Executive Vice President of Deli/CMS/Sushi/Bakery




Rising Star Director, Learning & Leadership

Rising Star Director, HR & Team Member Relations

Rising Star Director, Bulk/Coffee/Candy

We are proud to recognize and celebrate these dynamic leaders and their contributions to our team and our industry. The Fresh Market congratulates all of this year’s honorees!


Tiffany Jackson

Diana Gonzalez

Jackson has an uncanny way of encouraging her associates to push themselves to be their best, and is involved with everything that happens in her department.

Gonzalez and her team re-evaluated the way that Nature Nate’s uses its materials and honey, and its testing process, and revisited the company’s personal protective equipment hazard analysis; she was able to save $270,000 without compromising quality standards.

Logistics Manager, Milo’s Tea Co.

She played a vital role in several instrumental projects, such as implementing Milo’s warehouse management system and high-performance work system, and led her team to achieve record-breaking loading days and unprecedented on-time, in-full delivery of 95.8%. Jackson negotiated Milo’s contract terms and fuel costs with its transportation carrier to save the company about $500,000.

Taylor Johnson Director of Marketing, Nature Nate’s Honey Co.

Johnson nearly tripled the amount of content development originally planned to support a robust digital ad strategy, partnering with influencers to produce “how-to-withhoney” videos that generated more than 400,000 views on YouTube alone. She helped Nature Nate’s web site grow traffic by more than 160%, including 244,000 users from organic search, an increase of 44% from the previous year. Despite a reallocation of marketing spend, Johnson maximized dollars to get within 1% of the marketing budget forecast.

Director of Quality Assurance, Nature Nate’s Honey Co.

She implemented a new technology called iAuditor, allowing the team to collect consistent data, standardize inspections, and send reports and insights, helping to identify areas of failure and resolve problems. Gonzalez is active in her church and as a missionary.

Anne Auger

Senior Key Account Manager, PBNA, PepsiCo

Auger is responsible for all 251 stores throughout Meijer’s six-state footprint, the largest North division account; her work directly contributed to a revenue increase of 11.4% versus plan. She developed a highly successful six-week One Stop — Summer destination program at Meijer; results included a Pepsi Beverages sales increase of 31% over the previous year and more than $1.5 million in sales. Meijer grew more than 1.0 market share points with Pepsi Beverages. Auger volunteers at Gleaners Food Bank to help the needy in her community.

Congratulations Betsie Zeedyk 2021 Top Women in Grocery Winner





2021 Top Women in Grocery Ashley Dent

Senior Sales Manager, Juice, PepsiCo

Dent reacted quickly to an opportunity to propel PepsiCo’s produce juice sales when a key brand ceased business, almost doubling the Naked Juice business in six months; this significantly expanded the company’s presence within stores and set it up for a successful 2021. Managing a budget of more than $10 million and acting as an influencer in the California markets around the Pepsi direct store team, she added $1 million-plus in incremental sales to the broader group. A member of the California chapter of the Network of Executive Women, Dent is involved in organizing member events.

Lynn Hyde

Carol Simpson

Director of Sales, Albertsons and West Regional, Juice, PepsiCo

Senior Director Shopper Marketing, Kroger, PepsiCo

Hyde has established herself as a strategic sales executive within Albertsons and the West region; under her guidance, sales for her geography grew 13.4%; revenue, 14%; and profit, 12%. She is recognized within Albertsons for delivering best-in-class insights that led PepsiCo juice to experience sales growth in 12 of 13 of the grocer’s banners. Hyde collaborated with her PepsiCo partners on the successful transition of Naked Juice from the warehouse model to the PepsiCo DSD systems; thanks to her leadership, post-transition Naked Juice sales grew three points ahead of U.S. grocery, at 17%.



Simpson tripled the number of marketing programs through new ways of working with her cross-functional team and customer, from campaign planning through execution, delivering strong performance across brands. She navigated COVID-19 to ensure PepsiCo annual operating plan delivery at Kroger, while maintaining newly acquired digital households, and successfully deployed tests with curbside sampling, in-store virtual assistants and high-value targeted digital offers. Simpson won PepsiCo’s Global Marketing Grand Prix BAM award for outstanding marketing. 5/27/21

Tieun Vieux

Territory Manager, PFNA, PepsiCo

Vieux partnered across various PepsiCo sectors with her Pepsi, Quaker and foodservice counterparts to advance conversations on racial injustice; she was nominated for the Harvey C Russell Inclusion Award for her overall leadership. Demonstrating an unwavering focus on being consumer-centric and connected, she delivered $7.5 million above plan performance, which ranked her team eighth out of 120 zones for Frito-Lay’s 2020 Dale Stortz National Sales Award. Vieux is a member of the Network of Executive Women, and she also led the region’s MOSAIC employee resource group at PepsiCo.

11:32 PM

We’re very proud to recognize

Aud e and the outstanding women leading the way in our industry.


Michelle Wendling

Senior Director of Sales, PFNA, PepsiCo

Wendling teamed with retailers to help establish a process to share information when team members tested positive for COVID-19, to ensure grocery workers and Frito-Lay associates remained as safe as possible. She worked with her PepsiCo counterparts to deploy “Thank You, Frontline Worker” point-ofsale material to ensure that the store theme stayed relevant. Wendling is an executive sponsor for the region’s Women’s Initiative Network, belongs to the West Michigan chapter of the Network of Executive Women, and serves on the board of her local bank, Choice One.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Milena Zecevich Customer Manager, Juice, PepsiCo

Zecevich identified an opportunity regarding the KeVita brand at Jewel-Osco; aligning with the buyer, she took her proposal internally to PepsiCo, and as a result grew the business by more than 20%. She learned how to mine syndicated data and turn the information into action, growing her PepsiCo distribution base at Shaw’s relative to performance and market activity; as a result, she was able to expand the SKU count of the premium drinks line by an incremental four items. Zecevich led the PepsiCo Habitat for Humanity project in the Chicago area, leading her team to work on three houses built for those in need.

Mallory Rice

Key Account Manager, Post Consumer Brands

Rice was able to initiate and sell in a massive retail project with her customers at Food Giant, using gold-standard merchandising principles, in addition to Food Giant sales data, to create a best-in-class planogram that has secured incremental space for Post and resulted in a more profitable category for the customer. She’s been able to simultaneously take on mentors while also being a sounding board for her less experienced women colleagues in the organization. Rice is a volunteer for Weimaraner Rescue of the South and is a group leader for the Students Outreach Team at the Church of the Highlands in Alabama.

Monica Jackson-Russo Growth Analyst Director, Procter & Gamble

Jackson-Russo’s role as growth analyst director enables her to have a direct impact on customer growth strategies in the critical category of paper goods. Her work helped Albertsons understand the value of extended roll life and large-count packs, and future-proofed the bath tissue and paper towel category; as a result, when the COVID-19 surge hit, Albertsons was ready with more product on the shelf and larger pack sizes than its competitors. Jackson-Russo is a leader in Procter & Gamble’s GABLE (Gay, Ally, Bisexual and Lesbian Employees) Network.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Danielle Westbrock

Senior Account Executive-Meijer Personal Care, Procter & Gamble

Westbrock negotiated a zero-cost direct-shipment agreement worth $500 million, securing 13 SKU secondary-placement items in the grocery department, and selling placement in Meijer’s highly prioritized Beauty Book, driving $800 million overdelivery of the joint business plan goal. She positively influenced the broader organization through her leadership in Procter & Gamble’s Women’s Network, driving a 50% increase in participation. Westbrock has consistently been top-rated among her P&G peers, earning the “1” rating reserved for top-level performers.

Marsha Singh

Regional Director, Publix Super Markets

Throughout 2020, Singh delivered a three-part series called “Leading Through the Storm” and used all available technology to communicate remotely with her team in an effective manner. Her region outperforms company benchmarks on the associate voice survey, in food safety measures and in many service categories of the Customer Voice survey, and also maintained the lowest safety incidents for both customers and associates. Singh participates in Publix’s Leaders Leading Leaders mentor program and leads her region in partnering with the Southwest Florida Salvation Army to collect holiday gifts for needy children.


Maria Brous

Director of Communications, Publix Super Markets

Brous led her team to implement a now annual Publix Serves Day initiative that provides financial support and sweat equity to more than 150 nonprofit organizations in Publix’s market area. During the pandemic, she coordinated communications to support the success of Publix’s Farmers & Families COVID-19 Response/Relief Program to help farmers with crops that couldn’t be sold; Publix donated the 18 million pounds of food that it purchased directly to Feeding America member food banks. Brous was responsible for responding to hundreds of daily media inquiries amid COVID-19.

Michelle Turula

Account ExecutiveSafeway NorCal Division, Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

Despite pandemic challenges in 2020, Turula surpassed her prior year, growing revenue by 2.3%, volume by 6.7% and gross profit by 8% for all of her Coca-Cola bottling partners. She secured a multiyear meal partnership with Safeway to grow profit on selected packages by more than 10%, and was a key leader in a merchandiser reallocation project that helped gain more than 460 new equipment placements throughout Safeway stores. Turula is a graduate of the inaugural class of ReyesUP, an internal program to inspire, develop and connect women.

Lillian Cook

District Manager, Publix Super Markets

Cook shouldered the challenge of leading Publix’s Special Olympics campaign for the Central-North region in Miami in a virtual environment, still setting a fundraising record. She leads with a “servant’s heart,” which can be seen through her extensive community involvement, volunteering with the First United Methodist Church of Jupiter/Tequesta, the annual Christmas toy drive and Adopt a Family, the White Doves Christmas program, and many more organizations. Cook has served on a number of boards, including United Way of Martin County and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach.

Diane Botonis Director of Production Operations, Save A Lot

Botonis played a lead role in moving inefficient and expensive outsourced systems and functions to more efficient company-owned platforms, such as migrating all service desk functions from a third-party offshore provider, reducing call wait times from 40 minutes to less than 10. She led the replacement of Save A Lot’s service catalog with fresher technology, advanced features and a stronger user interface. With Botonis’ work migrating production operation services from third-party vendors, Save A Lot improved incident resolution by 40%.


Cindy Roberts

Business Development Director of GM/ HBC, Publix Super Markets

Roberts oversees the Publix Business Connection, which provides suppliers with critical information that they can use to manage their business relationship with the grocer, and, in the past year, she reorganized the supplier interface and streamlined the information. She collaborated with her colleagues on an idea to launch an enhanced version of the Extra Savings Flyer combining food and nonfood products in a single version, along with QR codes for digital coupons. Roberts mentors other associates through the Publix Leaders Leading Leaders program.

Stephanie Curran

Facilities Manager, Save A Lot

Curran was appointed the primary contact for all third-party cleanings in Save A Lot stores, and working around the clock, she managed to complete all cleanings under budget and ensure safety across the board within 12 hours of being notified. In her work to support the company’s 13 distribution centers, she successfully had the Plant City, Fla., facility’s roof replaced under budget and ahead of schedule. Curran designed a scrubber-training program for St. Louis district managers, and she created a scrubber guide for all store teams, resulting in a 36% decrease in work orders.


Chelsea Fonda Regional Director, Save A Lot

In June 2020, when 11 of Martin’s stores in the Philadelphia area were damaged amid civil unrest, she worked to ensure team safety while also collaborating with home office staff to implement cleanup and repair in the stores, getting operations reopened quickly. Widely regarded as a leader, she successfully trained three new district managers and promoted seven new store managers within the region. Fonda’s support of the annual Bags for A Brighter Holiday promotion led to the sale of more than 7,000 bags of food — valued at more than $33,000 — to be donated.

Amanda Rolbiecki

Regional Director, Save A Lot

Rolbiecki successfully balanced increased demand for Save A Lot’s services with the needs of her district’s employees: Her district had zero district manager turnover, she improved total regional shrink by $1 million, and she increased identical-store sales by 3.4%.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Katie Kobus

Director of Marketing Activation and Media, Save A Lot

As Save A Lot transitioned from corporate-owned to retail partner-centric, Kobus restructured the marketing organization to address the new strategic focus, and took on oversight of social and digital media efforts. She developed the company’s first data acquisition campaign, which netted more than 280,000 entries; launched its first retail partner paid social portal; and rolled out the Digital Deals program, consisting of coupon offers emailed to Smart Shopper Rewards customers. Kobus onboarded Save A Lot’s largest owner group onto the weekly ad program.

Michelle Fagan

Senior Category Manager Floral & Garden, The Save Mart Cos.

During the pandemic, Fagan procured canceled floral products from competitors to help manage and mitigate product loss, and added new floral vendors to her portfolio to build on current programs and create new ones.

She trained two new district managers, promoted 11 new store managers, and absorbed an additional two markets and three district managers, all while leading in customer perspective audit scores, at 91%.

She negotiated new floral product pricing with suppliers to manage and maintain margin budgets and set in place a vendor-funded Valentine’s Day balloon sales contest, which led to an all-time floral sales record for Valentine’s Day.

Rolbiecki was recognized as the Local Face of College Park, Fla., for leadership of local Orlando, Fla.-area women in business.

Fagan contributed to a 73% boost in year-over-year sales in the garden centers, for a total of $260,000 in sales.

Kara Mathes

Distribution Center Manager, Save A Lot

Since April 2020, Mathes has reduced distribution center operations from seven days to six, an enormous and complex undertaking that ultimately provided associates with a better work/life balance; she also effortlessly led her team through drastic volume increases brought on by the pandemic, achieving an on-time delivery rate of 95% at her facility. She also often serves as a distribution representative for organization-wide projects. Mathes coordinated a high school’s annual Christmas basket order, leading to sales for the local store and having a positive impact on the community.

Jessica Freels

Senior Category Manager, The Save Mart Cos.

Erin Pichee

District Manager, Save A Lot

Pichee has worked her way up at Save A Lot, having started as a cashier 24 years ago, and is recognized for her caring leadership style; one of her stores navigated two employee deaths, and she was instrumental in ensuring the stability and well-being of the team. She guided her team to achieve an increase in sales of 14.96% and attain the lowest shrink rate within her region. Encouraging participation in the annual Bags for A Brighter Holiday campaign, her stores averaged 908 each, a total of more than $20,000 worth of food donated — more than any other district manager.

Donna Lipton

Director, Brand and Content Marketing, The Save Mart Cos.

Under Freels’ guidance, health and beauty care for The Save Mart Cos. increased in 2020 by $22 million, an increase of 20.74% versus the prior year; she developed and rolled out a curated CBD program for 104 Save Mart and Lucky stores, which is projected to exceed $1 million in sales in the first year.

Lipton worked directly with the CEO to build and refine the Lucky California brand framework; she selected and onboarded the new social media monitoring platform in three months, and guided double-digit increases in social media engagement through revised strategy and new content marketing initiatives.

She filled in promotional gaps in key categories for the FoodMaxx shopper by helping facilitate the structure of a new category management team while working to establish a “one team” approach.

She dramatically improved the retailer’s responsiveness to social media posts by integrating the call center into the social media monitoring process.

Freels took on an extensive project to flow $1 million in obsolete product out of a distribution center to stores.

Lipton led changes in the environmental décor package for Save Mart’s revamped FoodMaxx stores, which contributed to increased item movement.




2021 Top Women in Grocery Cori Nobriga

Senior Manager, Merchandising Operations and Food Service, The Save Mart Cos.

At the height of the pandemic, Nobriga supported the grand opening of the newest Save Mart store, in Redding, Calif.; she organized and set up the foodservice and bakery departments, trained employees, and created schedules, orders and training documents that are still in place for the enterprise. When team members had to quarantine, she even worked behind the counter, decorating cakes, frying chicken and baking fresh bread. Nobriga also rolled out new programs in both the foodservice and bakery departments; her work helped drive bakery sales up 9.63% and foodservice sales up 7.79% in 2020.

Stephanie Wu

Deputy General Counsel, The Save Mart Cos.

Wu played a key role in helping Save Mart navigate the coronavirus pandemic. With her oversight over the budget, the company came in about $40,000 under budget. She oversaw the development of its detailed COVID-19 prevention plan, and also deployed a customer complaint de-escalation program. Additionally, she served as the primary contact with all counties, cities and states regarding inquiries relating to COVID-19, including issues relating to positive cases, procedures and outbreaks, and oversaw the development of the company-wide COVID-19 testing program. Wu negotiated a contract with a vendor to provide contactless robot grocery delivery.

Shannon DeFreese

District Human Resources Specialist, ShopRite Supermarkets Inc.

DeFreese facilitated ShopRite’s first hiring partnership with Indeed, and her district led the company by hiring 991 new associates – during a pandemic – which was an increase from 539 new hires the previous year; she also played a key support role in the training and development of two new members on her team. Her district received the highest compliance rates with regard to federal and state law. DeFreese launched a new Wakefern training program for ShopRite stores within a tight timeframe, and her region has consistently exceeded the goal of an 80% participation rate since the program launch.


Gina Bastiani

Director, Connected Personalized Marketing, Southeastern Grocers

As director of Southeastern Grocers’ relaunched loyalty program, Bastiani presided over the activation of more than 7 million CPG-led coupons for customers within a five-month period. Over a nine-month period, tens of millions of coupons were issued to shoppers, with varying degrees of personalization, based on information; this led to Winn-Dixie’s rewards program being recognized by Newsweek as one of America’s Best Loyalty Programs in 2021. Bastiani is co-chair of the Women’s Development Network, which empowers women, and held a donation drive benefiting women, children and babies.


Mary Brush

Account Sales Manager, SpartanNash

An account manager for 54 stores with 38 owners, Brush onboarded three new independent retail customers amid the pandemic; when one customer’s new store suffered damage, she worked with the customer to get the location up and running.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Megan Bryant

Human Resources Director, Corporate, SpartanNash

Within weeks of Bryant’s joining SpartanNash, the pandemic hit; she quickly developed a pandemic preparedness playbook with COVID-19 protocols.

She served as lead to coordinate a reflow initiative for Michigan-based customers that were legacy Nash Finch customers and needed to transition to the Grand Rapids, Mich., distribution center.

Because of her work during COVID-19, the company could ensure the safety of its 18,000plus associates, including 16,000 that are essential, and prepare for the future through the identification of 400 associates that could work remotely; she also created a system for reporting and tracking coronavirus cases.

Brush has a special-needs brother and volunteers at his adult care facility and for Special Olympics; she’s also a lector at her church and teaches Sunday school.

A proud adoptive mother of two boys, ages 10 and 3, Bryant volunteers with organizations that work to keep families together, especially in her sons’ country of origin, Ethiopia.

Jennie Garbarek

Manager, Floral Merchandising, SpartanNash

Garbarek organized and executed the first company-wide truckload rose promotion, resulting in a $67,000 or 47% increase in rose sales during the successful week-long promotion. She volunteered at the Grand Rapids, Mich., distribution center over the holidays, working midnight to 8 a.m. to learn more about the perishable DC operations, and to broaden her understanding of supply chain logistics and inventory control. Garbarek received the Mini Helmet Award for developing a plan to grow tulip sales by setting up a $5 Friday promotional plan and an aggressive merchandising plan, resulting in a sales increase of more than $17,000.

Audra Ladronka Manager, Category Administration, SpartanNash

Managing the people, processes and systems related to accurately flowing merchandising product and promotional data to SpartanNash’s support teams, Ladronka led a cross-functional team to improve Salesforce deal accuracy by updating the internal systems, resulting in the drastic reductions of open cases by 84%. She is actively working on two key initiatives as a subject-matter expert: the third-party vendor system and the promotional order engine (POE). Ladronka is a volunteer at the Muskegon Juvenile Correction center, mentoring young girls between the ages of 13 and 20; over the past 20 years, she has mentored more than 30 girls.



2021 Top Women in Grocery Julie Morales Manager, Pharmacy, SpartanNash/ Family Fare

Under Morales’ guidance, the pharmacy exceeded its prescription count by 4.6% this past year. She led her team to some of the best results in the company in the promotion of timely meds, auto-refill results and text-messaging results, exceeding goals by 1.9%, 29.3% and 9.4%, respectively. Morales completed 10 community outreaches to senior-living homes, assisted-living facilities and physicians’ offices this past year; additionally, she conducted six immunization clinics throughout the Grand Rapids, Mich., area and recently participated in a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

Chilain Backman

Manager, Accounts Payable, SpartanNash/MDV Military Division

Backman successfully managed the processing of more than $54 million in expenses and $2.2 billion in product invoices during the 2020 fiscal year.

Darlene Collins

Sharon Fleener

Inventory Manager, SpartanNash/MDV Military Division

The forecast systems that buyers were accustomed to using were no longer accurate for the spikes in demands, so Collins worked with allocation files and buyers to find the most streamlined way to order in this new way.

She wrote three one-way process manuals for new AP automation systems, including one for SpartanNash’s largest national account, whom she was often called upon to assist during the customer’s transition to the platform.

She recognized the need for the procurement team to support the export department differently from before, so she appointed a senior buyer to take on this special project and provided mentoring along the way.

Backman successfully implemented a new electronic document system in her division last summer, driving increased efficiency by approximately 35%.

An active member of her church, Collins shifted in-person volunteering to virtual outreach events, and at work she led fun and celebratory activities for the inventory management team.

Director, Export Services and QA, SpartanNash/MDV Military Division

Through the pandemic, Fleener has successfully secured and shipped U.S. branded goods to troops overseas, a critical need because many foreign bases were on lockdown, making the Commissaries and Exchanges their only source of food. As a liaison for the Department of Defense, she was called upon to serve as host and emcee for the U.S. Trade Representative-Executive Office of the President event dealing with the U.K.’s Brexit requirements. Fleener is a SpartanNash 100 Club award winner, having volunteered more than 100 hours a year to serve her community; this includes helping homeless vets.


Congratulates Our Top Women in Grocery


Kati Shields

Lisa Haley

Courtney Siessel

Manager, Retail Learning and Initiatives

Manager, Digital Experience

Procurement Manager, Grocery Division


Teona Goebel

Human Resources Business Partner II, SpartanNash/MDV Military Division

Goebel created the Rising Star award to recognize associates doing a great job in their first 30 days, and implemented an Associate of the Month, Quarter and Year program; her additional associate engagement efforts include monthly bingo games and hidden prizes in the warehouse. Through the volunteer position of community captain of the Columbus, Ohio, distribution center, she facilitated the company’s partnership with an elementary school to participate in Read Across America Day. Goebel is a U.S. Army veteran with a family legacy of service: Her father, grandfather, husband and both sons have all joined up.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Kim Connery

Category Manager, Tony’s Fresh Market

Tania Trinidad

Connery was first to market with many innovative products, a significant accomplishment during all of the constraints, allocations and unavailability issues caused by COVID-19.

Trinidad spearheaded pricing automation at all 16 Tony’s Fresh Market stores, a move that saved the business a total of 364 man-hours per year, for an annual savings of $7,000 in payroll expense.

Working with a summer intern, she devised projects to drive sales and margin, including a pricing elasticity study on cookies/crackers that allowed her to maximize retails for sales and profits while showing a value price impression to the customer.

She reorganized the pricing department so that each of her associates worked directly with a category manager and became an expert in those categories for pricing maintenance, allowing the department to run more smoothly.

Despite all of the difficulties presented by the pandemic, Kim continued to make weekly donations to the food banks that she has long supported.

Mandy Plewniak

Pricing Supervisor, Tony’s Fresh Market

Having recently become a U.S. citizen while working a full schedule, Trinidad is dedicated to helping her Latino community learn more about this country’s rights and privileges.

Program Manager, Produce, Topco Associates LLC

Under Plewniak’s direction, member purchases increased 449% in mangos and 33% in garlic to nearly $8 million in total volume. She personally negotiated improvements in member cost and introduced new sourcing opportunities, revitalizing these categories and driving outstanding sales growth for Topco members. Significant fluctuations in cost and product availability due to COVID-19-related shopping patterns made garlic an extremely volatile category, but because of contracts negotiated by Plewniak, Topco members saw a stable supply and experienced significant cost avoidance.

Carla Rydberg Senior Category Manager, Center Store, Topco Associates LLC

Rydberg provided strategic direction for the marketing, innovation, merchandising and overall management of cookies, crackers and salty snacks categories to ensure that Topco members performed profitably and sustainably in these categories during the pandemic. Going beyond her $164 million in OB sales sphere of influence, she articulated possible challenges and led discussions on how to proactively solve problems and turn them into opportunities. Rydberg rolled out a complex brand transition from various own-brand and member labels into a single Crav’n Flavor brand label for cookies and crackers, setting the stage for more categories to round out the brand.

Congratulations 2021 Top Women in Grocery Shelley Costantino Courtney Kwartler Jennifer Marrazzo Arthi Ramamurthy Thank you for your commitment to delivering outstanding value to BJ’s Members.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Jennifer Young

Category Manager ISP Equipment, Topco Associates LLC

Young co-led the Topco Indirect Spend Program’s store equipment and construction category, leading strategic sourcing initiatives on the behalf of 48 grocery retailers and wholesalers across the country to help save members more than $28 million. Leading an evaluation of members’ front end cooler needs, she leveraged the group’s purchasing volume to not only avoid a 4% cost increase, but also drive an additional 5% cost reduction for all members purchasing through the program. Young stayed abreast of EPA regulations regarding refrigerants and used this knowledge to make valuable recommendations to members.

Colleen Thompson

Senior Manager Brand Engagement, UNFI

Thompson oversaw the development, management, marketing materials and communication on 100-plus new Field Day items, driving incredible results across the supply chain process, inventory management and packaging design. She created a Tumaro’s Wraps brand promotion that resulted in double-digit growth in sales, shippers and Instacart, and triple-digit growth on social media and the store locator. Besides being critical in launching UNFI’s environment social governance (ESG) campaign Better For All, she served on UNFI’s Women Diversity and Brands Marketing Diversity task forces, while also volunteering in her local community.


Kathy Liou

Human Resource Manager Tops Markets LLC

Due to Liou’s proper management and recordkeeping, 100% of all New York State Division of Human Rights, EEOC and Department of Labor complaints were dismissed in 2020. She went the extra mile by completing COVID-19 training through Johns Hopkins University to provide the company with guidance to mitigate the spread of the virus. Liou managed the Store Operations Manager Training Program in her districts and fostered a relationship with ARC, Hillside Agency and Junior Achievement for placement at store locations; during her downtime, she volunteered at Golisano Children’s Hospital and United Way.

Carrie Higgs

Manager, Community Relations, UNFI/Cub Foods

Higgs coordinated food drives when two grocery stores were destroyed after 2020’s civil unrest in Minneapolis; organizing free busing for residents to access food, she also worked with charities during the pandemic to deliver more than 10 million meals. She was named project manager for Northside Community Room @ Cub and appointed to Cub’s D&I team, served on the Learfield IMG client advisory board of directors and United Way fundraising committee, and was a Stillwater Chamber of Commerce business member. Higgs has received such food industry accolades as the Minnesota Grocers Association Bag Hunger Award.

Sabrina Salay

Regional Pharmacy Manager, Tops Markets LLC

Salay played an integral role in inventory reductions while keeping out-of-stock medications minimal; in the first seven months of program, Tops saw a 6% decrease in on-hand inventory value, resulting in an overall holding cost savings, and the program also improved self-warehouse purchasing to increase margins. As well as running the pharmacies when needed, she trained associates on how to create a pharmacy culture emphasizing remarkable customer service in spite of COVID-19. Salay was always among the first to volunteer, whether it was for raising money for Ride for Roswell or passing out samples at The Taste of Buffalo.

Margie Judd

Director, Customer Experience, UNFI/Cub Foods

Judd’s district had 50% of the top 10 stores with the highest sales penetration and 50% of the top 10 stores with the highest customer satisfaction results; her district results also included the highest identical-store sales compared with Cub’s other three districts.


Farrah Rivers Facilities Maintenance Manager, UNFI

Rivers initiated, coordinated and managed the successful execution and completion of 18 capital expense projects totaling more than $1.5 million. She developed a Safe Quality Food-compliant maintenance work order system that fosters documentation, tracking, notification, accountability and development of corrective/preventive maintenance across dual warehouses. In addition to being a member of the Tallahassee, Fla., chapter of the Project Management Institute, Rivers co-founded G.O.O.D. K.I.D.S Inc. (Giving Of Ourselves Daily through Kind Interaction and Dedicated Service), a nonprofit that develops charitable and educational programs.

Angela Schelske Category Manager, Dairy, UNFI/Cub Foods

Responsible for dairy department sales, profits and merchandising for all 80 Cub Foods stores, Schelske prides herself on working closely with vendors and driving sales through innovations.

She stepped into the new position of director of customer engagement in September 2020, allowing her to revamp the onboarding process to better train and engage new associates from day one.

Her displays, for which she sought input from the marketing team, resulted in double-digit sales growth, including programs for tailgate season in the fall, the holiday season, and Oat Month, which took place in February 2021; she also maximized sales potential with hot-item and high-velocity displays.

In this role, Judd also initiated new disciplines in customer service strategies, which resulted in the retailer’s customer satisfaction scores steadily increasing each week.

Schelske is a member of the Network of Executive Women and a past winner of a national frozen/refrigerated Master Marketing award for June Dairy Month.


Erin Suomala

Manager, Clinical Services, UNFI/Cub Foods

2020 was an intense year for clinical services, and Suomala rose to the challenge as a leader of integrated activities for all pharmacists and technicians; she oversaw all quality control and quality assurance programs for the chain’s clinical services. Her successful flu planning effort led to an increase in administered shots and an incremental $500,000 in sales, even while she worked with several agencies to administer COVID vaccines to at-risk populations. Suomala is a member of the American Pharmacists Association and a committee member of the CPESN COVID Initiative and NACDS’ COVID Reimbursement Campaign, among other activities.

Kati Shields

Manager, Retail Learning and Initiatives, Wakefern Food Corp.

Responsible for learning, talent management, purpose and culture, organizational design, and human resources fundamentals across the cooperative, Shields co-led a company organizational review and design initiative that netted a cost savings of $10 million-plus. She created the first member-wide hiring campaign, leading to a 30% increase in applications, and directed the implementation of an online training platform; during COVID-19, she was the lead retail human resources responder on the Emergency Operations Center support team. Shields was nominated for a YWCA Tribute to Women in Industry Award.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Leticia Thomas

Senior Director, Diversity and Inclusion/Shoppers, Human Resources, UNFI/Shoppers

In August 2020, Thomas was promoted to a new position to create and implement diversity and inclusion initiatives for Cub Foods in the Minneapolis market and Shoppers in the Baltimore/Washington D.C., area; she has continued to oversee the human resources function for Shoppers. She established how the banners define diversity, equity and inclusion, and identified key focus areas, also helping introduce a new learning system for Shoppers front-line associates. Thomas is a member of the Coca-Cola Global Women in Leadership Program and a winner of the Harlem YMCA’s Black Achievers in Industry Award.

Courtney Siessel

Procurement ManagerGrocery Division, Wakefern Food Corp.

Handling procurement, category management and retail merchandising for grocery warehouse categories, and responsible for more than $3 billion in retail sales, Siessel created several new processes and ensured that supplies of key products were in stock at a time when such items were unavailable in many places. During an unusual past year, she also negotiated several joint business plans. A member of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and the ShopRite Partners in Caring Essential Thanks program, Siessel is a frequent industry speaker, sharing her expertise in the grocery specialty business.

Ivette Serrano

Director of Digital Marketing, Vallarta Supermarkets

Serrano oversees Vallarta’s website, search engine optimization, direct response marketing, digital ads and all social media platforms, and promotes third-party app integrations to grow e-commerce sales.

Lisa Haley

Manager, Digital Experience, Wakefern Food Corp.

Across six banners run by 53 families, Haley led site and app refinements affecting 8 million digitally engaged customers.

She launched the company website last year to work on any type of screen and improved integration between digital and store interactions, also serving as company spokeswoman during the pandemic and spearheading virtual events to maintain stores’ visibility, including one held just a day after her father’s passing.

She updated online shopping features to simplify that experience; added “essential boxes” for produce, cleaning and family meals; and worked on seven major platform releases for ShopRite and The Fresh Grocer to drive e-commerce sales to top $500 million; also, with her team, she added three new banners to Instacart, which helped generate more than $195.5 million in retail sales.

During this particularly busy year, Serrano began an MBA program at California State University, Northridge.

Haley received the Wakefern Customer Service Award and is a board member for the Association of Coupon Professionals.

See you in Orlando!

Laura Lingad Director of Operations, WiseChoice Foods LLC

With a strong background in the restaurant industry and product development, Lingad leads research and development, regulates procurement and ingredient sourcing, and oversees production, logistics and inventory management for the company. Her efforts, including the promotion of the brand’s new Hatch chile pizza, helped WisePies Pizza expand significantly in the Southwest. Lingad is the volunteer lead for the WiseInitiative Supporting Community program, which aids children in need; she also gives her time to a local Ronald McDonald House, as well as a battered-women’s shelter, where she provides career-building and skills training.

The 15th annual TWIG leadership development program, awards reception and gala will be held live and in person at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress on Nov. 3-4. P.S. Did we mention it’s in person?




2021 Top Women in Grocery Marci Legg

Store Managers

Store Manager, Giant Food #375, Washington, D.C.

Legg worked with her management team to conduct all new hire interviews and built a strong bench in 2020, promoting 10 associates to department managers and key positions for the district. She partners with the local food bank, participates in the Giant Food ham donation program and raised $15,650 for the Children’s Cancer Foundation funderaiser in her store last year. The numbers showed Legg’s strong leadership as she beat her total sales goal and increased identical-store food sales; also, her associate survey score increased from 79% total engagement in 2019 to 86% in 2020, despite pandemic uncertainty.

Erin Arnold

Store Manager, Giant Food Store #6065, Lancaster, Pa.

Arnold outperformed her budgeted sales in 2020, allowing for improved and excellent daily conditions. She led a store refresh of maintenance and merchandising, resulting in a minimal below-budget impact; a direct reflection of this success can be found in the associate engagement survey results, which are second highest in her district and an improvement of five points over the prior year. Arnold is a Central Pennsylvania Food Bank volunteer, packaging food into boxes to provide meals for families at food banks all over the region.


Ginger Baker Store Manager, Giant Food Store #6473, New Britain, Pa.

Baker was responsible for spearheading The Total Customer Experience, a district project designed to improve customers’ perceptions by initiating basics that helped drive culture in the chain’s stores. Her merchandising won Best Store Display for Thanksgiving; displays designed by her have also won several internal floral holiday merchandising awards. As a member of the Store Manager Council, Baker acts as liaison between senior-level management and store management by evaluating, communicating and implementing existing and new programs.

Brenda Brown Store Manager, Giant Food Store #6448, Pottstown, Pa.

Brown achieved the highest engagement score for the district, gaining a six-point increase from the prior year; her store also saw numerous team member promotions. Further, the store achieved year-on-year double-digit sales growth before, during and after the initial wave of the pandemic. When not hard at work, Brown donates her time adopting and training rescue dogs; she also volunteers at Project 143, a nonprofit organization that feeds children who may be food deficient, and led and organized a high school reunion.


Shirlette Russell Store Manager, Giant Food #745, Fairfax, Va.

Not only does Russell continue to develop her team, she also provides them with additional resources to help them master their positions; with her consistent follow-up and communication, several leaders from this team have moved on to higher-volume stores. She is part of the mentoring group in her district and works with the Loudon County Junior Woman’s club, mentoring young women. Russell’s quick success at one store resulted in her move to another location, where she exceeded her sales budget, beat her EBIT budget, reduced fresh shrink and improved her Net Promoter Score from 68 to 89.

Terra Pierce

Store Manager, Giant Food Store #6511, Springfield, Pa.

Pierce raised team member engagement scores by seven points over the previous year by fostering an inclusive environment and encouraging team members to be themselves; her store ranked No. 1 and had the highest increase over last year. She guided her team through an extensive 14-week remodel, which included the addition of beer and wine and the Giant Direct e-commerce program. Pierce hosted a Letters to Santa event where associates selected 10 families that were negatively affected financially by the pandemic and fulfilled their Christmas wish lists.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Sabita Singh

Store Manager. Giant Food Store #6504, East Stroudsburg, Pa.

Singh’s store was one of the first locations in the chain to experience a positive COVID-19 case internally; due to the continued development of her team, she was able to have her associates provide support to other stores in the district. She grew sales over the year and exceeded the forecast, thanks to community outreach that included working with the local news station to promote what the store had to offer, and providing a 5% discount to East Stroudsburg University students. Singh was invited to speak at career days hosted by the college, and recruited associates in the surrounding community.

Jessica Noonan Home Shopping Facility Manager, Stop & Shop Home Shopping Facility, Cromwell, Conn.

Noonan’s newly opened facility piloted a new brand concept for same-day home shopping delivery, which is now being rolled out across Stop & Shop. While training five new associates to learn the e-commerce business and promoting six people to full-time positions, she supported her district during the pandemic by managing several locations in the absence of key personnel. Dedicated to keeping her co-workers and community safe, Noonan sewed and brought in masks for the facility’s associates, using bright, fun fabrics to help spread cheer, and she also made and donated masks to a local senior center.


Angela Stine

Store Manager, Giant Food Store #6461, South Hanover, Pa.

Stine developed a culture of superior food safety at her store, realizing an average food safety score of 96% over the eight most recent audits. She is a member of the company’s LINC and CARE business resource groups, which focus on finding innovative ways to support women and parents and caregivers, respectively, within the workplace and surrounding communities. Stine is a founding member of District 142’s staffing committee, where she serves as one of six store managers selected to analyze the district’s staffing opportunities and to help develop creative new solutions.

MaryKate Ronan

Store Manager, Stop & Shop Store #82, Halifax, Mass.

Promoted to her present position in December 2019, Ronan quickly identified areas of opportunity and employed key metrics to improve the store’s overall operation and financial performance. Along with developing two full-time associates into department leads and promoting two department leads to assistant store managers, she was a coach and mentor to many assistant store managers within her district. Due to COVID-19, the Class of 2020 couldn’t participate in senior events, so Ronan and her team hosted a prom party in their conference room and a graduation ceremony at the store’s front end to show their appreciation.

Claudine Kendrick

Home Shopping Facility Manager, Stop & Shop Home Shopping Facility, Riverhead, N.Y.

Training is Kendrick’s No. 1 priority: She properly trains and develops staff, and she creates a friendly work environment with fun events like an ugly-sweater contest during the holidays. Early in the pandemic, she organized a fundraiser at which she made personalized face masks and sold them, raising more $1,000 for families in need; she also organized food donation events and participated in the Riverhead Breast Cancer Research “Pink Out” donation drive. Kendrick put together a staffing and operational plan to deal with the influx of e-commerce, resulting in a 40% increase in orders.

Brittany Stevens Home Shopping Facility Manager, Stop & Shop Home Shopping Facility, Revere, Mass.

Stevens closed a wareroom; transitioned a store to a home delivery and pickup facility before it, too, closed; and opened a new facility, at all locations helping associates obtain the necessary skills to advance in the company. She held a successful Rising Stars Day in October 2020, adding several associates to the program, which is designed to help participants achieve their career aspirations. Stevens worked with Old Colony Elderly Services, a program through Meals on Wheels, to support, manage and build a working relationship within the local community; her facility completed 2,000 orders for the program.


Rebecca Milotte Store Manager, Stop & Shop Store #80, Springfield, Mass.

Milotte changed the culture in her store, enabling her to increase her associate engagement score to the second-highest in the district, a seven-point improvement over the previous year. As a result of her focus on associate morale, the store’s P&L exceeded budget and last year’s results; the location had the best sales and items trends in its district almost every week, as well as better in-stock positions and improved overall metrics. During the pandemic, Milotte worked with first responders at two local hospitals and donated healthy meals; she also regularly holds food drives at her store to collect donations.

Kim Eilers

Store Director, Albertsons Store #460, Las Vegas

Eilers’ passion for her team and the community that she serves was evident during the pandemic, when she strove to keep team spirit strong in the face of local casino closings that caused economic hardships for many of her staff members. During an unprecedented time, she led her team to generate record sales, district-leading customer service scores and nearly perfect audit scores. Eilers’ leadership fostered extraordinary customer loyalty, with shoppers sending thankyou cards to staff members and calling to commend the team for its efforts; some shoppers even came to the store to provide lunches for the employees.




2021 Top Women in Grocery Brenda Tegge

Assistant Store Director, Albertsons Stores #4706, Temecula, Calif., and #609, Murrieta, Calif.

Tegge fostered support for Michelle’s Place, a local organization for cancer patients and families, with her own volunteer efforts as well as fundraising efforts in-store and in the district. Leveraging past partnerships, she raised funds and collected products during hunger relief fundraisers with donations of Turkey Bucks from local stores. Tegge led a team of volunteers to host a virtual run, changing the scope of the event to a drive-thru, with volunteers lining up to hand out goodies to race participants.

Alecia Hill

Store Director, Brookshire’s Food and Pharmacy Store #37, Shreveport, La./District VP, Brookshire Grocery Co.

During the nine months that Hill led Brookshire’s Food and Pharmacy #37 in Shreveport, La., she grew sales through her team’s superior service, focus on in-stock conditions, and overall excellence in store conditions and merchandising; for Q3 and Q4 of fiscal 2020, the store achieved a 45.5% sales increase. In the past year, she mentored, promoted and hired 10 members of store management. In February 2021, she was promoted to district VP and is now responsible for the 11 retail stores in Brookshire’s Eastern division of Spring Market stores.


Tracie Vails

Store Director, Albertsons Store #574, Springfield, Ore.

As Vails led employees and customers through the pandemic and one of the largest wildfires in Oregon, her store achieved record sales and profits. Her store was the first in the district to launch the Drive Up & Go service, and she effectively incorporated new omnichannel demands without sacrificing the day-to-day business. Vails volunteered at Grass Roots Garden, which grows fresh food for local food banks, and secured cash donations for seven members of the local fire department who lost their homes in the wildfire.

Alicia Samuels Store Leader, City Market Store #442, Vail, Colo.

Samuels, who started working at her store as a deli clerk nine years ago, became store leader in June 2020; under her management, the location’s sales have increased by 12.3%, with $11,700 EBITDA. She made exemplary strides in retaining her staff in Vail, Colo., which is a tourist and transient town, with her 2020 year-end retention coming in at 60%. Samuels’ store is 70% staffed by women and includes associates from 19 countries, and she’s an active member of Kroger’s African American associate resource group.

Rebekah Bernal

Store Director, Amigos Store #508, Plainview, Texas

Keeping shelves stocked, items available and guests well served, Bernal led her store to a stellar performance: EBITDA improved 84.91%, and sales improved 13.41% over the prior year. She and her team introduced a new strategy for bringing awareness to the store’s digital deals with a special sign that displayed deals for customers as they entered the store; the strategy was so successful that it’s been adapted and implemented at every location in the division. Bernal and her team have donated time, food, money and gift cards to various causes.

Jodi Ballestracci

Store Manager, Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) Barstow Commissary, Barstow, Calif.

The store manager for the Barstow Commissary since August 2020, Ballestracci works daily to endorse diversity in the workplace and create a strong team framework. Known for her entrance-area and end cap displays, she was highly successful in motivating her team at a time when sales were difficult: Her efforts increased sales in all departments by an impressive 22.47%. Ballestracci earned honorable mention in DeCA’s 2020 watermelon contest and took second place in the Helos display contest.


Maggie D’Amour

Store Director, Big Y World Class Markets, Chicopee and Westfield, Mass.

Under D’Amour’s leadership, the Big Y World Class Market in Chicopee, Mass., exceeded its 2020 sales budget by 13.6%. She led her team through a minor store remodel in 2020, which resulted in a realignment of the back room to make space for the construction of Big Y’s first micro-fulfillment center. D’Amour, who was reassigned to a Big Y store in Westfield, Mass., in January 2021, is a member of Big Y’s XYZ employee resource group, which aims to bridge generational differences between employees.

Simone Blythe Store Manager, Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) Fort Myer Commissary, Fort Myer, Va.

Liaison to the 89th Airlift Wing, in which capacity she provides food to Air Force One and White House executive chefs, Blythe worked with industry members to obtain products in short supply due to COVID-19. Her food vulnerability assessment on government rations streamlined the processing of the subsistence transaction, reducing processing time and allowing military members more time for missions. Blythe established Project Search with DeCA, providing disabled children with work internships.

TO OUR TOP WOMEN IN GROCERY 2021 Your Leadership Inspires and Strengthens Us

Amanda Albert Advantage Customer Experience Carly Athey SAS Retail Services Aimee Becker Daymon Sarah Bell IN Connected Fran Brinkman EDGE Marketing Courtney Brown SAS Retail Services

Joelle Dove Daymon

Kandayce M. Lee R2 Solutions

Crystal Rossel Advantage Sales

Karey Todd SAS Retail Services

Liz Fogerty EDGE Marketing

Mary Llanos CDS

Jean Ryan Daymon

Christine Gard Daymon

Mariana Manzano CDS

Kimberly Senter Advantage Sales

Ashley Tussing Advantage Customer Experience

Dee Hall Advantage Marketing Partners

Danielle McCormick Daymon

Kelly Silence Waypoint

Hillary McTeer Eventus

Julie Swift Waypoint

Brayanna Montoya Eventus

Laura Sylvester Advantage Customer Experience

Erin Heikkinen Advantage Digital Commerce Anne Hubele Daymon

Trish Myers Daymon

Katherine Burkhardt Daymon

Karen Hunstiger SAS Retail Services

Jen Collins EDGE Marketing

Sara Jarocki EDGE Marketing

Laura Cosgrove Retailtainment

Sharri Johnson R2 Solutions

Julie Rank SAS Retail Services

Elizabeth Croisetiere EDGE Marketing

Jennifer Jones Retailtainment

Whitney Ray Sunflower Group

Stephanie Norton Daymon Betsy Parker Daymon

Jennifer Todd Retailtainment

Cyvellis Vidal Eventus Valerie Whittaker Advantage Sales Taylor Williams Retailtainment Liz Ziegler Waypoint


2021 Top Women in Grocery Tammy Sluck

Ronda Benning

Benning fostered a positive workplace that earned a retention score of 47.7% — outpacing the company average — raised the store’s sanitation score to a 96%; and led her team to increase store sales by 10.3%. She led store associates in a drive to collect blankets, coats and hats for students in need at a local school and school supplies for their teachers; store associates also supported a local retirement facility with flowers, books, crossword puzzles and magazines. Benning also partners with Harvesters, a Feeding America food bank.

Erica Ramirez

Store Director, Family Fare Store #1511, Grayling, Mich.

Store Leader, Dillons Store #088, Topeka, Kan.

Sluck was assigned to the Grayling, Mich., location in January 2020, contributing to its record profit that year; she grew her EBIT by 34%. The store’s number of clickand-collect transactions was below the company average when she arrived, but after some coaching, goal setting and recognition from her, the location raised its click-and-collect transactions by 157% per week. During the pandemic, Sluck partnered with Camp Grayling and its annual turkey dinner, feeding upwards of 850 meal recipients while following all COVID-19 safety precautions.

Store Leader, Food 4 Less Store #338, El Monte, Calif.

An inspirational leader, Ramirez transformed her team by focusing on associates’ career advancement interests, cross-training team members and involving her staff in holiday preparations, while continuing to uphold high standards, healthy habits and adherence to CDC COVID-19 guidelines. She received two prestigious American Eagle Silver Ownership Coins, awarded by Food 4 Less/ Foods Co’s senior leadership for management excellence. Ramirez is her district’s Our Promise chair, and she and her husband are volunteer coaches for their daughter’s soccer team.

Congratulations to Our

TOP WOMEN IN GROCERY WINNER K E L LY D O N O H U E Thank you Kelly for your leadership and dedication in serving our clients and Kroger.


Denise Tejeda

Store Leader, Food 4 Less Store #324, Lynwood, Calif.

Tejeda’s focus on training and people development helped elevate morale in her store by allowing associates to work more hours and have opportunities to learn new tasks, ultimately making them feel more appreciated. As the backup district leader, she stepped in for her district leader when needed, walking stores and leading district conference calls. Tejeda was chosen as the Our Promise team chair for her district, helping to fulfill the Kroger and Food 4 Less Promise of Feeding the Human Spirit of associates and customers with inspiration and uplift.


Malinda Sallee Store Manager, Food City Store #820, Weber City, Va.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Lori Scheller

Store Manager, Fred Meyer Store, Monroe, Wash.

After Sallee proactively implemented COVID-19 safety measures at her store, management called upon her to help develop a company-wide response; later, her store’s pharmacy was among the first approved as a vaccination site.

When her store experienced the first case of COVID-19 in the division, Scheller worked with the Fred Meyer corporate office to develop a process to deal with subsequent occurrences and provided a sense of security to her team.

She was recently selected to serve as the training manager for the district, as well as working to develop future leaders in her store. When the pandemic caused the Santa Train to alter its 77-year tradition of delivering gifts by rail for the underprivileged, Sallee played a key role in hosting the local drive-thru version.

Kristen Childers

Store Leader, Fry’s Food Store #67, Cave Creek, Ariz.

Meghann Wicks Store Leader, Fry’s Marketplace #624, Gilbert, Ariz.

Childers transformed her once outdated, underperforming store into a highly lucrative, upscale modern grocery store destination; in 2020, her store ranked No. 1 in operations for the division, reached a $1 million EBITDA and grew in sales by 19.3%.

Wicks and her team created an incentive and rewards-based program to back Fry’s promise of delivering friendly service; as a result, her store received high marks for customer service, shrink dropped by 43 basis points, and sales increased by $6 million.

She led her store to increase sales by 13.67%, lower shrink by 10 basis points and improve EBITDA by 1.33%, results that outpaced district averages.

She managed a complete remodel of her store while keeping customers shopping and team members focused.

Committed to career development for team members, she was integral to helping two department heads advance to salaried positions last year.

Creating a store culture of community service and participating in all events with her team, Scheller volunteers with the Mukilteo Boys/Girls Club, where she helps raise funds.

At St. Mary’s Food Bank and St. Vincent de Paul, Childers assembles emergency food boxes for people in need; also, she and her Our Promise team made gift baskets for a food bank.

As a United Food Bank volunteer, Wicks helps pack emergency food bags and assists with back-to-school drives, distributing supplies to a local school.



2021 Top Women in Grocery Malinda Thomas Store Leader, Gerbes Store #124, Columbia, Mo.

Thomas led her store to results that outpaced the division average by 88 basis points for Q4. A valued mentor, she used her strong coaching skills and ability to develop future leaders, giving associates the tools that they needed to succeed as they advanced within the company. Thomas is a member of the Women’s EDGE associate resource group, dedicated to supporting women in the grocery industry, and holds the Our Promise team lead position for her district, ensuring that communication reaches all associates and that team members have a channel for feedback.

Over 80 Base Sizes

Cecilia Ottenweller

Store Leader, Giant Eagle Store #23, Sarver, Pa.

Ottenweller helped transform an independently owned store to corporate ownership and led it through a remodel within the first year. She partnered with Concordia Health, serving as a safe shopping destination for more than 100 senior residents, and she works with local high school sports teams to provide away game lunches. Ottenweller and her team were recognized by a local hospital for literally saving a life with their quick first-aid response after a customer had a heart attack in their store.

Donna Prata Store Leader, Giant Eagle Store #69, Pittsburgh

Working in a predominantly Black and underserved community, Prata organized a forum to learn, discuss and identify ways to stand up against racism; she than led discussions with leadership at all levels of the company. Continuing her inclusion, equity and diversity efforts, she is an active member of three business resource groups, inspiring others by recognizing her own lock of understanding of this key topic. Prata works with community leaders to ensure that her store sources products and includes local items that meet area residents’ needs.

Chivon James

Store Manager, Harris Teeter Store #346, Winston-Salem, N.C.

James has been repeatedly recognized for generating excitement and creativity to drive participation in promotional contests, including victories in Floral Rose, Produce Pear and Valentine’s Day Red Velvet sales events. She led an 11% improvement in total store sales, moved the store’s operating profit from losing money last year to being profitable this year, raised productivity levels and customer service scores well above average, and oversaw total store waste reduction. James facilitated a diversity and inclusion training class for Harris Teeter and is a part of the Women’s Resource Group.


Retail Display Solutions



2021 Top Women in Grocery Ina Cavin

Charnita Gordon

Store Director, Ridgeview Hy-Vee Store, Olathe, Kan.

Managing 435 employees in a grocery store and adjacent convenience store; Cavin is committed to strong sales and promotions, and not afraid to go “big” with buys. Last year, the location experienced many weeks of record sales and profits; during the last four quarters, she grew profits by more than 100%, and in one quarter, profits exceeded 200%. The pharmacy at Cavin’s store was chosen to offer contactless COVID-19 molecular PCR (lab), rapid antigen and rapid antibody testing through an outdoor drive-thru testing process.

Store Director, Jewel-Osco Store #3720 Lockport, Ill.

Gordon continues to improve performance: In the past year, the average transaction exceeded $50, a 17% increase; Own Brands have reached 200 basis points over her projection; and during the holidays, her best-in-class merchandising drove average store volume from $650,000 to $800,000. She believes in buying local, with area farms supplying fresh food daily. Gordon mentors new store leaders — this year, she has four new managers in her store — teaching them to drive the bottom line and service customers.

Katie Hanus

Latoya Hooker

Store Director, Jewel-Osco Store #3343, South Elgin, Ill.

Store Director, Jewel-Osco Store #4043, Chicago

Hanus increased year-to-date sales by 24.07%, or $137,000 weekly; shrink improved by 64 basis points, to 2.59% from 3.23%; and EBITDA climbed from 6.63% to 8.60%, a 2.28% increase. She hired an associate “off the street,” mentored the individual, and then promoted that person to manager of dairy, frozen and Drive Up & Go. For five years, Hanus had organized a children’s “trunk or treat” at her store, so when COVID-19 halted 2020’s event, she created candy bags for 400 local children; she also works with local fire and police departments.

Six months after Hooker was made a store director for the first time, George Floyd protesters destroyed much of her East 34th Street Chicago location; within 10 days, she and her team had it up and running again. Last year, the store recorded its first positive earnings in more than 10 years: Earnings increased by $1,733,000 to a positive $254,000, average weekly sales climbed from $340,000 to $490,000, and shrink improved by 127,000/150 basis points. In February, Hooker hosted Black History Month, offering entertainment and samples from local Black-owned businesses.



Learn more here




Found in Produce





2021 Top Women in Grocery Antoinette “Toni” Phillips Store Director, Jewel-Osco Store #0607, Oak Lawn, Ill.

A hands-on manager overseeing 200 employees, Phillips prioritizes fresh departments and in-stock positioning; as a result, sales at her location are now the second highest in the district. Year-over-year average store volume climbed from $625,000 to more than $900,000, a 33% increase; the store was $225,000 over projection in EBITDA sales during the second quarter and $300,000 over in the third, and in shrink, she beat projections by 20 basis points. Phillips has significantly grown the store’s e-commerce business, with weekly sales moving from $10,000 to $100,000.

Anahita Aryaeinejad

Store Leader, Kroger Store #332, Zionsville, Ind.

Aryaeinejad made consistent improvements on controllable store conditions during the pandemic, including a meticulously organized back room, ongoing inventory maintenance to keep store shelves in stock, and leaning in on recognition for the front end team, which achieved “very good” ratings for Front End Friendly. She promoted several team members to leadership positions, developing a more effective team to handle the store’s growth. Aryaeinejad actively supports Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative and encourages her team to participate in fundraising.


Abby Wojnicki Store Director, Jewel-Osco Store #3407, Chicago

Tanya Young Store Director, Jewel-Osco Store #2363, Oak Forest, Ill.

Wojnicki has transformed the culture among her 172 associates: Emphasizing teamwork, customer service, communication and a goal-oriented work ethic, her employee retention rate is 13.58% above the district average.

Young exemplified store leadership during an unprecedented year, as seen by 21% sales growth year over year, 365-basis-point gross margin improvement, 95.7% increase in EBITDA, and green/green scores on all food safety audits.

In 2020, the store had seven managers in training, and she also hired 115 associates and promoted 16.

She launched a pharmacy drive-thru clinic for customers reluctant to pick up prescriptions in-store during the pandemic, and used that opportunity to promote the store’s Drive Up & Go service, boosting pickup orders by 54%.

Wojnicki is skilled in budgeting and operations management, and her efforts are evident in the location’s financial results: EBITDA increased 0.64%, earnings rose $1,424,282, and year-to-date gross profit margin increased by 1.95%.

Amanda Flegal

Store Leader, Kroger Stores #793, Okemos, Mich., and #887, Holt, Mich.

Young donated food and hand sanitizer to local police and fire departments to express gratitude on behalf of the community.

Ashley Johnson Store Leader, Store #774, Versailles, Ky.

Earlier in 2020, Flegal took on the role of interim store leader at store #793, in Okemos, Mich., while still balancing her other position as drug/GM sales manager. She then was named store leader and helped grow sales by more than 13.5%.

Johnson led her team to add another $1.5 million to the bottom line at a rate of 1.48%, which is a 45% increase in EBITDA over the previous year; sales in 2020 improved by double digits, and her store was the first in the division to receive a 90% score from executive leadership.

Not long afterward, she was promoted to a higher-volume store, #887, where she leaned in and improved sales to the extent that the store was considered a top 20 sales-increase store in the Michigan division.

She and her associates grew closer as they planned decisive actions during the challenges related to COVID-19; as more sales shifted online, they were successful in keeping their overall pick rate above the goal of 85%.

Flegal participated in the future leaders program at FMI, where she learned about managing during COVID-19.

Johnson led her store in planning “big and bold” displays that included incremental tie-ins to capture additional sales growth.


Cecilia Schaefer Store Leader, King Soopers Stores #45, Arvada, Colo., and #135, Lafayette, Colo.

During 2020, Schaefer managed King Soopers Store #45, and by year’s end was promoted to Store #135 as a direct result of her outstanding leadership and sales performance; she has since led store #135 to achieve a 17.81% sales increase. As the pandemic shifted sales to buy online/pick up in store, she made sure that store associates could keep up with orders, even fulfilling some orders herself. Schaefer’s district manager lauded her “great coaching and mentoring style,” and noted that her success in training management candidates is because of her “terrific leadership abilities.”

Cynthia Janos Store Leader, Kroger Store #V-493, Clinton, Miss.

Janos led her team to significant improvement in store sales and operations of the store, finishing the year with sales that outpaced the division by 4%; in addition to the sales improvements, her store had a 1.28% decrease in center store shrink. She created a culture of teaching, coaching and training to improve retention in her competitive job market, and was a dedicated mentor and trainer of new management candidates in her district. Janos volunteers at a local food pantry and has championed her store’s sponsorship of the Mississippi Blood Service with monthly blood drives.

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2021 Top Women in Grocery Ashley Merrill

Store Leader, Kroger Marketplace Store #858, Sandusky, Ohio

Merrill’s store fell victim to a devastating arson fire that caused close to $1 million in damage; she managed the crisis by empowering her team and was able to reopen the high-volume location within five days — due in part to her close ties with first responders who initiated fire and health inspections quickly. Despite the fire and COVID-19, her store’s sales increased by more than 8%, preserving its position as one of the district’s revenue leaders. Merrill is an active member of the Women’s EDGE associate resource group in the Columbus division and mentors new store leaders across her district.

Amanda Graaf-Kurta

Executive Store Leader, Market District Store #4086, Strongsville, Ohio

Graaf-Kurta is currently mentoring nine individuals, providing advice, feedback and guidance toward the next step in their careers; for the past four years, she has also stepped up to serve as a mentor in Giant Eagle’s Retail Internship Program. She serves as a store leader master trainer, having already successfully led four assistant store leaders down the path to become store leaders. Graaf-Kurta has also led and participated in several volunteer events, among them fundraisers for the Salvation Army, Rainbow Babies and Children, and the Greater Cleveland Foodbank.


Norma Mijangos Store Leader, Kroger #465, Oakley, Ohio

Arriving to manage the Oakley, Ohio, store just as the COVID-19 shutdowns began, Mijangos initiated such morale-boosting activities as an in-store graduation celebration for approximately 20 high school seniors working at the store; supported by small groups of family and friends, graduates walked up to a podium built at the store as their names were announced on the intercom, and they received bouquets and goodie bags. She and her team opened the building and parking lot to enable local businesses to sell their products. Mijangos’ store donated food and other products to a church feeding those who had become food insecure.

Denise Bower

Store Director, Meijer Store #196, Portage, Mich.

Bower and her team achieved an 11% sales increase and the highest sales ever for their store in 2020, and her store beat both its shrink and fresh shrink goals; Meijer’s survey for team member engagement at her store resulted in the 12th-highest score in the company and the highest in the Kalamazoo, Mich., market. During COVID-19, her store helped area food banks and joined with local schools, providing backpacks to take home food during virtual learning. Bower’s store joined with locally owned eateries, purchasing meals both to thank the store team for its hard work and to support local restaurants.

Caitlin Nydegger

Store Leader, Kroger Store #824, West Lafayette, Ind.


Ann Bradford

Store Manager, Lucky California, #750, Dublin, Calif.

Nydegger leads a high-volume store doing more than $1 million in sales weekly and oversees approximately 230 associates; in 2020, her team achieved identical-sales growth 4.25 percentage points above the budgeted goal, despite the pandemic.

Bradford’s strong leadership skills led her team to sales of more than $9 million, making her store the fifth most profitable under the Lucky/Lucky California banner; she exceeded sales projection by $867,129, EBITDA projection by $610,769, and shrink percentage versus budget results by more than 1.23%.

With a focus on operational excellence, she led her team to deliver strong results in cost control and decreased shrink by more than the store’s budgeted goal.

She collaborated with the ethnic team to reach new households, increasing sales and profits in these categories.

Nydegger is involved in community activities through her division’s Women’s EDGE associate resource group; she also led her store team to participate in Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative.

Amy Griffis

Store Director, Meijer Store #137, Lafayette, Ind.

In a rough year, Griffis and her team exceeded their sales goal by more than $8 million and their shrink plan by .08%, and also surpassed goals in direct margin, labor/wages and variable expense; further, she went beyond her total direct contribution plan by more than $2 million. She is currently mentoring two line leaders, a team leader and two team members. Griffis has won several awards and earned her Food Retail Certificate; active in her community, she volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement and other organizations, and serves as the chair for the Women at Meijer division in her region.

As the force behind many events — the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, the Easter egg hunt, a scavenger hunt, and more — Bradford was given the Community Involvement Award and the Community Partner Award by the company’s partner school.

Andrea Pickens Store Director, Meijer Store #051, Findlay, Ohio

Having just completed her first full year as a store director, Pickens is highly appreciative of her team and shows that through special events; the store team also participates in community outreach together. Even during COVID-19, the team provided much needed support to the store’s community through financial assistance and acts of service, especially for City Mission, a homeless shelter. Pickens was selected by senior leadership to participate in the FMI Future Leaders Food Retail Certificate Program, which she successfully completed, and she was named the Toledo Market White Glove Champion for Meijer.

Stop & Shop is Proud of our Top Women in Grocery Congratulations to this year’s nominees! Your inspirational leadership and contributions to Stop & Shop, and the communities we serve, make the small wins possible every day.

Essence Souffrant Claudia Cicerone MaryKate Ronan Social Media Manager Produce & Floral Specialist Store Manager Rising Star Award Rising Star Award Store Manager Award

Kelly Griffin Perishable Manager Rising Star Award

Brittany Stevens Home Shopping Facility Manager Store Manager Award

Becky Milotte Stephanie Duffy Store Manager Center Store Manager Store Manager Award Rising Star Award

Jessica Noonan Home Shopping Facility Manager Store Manager Award

Claudine Kendrick Home Shopping Facility Manager Store Manager Award



2021 Top Women in Grocery Kelli Quintana

Store Director, Meijer Store #179, Coldwater, Mich.

Quintana achieved exceptional financial results in the past year: She increased top-line sales by 19% and direct margin by 16% when compared with last year. Her work with several team members resulted in four being promoted into their first leadership positions; she also focused on the growth and development of her leadership staff. Quintana serves as a market mentor for new store directors; she completed a leadership certification course through FMI and currently attends Grand Rapids Community College, pursuing a retail management certificate.

Elesha Prince

Store Manager, Publix Store #0723, Decatur, Ga.

Having been transferred to a new store during the COVID-19 pandemic, Prince quickly met one on one with every associate to learn about their career goals, personal ambitions and outside interests. She led a mentoring program for newly promoted managers in her district; her track record includes 15 associate promotions into management roles. Prince took on additional district responsibilities with community projects to ensure that her district team was visible and impactful in the communities that they served.


Cassandra Robinson

Store Director, Meijer Store #318, Lorain, Ohio

Robinson led her team leaders in teaching, training and coaching a staff of 350 for a new store opening while COVID-19 protocols were in place; she worked with the construction team to safely open the store without outside store support teams or vendors to build fixtures, set planograms, or stock shelves and displays.

Lynn Wottell

Lead Pharmacist, Osco Drug Store #2488, Bourbonnais, Ill.

At Wottell’s pharmacy, sales increased 5% last year. Her team administered 2,700 flu shots, a 20% increase, while the number of Shingrix vaccines averaged 20 weekly, a 10% increase. She also ran several off-site COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

The new store has exceeded sales expectations, ending the year with $31 million versus a plan of $26 million in sales; it currently has a 23% market share.

When COVID-19 closed many doctors’ offices, her team offered injections for patients with behavioral issues, prepared medications for a local nursing home and administered flu vaccines at a homeless shelter.

Robinson serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Club.

Wottell often delivered medications to patients personally.

Abbie Van Wagner

Assistant Store Manager, Publix Store #1111, Gainesville, Fla.

With her creative mind and eye for merchandising, Van Wagner championed efforts that are now corporately sponsored events, such as displays for national food holidays and Pi Day. She conducted informal research on how to better appeal to Gen Z associates through surveying and statistical analysis, and then implemented programs to better meet the needs of a changing workforce. Van Wagner demonstrates her commitment to the wider community by tutoring children who are learning English.

Josie Blake

Store Director, Safeway Store #379, Grants Pass, Ore.

By relying on careful planning and execution, Blake led her team to excel, resulting in a 17% year-over-year increase in sales and department profits above the district average. Seen as a positive leader among store directors in the district, she has been selected to mentor new store directors in everyday operations. During record-breaking Oregon wildfires, Blake helped coordinate a canned-food drive for local victims; she also volunteered for an outreach team affiliated with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.


Tiena Davis

Store Manager, Publix Store #0561, Marietta, Ga.

Davis challenged department managers to work as one unit, which led her store to have an organized back room and storage areas, produce high-quality items, and consistently offer outstanding customer service. She was recognized by the district as one of the top coaches by other store managers, and as well as mentoring new store managers, she invests in each of her associates, which helps supply the district with more contenders leading to management. Davis’ annual associate satisfaction results included an overall score of 86.4%.

Reannon Emmot

Store Director, Safeway Store #2908, Eureka, Calif.

In addition to adapting to the challenges of COVID-19, Emmot provided outstanding leadership and community support amid the stresses of nearby wildfires and California public-safety power shutdowns. As one of the top performers in her district, she achieved a yearover-year sales increase of 19%, and an 11% increase in EBITDA in 2020. Emmot is a local managerial resource and mentor for the directors of the five other stores in her market, and she’s working with her own mentor as she aspires to a district-level position.


2021 Top Women in Grocery Felicia Fisher Store Director, Safeway Store #2449, Napa, Calif.

Fisher started 2020 managing an inner-city location in Vallejo, Calif., where she improved store standards, merchandising and associate engagement. After the store was looted during civil unrest, she and her associates arrived the next morning at sunrise to commence cleaning, and the store was open for business within hours. Following those successes, Fisher was assigned to manage a store in Napa, Calif., with 72% higher volume; since her arrival, the store has achieved green/green/green scores in food safety and top Hunger Bag sales in its area.

Monica Madary Store Director, Safeway Store #382, Portland, Ore.

Madary keeps her store team focused on results with a direct leadership style and high standards as she manages a store in a high-poverty location; she’s an active participant in frequent community and city meetings to discuss challenging local issues. Multilingual and able to speak Cantonese, she helps her division with translation and associate training for its Chinese Chef program. Madary frequently works with local organizations on city beautification efforts and community cleanup projects; During the COVID-19 pandemic, she began a partnership with the Portland Rescue Mission.


Cassandra Hall Store Director, Safeway Store #2790, Portland, Ore.

Mallory Kauble Store Director, Safeway Store #1751, Molalla, Ore.

The store Hall manages is located in an area that experienced outbreaks of unrest, rioting and looting for months after civil rights protests ended elsewhere, but Hall continued to execute at a high level while maintaining a safe store environment for customers and associates.

Kauble was recently appointed store director at a high-volume store, where she calmly led her team through the Oregon wildfires that closed the store for four days; she reopened the store with minimal staffing, as evacuations affected some associates.

Her district manager described her as a “strong leader who commands and receives a high level of respect” from her associates, leadership team and customers.

She has taken on additional responsibilities at times, such as covering for the district’s bakery operations specialist and leading a private label challenge in which her district took first place.

Hall is a Retail Leadership Development trainer and frequently volunteers at homeless shelters near her store.

Staci Marshall

Store Director, Safeway Store #1472, Mount Vernon, Wash.

Under Marshall’s leadership, her store exceeded budgeted sales targets and earned food safety green scores for total store food safety, total store sanitation, no food safety issues in the deli, and no sanitation issues in that department. She graduated from the Retail Leadership Certificate program in December and serves as district trainer for the assistant store director program, helping to coach, teach and train nine associates who have become assistant store directors, and currently mentoring two more. Marshall’s store almost doubled its budget for selling Hunger Bags to customers for donation to local food banks.

Kauble donated grocery and deli items to sustain firefighters battling the wildfires.

Donna Lambert Store Manager, Save Mart Store, Ceres, Calif.

Lambert has been instrumental in putting together innovation training programs for the new flagship store in Modesto, Calif.; she was an integral part of the planning and training that went into making this store a success.


Amber Krantz Store Director, Safeway Store #1827, La Grande, Ore.

Krantz navigated the challenges of COVID-19 without an assistant store director and still managed to achieve record-setting sales in her store. As a member of the Retail Leadership Development program, she mentored, developed and trained two grocery managers. Krantz was actively engaged with the Friday Backpack Program, which provides elementary school students in need with food for weekends and holidays; she acts as a role model for giving back in the community and recruits many of her associates to volunteer with her.

April Ricci

Store Director, Shaw’s Store # 2579, Hyde Park, Mass.

By bringing in new equipment and focusing on customer service and generating loyalty, Ricci increased seafood department sales by more than 50% and drove out local competition.

She led her team to increase sales to $28.6 million, a $8 million increase, while gross sales rose to $10.5 million, a 36.6% uptick.

Her positive feedback from the associate experience survey ranked highest in the district and placed in the top 10 for the entire division.

Lambert is deeply involved with the Ceres, Calif., community: She serves on the Ceres Chamber of Commerce board of directors, participated in the Ceres Street Faire, assisted in organizing the annual Agribusiness Luncheon and Wine Stroll, and helped clean up the on/off ramps along Highway 99.

Ricci was voted Human of the Month by the Keep Massachusetts Beautiful organization for her efforts in cleaning and maintaining the exterior of her store, and was recognized by the Boston Celtics organization, the NBA and MA Lottery as a Hero Among Us for her community efforts during the pandemic.


Tiffany Jackson Logistics Manager

Learn more at


2021 Top Women in Grocery Jena Good

General Manager, Shelton’s Grocery, Waurika, Okla., and Walters Hometown Grocery, Walters, Okla.

In March 2020, Good began her own social media project, The Grocery Gal, to promote the supermarket industry and the two stores she manages; she worked to address hot topics like sales tax and rising egg prices, and spent countless hours advocating for the industry. In January 2021, she received a Gold Plate Award in the Rising Star category from the FMI Foundation for a Family Meals Month program that she executed. Good has participated in the Shop Local Waurika Committee for the Waurika Chamber of Commerce for the past two years; in 2020, she turned in-person events into safe experiences.

Nicole Tapp

Store Director, Tom Thumb Store #0296, McKinney, Texas

Tapp creates exciting themed events that draw customers into her store and elevate total store sales; her high store standards and innovative merchandising helped raise total store sales by more than 18% for the year on average. She facilitates center store conference calls, travels to individual stores for inventory checks and assists with the process, as well as overseeing center store merchandising guidelines to help stores execute their marketing plans. In a first for her store, Tapp fulfilled an $11,000 turkey order for a school district that fed 750 families in the community, personally delivering the turkeys to the high school.


Jessica Fernandez

Store Manager, Smart & Final Store #727, Compton, Calif.

As store manager, Fernandez concentrates on associate development, which led to a record-breaking year financially; to make sure that her associates are all on the same page, she holds huddles with her team, during which important information is communicated. Her store was in an area of civil unrest, but she and her team kept a positive attitude and continually partnered with the community in any way possible; as a result, her comparative-store sales beat both budgeted sales and profit numbers. Fernandez volunteers with Reading across America and a local program helping specialneeds adults.

Donna Grimes Store Manager, Tops Store #578, Elmira, N.Y.

Grimes’ team achieved approximately $2 million above her budgeted sales, boosted total store margin dollars by $1.09 million versus the prior year and improved total shrink by 0.78% basis points. She motivated her staffers to exceed projected goals for community fundraisers, leading them to raise an extra 4% collectively for organizations such as United Way and Children’s Miracle Network. Grimes took on a district training role for incoming operations managers and managers on duty, and worked with the training and development department as an observer for the simulated “day in the life of a store manager” training program.

Celina Ramirez Store Manager, Smart & Final Store #432, Mountain View, Calif.

Ramirez put programs in place to improve the overall financial performance of her store, achieving a more than 20% comparative-store sales increase, and her shrink efforts paid off: Store #432 was removed from the Shrink Focus program, becoming one of the lowest-shrink locations in the district; this improved her management-adjusted EBITDA by almost 700% versus the prior year. She volunteered for the additional responsibilities of hiring and staffing her district, ensuring that there were enough employees during the pandemic. Ramirez helped drive participation in company donation programs such as Olive Crest and the City of Hope mobile drive.

Audrey Brayshaw

Store Director, Trig’s, Minocqua, Wis.

As a store director, Brayshaw is able to build successful teams, using her inspirational leadership style to turn morale around and foster a positive place to work, all while increasing profitability. While working as a director of the grocer’s produce and floral departments, she developed new programs, sourced products, led merchandising and assisted store teams at eight locations, leading to a 12% increase in sales. Brayshaw is currently assisting the grocer with its training systems to improve associate engagement, and ultimately retention, which will help it work to overcome and reduce costs of turnover.


Lynettte Hatley Store Director, Super 1 Foods Store #628, Pine Bluff, Ark.

From January through April 2020, Hatley led two Super 1 Foods stores simultaneously until an opening could be filled at one of the locations. Selected in February 2020 to lead her current store, she was able to keep her employee turnover rate well below the company’s average throughout the pandemic; meanwhile, sales increased 11.42%, gross profit increased 2.59%, and shrink was reduced by 1.20%. Hatley was selected as a Store Director of the Year in 2020 for Brookshire Grocery Co.; in addition to her work, she is deeply involved in the Pine Bluff, Ark., community through her volunteer efforts.

Yolanda Schultz Store Director, Vons Stores #3058, Yucca Valley, Calif., #2374, Big Bear Lake, Calif.

At her current store, Schultz increased sales by 17%, her EBITDA was $1.8 million over the projection, and her flow-through was 28%. Despite the difficulties of pandemic, she successfully completed a store remodel in June 2020. In September 2020, Schultz took on a temporary assignment to run one of the top stores in the division; her innovative ideas to improve the store’s operations and the positive impact that her leadership had on the associates led to her permanent transfer to the store. At her previous store, in Yucca Valley, Calif., she produced positive sales growth and improved EBITDA numbers each year.

CONGRATULATIONS to Our Top Women in Grocery

Colleen Thompson

Farrah Rivers

Carrie Higgs

Leticia Thomas

Senior Manager, Brand Engagement UNFI

Facility Maintenance Manager, UNFI

Manager, Community Relations Cub

Senior Director, Diversity & Inclusion — Retail and Shoppers Human Resources

Margie Judd

Erin Suomala

Angela Schelske

Director, Customer Experience Cub

Manager, Clinical Services Cub

Category Manager, Cub

Thank you for continuously solving, creating and discovering for our people, industry and planet. Building Better.


Female Leadership


emale CEOs may remain few and far between across the grocery industry, but there have been notable developments of late. For example, three of the top 10 companies in The PG 100 ranking of North America’s largest retailers of food and consumables are now led by women, after a series of key executive changes during the past 18 months, with eight companies in the complete list headed by female CEOs. It’s also worth noting that future ranks of women in the food retailing C-suite could soon expand, judging from the volume of senior executives recognized in the past two years in Progressive Grocer’s Top Women in Grocery (TWIG) program. Now in its 15th year, the three-tiered program, which recognizes Store Managers, Rising Stars and Senior-Level Executives, saw 91 Senior-Level Executive women recognized as TWIG winners in 2021. That’s a record number, up from 88 the prior year, which was also a record number. This suggests that there’s an ample pipeline of talent available to ascend to the C-suite when opportunities arise, and assuming that retailers follow through on what have been fairly vocal public commitments to achieving increased gender diversity. Until then, here’s a look at the women who lead some of the nation’s largest retailers of food and consumables. 136


Female Leadership

Rosalind Brewer, CEO, Walgreens Boots Alliance

Annual Sales: $107.7 billion (U.S. retail only) Store Count: 9,021 The PG 100 rank: No. 5 Rosalind Brewer became CEO of Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) in March 2021, after having been COO of Starbucks since October 2017. Prior to that, she was president and CEO of Sam’s Club for five years and earlier, she held key senior operational roles with Walmart and Kimberly-Clark. Brewer has her hands full at WBA as the company looks to leverage its strengths as a convenient and accessible neighborhood drug store while playing an expanded role in the nation’s health care delivery system.

Karen Lynch, President and CEO, CVS Health

Annual Sales: $91.2 billion (U.S. retail only) Store Count: 9,962 The PG 100 rank: No. 7 Karen Lynch was named president and CEO of Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health exactly one month before Brewer landed the top job at WBA. Unlike Brewer, Lynch spent three decades in the health care industry and was president of the Aetna division of CVS before she was tapped to succeed Larry Merlo as CEO. Lynch is on a mission to make health care simpler, more convenient and more personalized, and retail stores play a key role in that strategy. While total revenues at CVS Health exceed those of WBA, since The PG 100 ranking is based on retail sales, CVS Health ranks lower than WBA.

Heyward Donigan, President and CEO, Rite Aid

Kathryn McClay, President and CEO, Sam’s Club

Annual Sales: $63.9 billion Store Count: 599 The PG 100 Rank: No. 9 Kathryn McClay was named president and CEO of Bentonville, Ark.-based Sam’s Club in November 2019, after spending the prior five years in various operational and strategy roles with Walmart, Sam’s Club’s parent company. McClay joined Walmart after spending nearly 15 years in key roles at Australia’s Woolworths Group. But while she may lead the ninth-largest retailer on The PG 100, McClay isn’t the highest-ranking female executive at the Walmart organization: That distinction belongs to Judith McKenna, who has been president and CEO of the Walmart International division, with sales roughly double those of Sam’s Club, since 2018.

Annual Sales: $24 billion Store Count: 2,510 The PG 100 rank: No. 19 Heyward Donigan has been president and CEO of Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid since August 2019. Like her counterpart at CVS Health, Donigan brought a rich background in health care and insurance to Rite Aid, having previously held roles at Premera Blue Cross and Cigna. She joined Rite Aid from Sapphire Digital, a developer of online platforms to locate health care providers, and was also president and CEO of ValueOptions, a provider of behavioral health services.


Colleen Wegman, President and CEO, Wegmans Food Markets

Annual Sales: $10.7 billion Store Count: 105 The PG 100 Rank: No. 35 Colleen Wegman was named president and CEO of the Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans chain in early 2017, when she succeeded her father, Danny, as head of the family-owned business. Although the CEOs of the nation’s three largest drug chains and Sam’s Club may rank higher on The PG 100, Wegman has the distinction of being the highest-ranking female CEO of a retailer viewed as more of a traditional grocer. Wegman has maintained the company’s focus on quality and service, which have earned it a passionate following among shoppers, while pursuing entry into new markets.

Nicole Pesco, CEO, The Save Mart Cos.

Annual Sales: $5.3 billion Store Count: 206 The PG 100 Rank: No. 51 Nicole Pesco was named CEO of The Save Mart Cos. in December 2016, after previous stints as co-president and chief strategy and branding officer. At the time, she filled a position that had been held by her father, Bob Piccinini, who died in 2015 and was the longtime chairman and CEO of the family-owned company. In some respects, Modesto, Calif.-based Save Mart is a West Coast version of Wegmans, in that it has been led for a comparable length of time by the former CEO’s daughter.

Beyond Food and Consumables In the larger retailer universe, women lead some of the nation’s most notable retailers, which are leaders in their various sectors. For example, there’s Corrie Barry, CEO at Best Buy; former Home Depot CFO Carol Tome, who is now CEO of UPS; and Michelle Gass, Barbara Rentler, Sonia Syngal and Lauren Hobart, CEOs of Kohl’s, Ross Stores, Gap Inc., and Dick’s Sporting Goods, respectively. There have also been some notable departures of female CEOs, including Mary Dillon and Jill Soltau, the former CEOs of Ulta Beauty and J.C. Penney, respectively, who have stepped down from their positions in the past six months.

Alice Chen, CEO, 99 Ranch Market

Annual Sales: $1.3 billion Store Count: 54 The PG 100 Rank: No. 92 Alice Chen became CEO of Buena Park, Calif.-based 99 Ranch in 2019, after 10 years as the company’s CFO. She also spent time as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs. Under Chen’s leadership, the Asian grocer has focused on expansion of its already nationwide footprint in major Northeastern, Southern and West Coast markets with large concentrations of Asian shoppers. The company was founded in 1984 by Roger Chen, Alice’s father.

Mimi Song, chairman and CEO, Superior Grocers

Annual Sales: $865 million Store Count: 46 The PG 100 Rank: No. 98 Mimi Song founded Superior Grocers in 1981 after immigrating to the United States from South Korea in 1977. As president and CEO, she leads one of the nation’s largest independent retailers, with a strong concentration of stores in Southern California. As the company observes its 40 th anniversary this year, it has been focused on growing a new, smaller-format concept called The Market by Superior.




DEI: It Starts at the Top

one accountable to workplace progress. While it can be hard at first, being honest about where you are earns the trust of your employees — and customers. Be transparent about where you are now to show that you’re doing the hard work.


Changing the Game

ny right-thinking person can acknowledge that individuals deserve equity in all parts of life, including in our workplaces. Employees deserve to feel that they can bring their full selves to work, and no one should be discriminated against or experience bias in the workplace. Acknowledging that truth, though, is just the first step. Whether your organization has employees around the globe or just a few in your hometown, a commitment to DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) matters to the people who work for you. At NEW, we strive daily to provide solutions for our corporate partners that help them build a workplace where everyone gets a fair shake. That can’t happen without complete buy-in and confidence from those at the top of the leadership ladder. You must walk the walk for DEI efforts to reach their full potential. Stated DEI goals and transparent reporting are great ways to hold every-


Accountability breeds confidence and ensures that everyone is onboard with making strides toward equity. Then it’s time to change the game. Acknowledging privilege is a great place to start. For example, we know that women, particularly women of color, are underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. Removing names and identifying information from resumés corrects for the possibility that unconscious bias — and the tendency for human beings to identify with those who most resemble themselves – is creating a homogenous workforce that isn’t inclusive. That’s one small change that could make all the difference. Educating yourself is another powerful step. Dozens of articles have been written listing the resources that those with

DEI efforts may start small, but they have an outsized impact on your employees. privilege can leverage to educate themselves — take a look at a few and set yourself a reading list. It’s not the responsibility of marginalized groups to educate others; it’s the responsibility of those who want to do right by others to educate themselves.

No Tolerance for Intolerance

One of the strongest steps that you can take is something that every employee, from the most junior to a CEO, can put into practice: speaking up. There’s no more powerful show of support than backing up a colleague when you witness bias and intolerance. Show your employees by example that they work in an environment where all are welcome. Embrace awkward conversations. While it’s important to speak up, be willing to listen to others when something you yourself have said is brought to your attention. React with openness to criticism and a willingness to listen, and you’ll continue to set a model of trust and safety for those around you.

A Better Future

DEI efforts may start small, but they have an outsized impact on your employees. When you build equity into your business model, you’ll be rewarded with a happier workplace, improved retention, and the trust and confidence of your employees and customers. At NEW, Advancing All Women is what we do every day, but any organization can make DEI a key tenet of their business and reap the rewards that come with it.

Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women (NEW), a nonprofit learning, leadership and gender equality advocacy organization of 13,500-plus members representing nearly 900 organizations, 300-plus national and regional corporate partners, and 22 regional groups in the United States and Canada. NEW advances gender equality and diversity in the retail, consumer goods, financial services and technology industries. Alter joined NEW in 2017 and has wide-ranging experience in the markets that NEW represents.




Albertsons Cos.

ALBERTSONS ACCELERATES TECHNOLOGY TRANSFORMATION Operational improvements, new digital initiatives, and partnerships with Google and Adobe fuel an epic transformation at the grocer. By Mike Troy


is a word used frequently throughout retail, but a company’s actions can often fall short of the hype. Efforts by some retailers to improve operations or enhance digital programs feel like a routine part of the continuous-improvement process, as opposed to the type of step change that warrants use of the word “transformational.” Not so with Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos. When CEO Vivek Sankaran describes 2020 as a transformational year for the $69.7 billion operator of 2,277 stores, there are plenty of solid examples underpinning his assertion. For starters, the company transformed its ownership structure amid the sales volatility, supply chain disruption and uncertainty of a pandemic. It pulled off a public stock offering by selling 50 million shares at $16 apiece on June 25, 2020. Finally, the company was free of the drama and distractions that come from shifting ownership structures. Albertsons’ recent history has been highly tumultuous, going back to 2014 and the announced merger with Safeway, followed by a planned but then aborted IPO in 2015, and a protracted integration process. That was followed by an attempted and then aborted acquisition of Rite Aid in 2018, which would have taken the company public. 142

Albertsons at a Glance 2,270 stores and 400 fuel stations 22 banners in 34 states and the District of Columbia No. 1 or No. 2 market share in 67% of markets Home delivery in 12 of top 15 U.S. markets 22 distribution centers and 20 food and beverage plants More than 25 million loyalty card members 30 million customers per week




Albertsons Cos. Last year’s IPO may have been less than the originally planned 65.8 million shares at $18 to $20, but the completion of the deal was an important catalyst for Albertsons’ ongoing transformation and pursuit of a strategy to be locally great and nationally strong.

A New Era Begins

Albertsons is in the midst of an epic transformation, much of it involving technology and data, which could have a substantial impact on the food retailing landscape over the course of the next decade. It’s a transformation that began a little more than two years ago, with a series of unconventional senior leadership moves, the most notable of which involved Sankaran. When he became CEO on April 25, 2019, it was a turning point for the company, which had previously been led by veteran food industry executives Jim Donald and Robert Miller. Sankaran was a veteran food executive, too, but he had taken a different career path, rising through the CPG side of the industry. He joined Albertsons after serving as CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America and also having led the company’s Frito-Lay division. A few months after he was hired, Sankaran made several key executive moves that would be central to the company’s transformation. In September 2019, Geoff White was elevated to the role of chief merchandising officer after a previous stint as president of Albertsons Own Brands. White filled a role formerly held by veteran merchandising execuAlbertsons introduced a record 1,200 Own Brands last year and has set a 30% sales penetration target.


tive Shane Sampson, who left the company. Chad Coester was elevated to the role of SVP of Own Brands after having been group VP under White. Having the former head of Albertsons Own Brands running all of merchandising would prove to be a key move, as Albertsons set a goal of increasing its Own Brands penetration rate to 30% from 23% in 2017. A precise timetable wasn’t given, but considerable inroads have been made since White’s appointment. Albertsons’ Own Brands portfolio now consists of more than 13,000 items, of which 1,200 were introduced last year and more than 900 were introduced in 2019. That helped Own Brands sales increase 13% to $14.8 billion as the penetration rate topped 25%. The company plans to launch roughly 800 items annually in the coming years, in pursuit of a 30% penetration goal.

A Year of Digital Achievement

Efforts in Own Brands have had an immediate impact on sales and profits, but it’s Albertsons’ efforts regarding digital transformation that have helped the company remain relevant with shoppers and positioned it for longer-term success. While White’s elevation to head merchant was significant, the appointment a few months later of a former Microsoft and Amazon executive to lead digital efforts really stood out. Chris Rupp began as Albertsons’ chief customer and digital officer on Dec. 3, 2019, after having been the general manag-


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Albertsons Cos. More than 30 million people shop at Albertsons' 22 banners each week.

er for the Xbox business engineering team at Microsoft. Prior to her three years at Microsoft, Rupp spent 11 years with Amazon in merchandising roles, held the position of VP of Prime and was part of the team that launched the first Prime Day. Those are impressive digital credentials for a traditional grocer to add to its leadership ranks. The increased focus on digital proved timely, and was a key driver of the 16.9% identical-store sales growth in the 2020 fiscal year ended Feb. 27. In the fourth quarter, digital sales growth accelerated 282%, and the company’s Just for U loyalty program gained bertsons a nonfood retailing background, having new members and increased usage among existing members. previously been chief data officer at American Ex“Membership in our Just for U loyalty program continued press. At Albertsons, Crop is responsible for buildto accelerate sequentially and has been up over 20% year over ing and executing a world-class central data strateyear each quarter, and it’s now at 25.4 million members, with gy that delivers benefits for the customer regardless a 93.1% retention rate,” Sankaran said during the company’s of whether they shop in store or on the compafourth-quarter earnings call. “These members have been a ny’s digital platforms. Her work will use machine key driver of share gains, as they spend 2.6 times more than learning and advanced data science capabilities to non-registered customers. We have also increased the number enhance performance. of actively engaged customers almost 10%, who spent nearly “How we translate what we get from data into five times more than a non-active customer.” an enhanced customer experience will further The pandemic aided demand at Albertsons’ stores, as it did differentiate us as a locally great and nationally at other retailers, and the company moved fast to capitalize on strong retailer,” Rupp said at the time that Crop shoppers’ digital preferences. In the fourth quarter, order-onjoined the company. line-and-pickup-at-stores capability branded as Drive Up & Go All indications are Rupp, Crop and Albertsons (DUG) was launched at 343 more locations, giving Albertsons a merchants across its 13 divisions are going to have year-end total of 1,420 stores with DUG service. “This puts us ahead of schedule, and we now expect to have DUG in approximately 2,000 By combining the stores, with 98% coverage by the end of fiscal grocery shopping year 2021, above our prior target of over 1,800 stores,” Sankaran said. “We are also extreme- ecosystem of Albertsons ly pleased about the profit curve in our digital and the AI, technology and business, particularly in DUG.” platforms of Google, we can The expansion of DUG was part of a $300 build disruptive grocery million investment in digital that also involved the development of micro-fulfillment centers shopping experiences at an (MFCs). Albertsons opened its third MFC ear- unprecedented scale.” lier this year and plans to bring six additional —Chris Rupp, Chief Customer facilities online before year end. and Digital Officer, Albertsons

More Innovation Ahead

More recently, Albertsons made another key digital move by appointing Danielle Crop chief data officer. Like former Microsoft and Amazon executive Rupp, Crop brings to Al146

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In just over 6 years, RecorGroup has built a reputation as the leading customer-focused, data- and insights-driven boutique broker in the Northwest, specializing in The Albertsons Companies and WinCo Foods. Progressive Grocer spoke with Managing Partner Jon Bunten to learn how the company is breaking away from the tired old brokerage model to deliver exceptional results for CPG companies. Progressive Grocer: Why did you start a brokerage in 2014 when so many companies were already in that space? Jon Bunten: We wanted to redefine brokerage. Most legacy brokers have forgotten what it is all about. We threw out the old model and built a new one, focused on doing what’s right for our clients, being the absolute customer experts and arming our teams with tools and knowledge to be entrepreneurs and drive meaningful sales. We are an extension of our sales partners’ teams, which means sharing the drive, the vision and fighting for their success every day, even when it’s hard. Progressive Grocer: I’ve seen references to “The Recor Way.” What does that mean? JB: It’s our core values in action. The first of those, “Service to our clients,” boils down to, “We do what we say we’ll do.” It’s simple, but it’s hard for most companies to execute. We believe success comes from doing little things right — working hard, fixing problems quickly and being hungry to learn and win. And winning is what we all ultimately want, right? PG: Analytics is becoming essential in grocery retailing. How does that impact what you’re doing? JB: In this rapidly evolving industry, every manufacturer knows that making good use of data analytics is becoming increasingly important. Because the future of sales is insight- and relationship-driven, we continue to invest in our analytics team and train our business managers to better understand these insights


and how to best utilize them. This allows us to leverage new technology and provide more actionable insights quickly, which is an almost paralyzing task for mid-size manufacturers but key to success. Other brokers hand clients a presentation or simple spreadsheet without much of an analytics component. This outdated approach will not lead to success. We take an insights-first approach to presentations, but we train with our business managers and sales teams to understand the insights and how to properly leverage them. Our analytics professionals often attend sales calls to create a unified front. Our team is analyzing multiple sources to understand shoppers, their purchases, and what will create loyalty; these are the types of compelling selling stories that lead to meaningful sales. PG: Do you have an example of a client success to share? JB: In 2018, RecorGroup started representing Guittard Chocolate Company, which has been making delicious baking, eating and drinking chocolate for professionals and home cooks alike for over 150 years. By focusing on distribution and brand performance, we helped more than double Guittard’s business at Albertsons in two years — that included a 158% increase in distribution and a 119% increase in dollar sales..

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Albertsons Cos. Fresh departments and responsible sourcing practices are key elements of Albertsons' value proposition.

a lot more data to leverage, but they are also going to have two major tech leaders to help them leverage it. Since the beginning of the year, Albertsons has revealed major partnerships with Google and then Adobe. After collaborating behind the scenes for the past year, Albertsons and Mountain View, Calif.-based Google launched several enhancements, including shoppable maps with dynamic hyperlocal features, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered conversational commerce, and predictive grocery list building via Google Cloud. “By combining the grocery shopping ecosystem of Albertsons and the AI, technology and platforms of Google, we can build disruptive grocery shopping experiences at an unprecedented scale,” Rupp tells Progressive Grocer. “Our partnership launched in April 2020 with a virtual Innovation Day in which hundreds of ideas were distilled into a mission to redefine how people shop. Since then, we have been experimenting with new experiences and shopping journeys that have begun to make an impact.” As for San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe, Albertsons will work with the company to better harness data to drive increased personalization from the grocer’s growing Just 4 U loyalty program, among other things. With the help of Adobe, Albertsons expects to make sense of disparate sets of data and understand shopper intent as people move among different channels. The companies contend that actionable insights, available to any team, will make every interaction customized and relevant, and that deeper customer insights will help form a better idea of the kinds of offerings that shoppers will respond to best, as well as shape the development of new services. “After growing our e-commerce business 258% year over year, equipping over 1,000 stores with curbside pickup and refreshing our mobile app, we are investing now in differentiated services such as temperature-controlled pickup kiosks, two-hour fulfillment and even remote-controlled delivery robots,” Rupp says. “As we boost our omnichannel offerings, we are relying on Adobe Experience Cloud apps to help us get more value from data and leverage cross-channel insights to improve the overall shopping experience. Partners like Adobe will help Albertsons reimagine the future of grocery shopping.”

New Capabilities Loom

Albertsons’ willingness to partner with technology leaders such as Google and Adobe speaks loudly to a desire to achieve true 150

transformation. Hints of what lies ahead for Albertsons shoppers can be found in the emerging technologies that all three companies are looking to exploit. For example, in the area of natural-language processing (NLP) technology, Rupp notes that there has been significant progress. “Because voice is the most natural form of communication, we believe it is time for us to use this mode of interaction with customers in certain circumstances,” she says. “We are in the beginning stages of exploring use cases, and excited to partner with Google in developing innovative customer experiences.” Beyond customer-facing applications, Rupp notes that Albertsons is “exploring various use cases for NLP to support in-store operations to empower associates to save time and make better decisions. Since Google is the leader in NLP tech-

Albertsons advanced its technology transformation recently with the appointment of Danielle Crop as chief data officer.


Albertsons Cos. Albertsons' customer experience is being enhanced through technology investments and partnerships with Google and Adobe.

nology, we are very excited about what lies ahead.” The partnership’s rollouts will build on projects already implemented to improve the customer experience. Albertsons and Google are now making it even easier for customers to pick up groceries or have them delivered by providing pertinent information about online ordering from many Albertsons stores directly within a mobile search — a functionality coming to Google Maps later this year. “Albertsons Cos. is leading the way in bringing innovative technologies to the grocery store aisle,” says Carrie Tharp, VP of retail and consumer, Google Cloud.

According to the companies, they have an unprecedented strategic and technical collaboration that sets the stage for sustained post-pan-

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Albertsons Cos. demic transformation and momentum, because the surface is just being scratched. “We continue to partner with numerous teams at Google to combine the power of AI with grocery,” Rupp says. “The areas that we believe to be most impactful for our customers are creating a more convenient shopping experience and ensuring outstanding fulfillment accuracy. We are focused on driving innovation in these areas with Google.”

Other Types of Transformation

Old-Fashioned Growth While Albertsons Cos.’s digital business has posted substantial growth numbers, the retailer hasn’t lost sight of more traditional drivers of sales that are enhanced by digital. In a move to keep its physical footprint fresh, the Boise, Idaho-based company opened nine new stores last year, closed 10 others, and executed 409 store upgrade and remodeling projects as part of a $1.63 billion capital expenditure program. In addition, opportunistic acquisitions remain a key element of Albertsons’ growth strategy. For example, on Jan. 23, about a month before the end of its fiscal year, Albertsons paid $98.1 million to acquire 27 Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lovers Market stores, which were in bankruptcy proceedings. Located in five Northeastern states, predominantly New Jersey, the acquired stores were rolled into Albertsons’ Mid-Atlantic division, which includes the Acme and Safeway banners. Albertsons could potentially make larger acquisitions in the future, as its level of indebtedness, while still substantial, has improved. The company had approximately $7.8 billion of debt outstanding, other than finance lease obligations, at the end of the last fiscal year, and had the ability to borrow $3.6 billion, according to disclosures made to investors. Albertsons CFO Bob Dimond also said that the company “generate[d] very robust operating free cash flow of $2.3 billion in fiscal 2020.” Additional acquisitions could help Albertsons bolster market densities in areas where it’s underpenetrated, thus improving expense leverage and its competitive position. While the timing and likelihood of any such deals are unknown, the company is clear that it plans to increase capital investments to keep existing stores fresh. Albertsons said that it expects to spend as much as $2 billion this year on projects such as store remodels and the acceleration of digital and technology investments. It hasn’t disclosed whether it plans to open any stores this year, and if so, how many. In addition, the company’s improved financial situation means that it was able to recently institute a 10-centper-share quarterly dividend payment, and even managed to spend $119 million last year buying back stock.


Efforts to modernize and future-proof an organization can take many forms, and that process continues to play out at Albertsons. One of the company’s top strategic priorities is productivity improvement as a means to support reinvestment in the business and help offset inflation. Last year, Albertsons said that it achieved approximately $500 million in gross productivity savings, with major drivers of those savings being indirect spending, labor productivity and shrink production. Given progress to date and incremental opportunities that the company sees ahead, its goal of $1 billion in gross savings by the end of fiscal year 2022 was increased to $1.5 billion. The additional $500 million is driven by new projects related to supply chain transformation, further optimization of promotional spending, and additional cost reduction programs. When asked about the source of an additional $500 million in expense savings during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call, Sankaran alluded to potential structural changes to the supply chain and purchasing organization. “One of the great things about our company is that we are incredibly locally nimble, and we have learned a lot through this pandemic, and how that is an advantage to us and how we are able to react with speed, but we have also learned through this pandemic what else is extremely important to preserve,” Sankaran said. “But we also have 13 divisions that have 13 supply chains and 13 buying organizations in the company. By changing some aspects of that, we get a lot of leverage both in the supply chain and the design of the supply chain, and make things easier for our supplier partners in discussions of how we buy. Those are two completely new topics that are substantial programs that we have launched and will continue over the next two years.” Albertsons has made great strides since its IPO a year ago and the appointment of Sankaran as CEO two years ago. Its transformation, while far from complete, is progressing nicely and positions the company well to prosper in 2021 as it copes with the absence of the beneficial tailwinds caused by the pandemic.


Pride Month

#CantCancelPride RE TAILERS’ COMMITMENT TO THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNIT Y IS A FORCE FOR GOOD — AND GROW TH. By Brent Miller or more than 50 years, Pride Month has brought millions of people together to feel proud of who they are and commemorate those who fought for LGBTQ+ rights. It’s also a time to raise visibility of this community and to generate funds and support that last year-round. But Pride Month 2020 was different. The LGBTQ+ community faced loss of livelihoods, lack of access to life-affirming health care, and increased domestic violence and social isolation with the closure of local community services. Annual events were canceled, further damaging the fundraising efforts that sustain LGBTQ+ organizations. Born during video calls at my dining room table and brought to life through the hard work and passion of many, “Can’t Cancel Pride: A COVID-19 Relief Benefit for the LGBTQ+ Community” aired virtually on June 25, 2020, raising more than $4 million in support of six LGBTQ+ organizations: GLAAD, SAGE, National Black Justice Coalition, The Trevor Project, CenterLink and OutRight Action International. Hosted by Elvis Duran and Laverne Cox, it brought together celebrities such as Billy Porter, Adam Lambert, Melissa Etheridge, Sia, Ricky Martin, Carla Morrison and Katy Perry, with performances inspired by the colors found on the rainbow flag. A year later, we aren’t out of the woods yet, and the retail industry has an opportunity to create a tremendous impact. But our actions must be sustained, strategic and part of a larger commitment. For “Can’t Cancel Pride 2021,” we are bringing on more retail customers to increase program reach. This includes getting retailers involved earlier to help them plan their Pride activities and help more fully engage people within the LGBTQ+ community. This is encouraging not only for the organizations that will benefit, but also for the LGBTQ+ employees at these retailers. As noted by McKinsey & Co., sponsoring LGBTQ+ events and making public financial commitments to this community are key steps to creating a more comfortable workplace for LGBTQ+ employees. These partnerships aren’t only the right thing to do, but are also good business: more than 40% of LGBTQ+ shoppers would switch from a retailer that’s not committed to inclusion and diversity, according to Accenture. Additionally, 40% of consumers seek products and brands that align with their values and lifestyle, IBM and the National Retail Federation have found. The result is that shoppers are more likely to frequent

retailers that offer brands and products to address their diverse needs, as Accenture discovered. Similarly, when companies like Procter & Gamble make these types of efforts, we grow consumer affinity among our own brands, and in turn drive traffic and sales for our retail customers. Our efforts also extend into advertising: P&G has been on the forefront of LGBTQ+-inclusive marketing. Studies show that among LGBTQ consumers, 78% support companies that market to this community, and more than two-thirds of non-LGBTQ+ consumers feel better about buying from inclusive marketers. This benefits each point of the shopper journey: our end consumers, our retail customers and our own business. P&G has created campaigns ranging from Gillette’s First Shave, showcasing a transgender man shaving for the first time, to Pantene’s Power to Transform, which redefines what ‘beautiful’ looks like in today’s world by featuring a variety of people within the LGBTQ+ community Pride Month can be and their own unique stories the starting point of transformafor our industry to tion. This year, enter into a longin partnership with GLAAD, term relationship the world’s with the LGBTQ+ largest LGBTQ community. media advocacy organization, we’re committing $1 million to The Visibility Project, focused on increasing LGBTQ+ visibility in advertising. Also, this month, “Coded” — a documentary that P&G co-produced about LGBTQ+ representation in advertising — will debut at the TriBeCa Film Festival. Pride Month can be the starting point for our industry to enter into a long-term relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. In doing so, we can find ways to join forces and use our unique voices for greater impact that extends year-round.

Brent Miller is the senior director of the Global LGBTQ+ Equality Program, creative content and partnerships at Cincinnatibased Procter & Gamble. He’s also the co-founder of “Can’t Cancel Pride.”






s roadside farmstands and farmers’ markets get underway, retailers can compete and attract shoppers to the produce section with seasonal fresh fruit offerings that meet consumers’ preferences for taste, variety, nutrition and sustainability. The market for seasonal fruit is — pardon the pun — ripe with opportunity. Consumers may not be eating the recommended amount — a recent survey from the Produce for Better Health (PBH) Foundation shows that 80% of Americans under-consume fruits and three-fourths of consumers eat fruit at least once a week — but fresh fruit remains a perennially popular foodstuff, and the category is making modest gains, with the potential for more. Brentwood, Mo.-based PBH finds that fruit has experienced a slight increase in net consumption frequency since 2015. Importantly for grocers, almost 72% of fruit is consumed at home, and athome consumption is increasing in frequency. The pandemic helped boost interest in fresh fruit eaten at home even more. The most recent “Power of Produce” report from Arlington, Va.-based FMI — The Food Industry Association shows that the 40% of shoppers who buy more fresh fruit now attribute their intake to increased snacking and breakfast consumption, habits fueled by pandemic-era lifestyles. Coming out of the era of social distancing, those new behaviors are balanced by a return to entertaining. According to a study from Chicago-based C+R Research, 42% of shoppers say that they’re more likely to purchase unique products to make summer gathering more fun. To keep momentum not only going but also growing, retailers and their produce department teams can focus on seasonal fresh fruit products with attributes that appeal to today’s shoppers.

Garden-Variety Favorites and New Bloomers

Familiar favorites dominate fresh fruit sales, with per capita eating occasions led by bananas, apples, strawberries and oranges, according to the PBF findings. However, even as consumers enjoy the classics, buzzworthy new varieties often gain traction on social media and spill over into real demand at grocery. Over the past few years, interesting varieties and hybrids like Cotton


Key Takeaways To keep fresh fruit sales growing, grocers can focus on seasonal items with attributes that appeal to today’s shoppers. Among trending varieties, tropical fruits should be hot, aligning with tropical fruit flavors popular in other types of foods and beverages. Additionally, convenience can elevate fresh fruit at retail.

Candy grapes, Tangelos and Meyer lemons have caught consumers’ attention. What kind of new or interesting fruits should retailers be looking for this summer, at the height of fruit production in many parts of the United States? Tropical fruits should be hot, aligning with tropical fruit flavors that are trending in other types of food and beverage categories. In addition to tropical fruit stalwarts like pineapple, mango and grapefruit, grocers can look to reinvigorate their produce sections with



tropical items that have grown in popularity, like guava, passion fruit, persimmon, papaya and lychee, among others. Growers are working on innovative varieties in these segments. For instance, Frieda’s Specialty Produce, of Los Alamitos, Calif., has recently launched new Honey and Snow Dragon lychee and Rambas rambutan at retail. “I’m excited to be making up for lost time with my grandkids, and whether we’re lounging by the poolside or picnicking in the backyard, you can be sure I’m introducing them to new fruits,” says Allen DeMo, Frieda’s director of grower relations and business development. “This year, I’m excited to introduce them to lychees and rambutan, by far the freshest and juiciest I’ve ever seen.” In the apple arena, the Cosmic Crisp variety is poised to become the next Honeycrisp. A cross between the Honeycrisp and Enterprise varieties, the Cosmic Crisp will be the focus of a summer retail campaign highlighting its versatility as an ingredient in apple “burgers,” as well as drinks, potato salad and pies. “It took over 20 years of classic breeding, research and development through Washington State University to perfect the Cosmic Crisp apple, and it’s only been on retail shelves for a total of 12 months,” remarks Kathryn Grandy, chief marketing officer of Proprietary Variety Management, the Yakima, Wash.-based company leading marketing efforts for the brand. “Our strong performance in the category is a testament to consumer reception of this new apple. With higher volumes and additional secondary products coming, the Cosmic Crisp will continue to differentiate the retailers that merchandise and promote the brand.” Meanwhile, following the success of Cotton Candy grapes, grocers can keep an eye on novelty table grape varieties such as new Julep grapes boasting a spicy flavor, and Kokomo grapes offering a tropical taste. “There was a dramatic increase in patented table grape varieties, from 27% in 2014 to 52%,” observes Heidi de Villiers, commercial manager for table grapes-Africa and Middle East at Bakersfield, Calif.-based International Fruit Genetics (IFG). On another front, as plant-based alternatives gain a firm foothold in the meat category, jackfruit can be merchandised as a substitute for pulled pork or gyros. Summer is a good time to promote jackfruit, both as a meat alternative that can be grilled or as a fruit that can be added to a light salad.

Easy There

In addition to new varieties, convenience can elevate fresh fruit at retail. The definition of “convenience” is expanding, especially during and after the pandemic, increasingly focusing on ease of use. To that end, seedless varieties of favorite seasonal fruits resonate with consumers, especially in the summer, when seedless watermelon and seedless lemons take some of the work out of preparation and serving. Convenience encompasses packaging, too. Titan Farms, for example, has introduced new 3- and 4-pound club packs. “Behind these two new club packs was the need to address what we saw as a trend toward packaged produce items during the pandemic, which we anticipate will continue into post-pandemic


With higher volumes and additional secondary products coming, the Cosmic Crisp [apple] will continue to differentiate the retailers that merchandise and promote the brand.” —Kathryn Grandy, Proprietary Variety Management

life as well,” explains Ross Williams, director of packaging operations and food safety at Ridge Spring, S.C.-based Titan. “Something that’s going to be hard for people to forget is their produce consumption practices during the pandemic, when they tended to lean more toward packaged items.” Mirroring other trends, convenient packaging for fruit can also be more sustainable. Sage Fruit Co., in Yakima, packages apples and pears in a completely paper tote bag that’s recyclable and compostable.

Keeping it Close

Another way that grocers can ring up more seasonal fresh fruit sales is to highlight fresh fruits that are locally grown. Whether they’re recreating the look and feel of a farmers’ market with creative displays, or simply carrying more locally grown fruits, retailers can tap into the demand for such products, especially among younger and health- and sustainability-minded shoppers. According to the FMI’s “Power of Produce” report, more than half of shoppers want a greater assortment of local offerings in their produce departments. The definition of “local” is evolving, too: the 2017 edition of “Power of Produce” showed that consumers defined “locally grown” geographically by a mile radius and state lines, while the 2021 report shows an additional emphasis on country and family farms.

Blue Skies for Blueberries: Spotlight on a Summer Staple Progressive Grocer recently spoke with Kasey Cronquist, president of the Folsom, Calif.-based U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC), about this year’s crop and demand for blueberries. Progressive Grocer: How would you describe demand for blueberries, especially as consumers concerned about their well-being look for foods with health benefits, and as many are still cooking and preparing more foods and beverages at home? Kasey Cronquist: Blueberries certainly have enjoyed strong demand for many reasons, with health benefits being at the top of that list. For years, the USHBC has funded health research that has allowed us to provide deeper analysis of just what those health benefits are, and that body of research has helped build upon the overall health halo blueberries have to offer, and has proven to pay dividends during this global pandemic. We saw a huge spike in blueberry purchases during the pandemic, and as things are beginning to normalize this year, we’re seeing that blueberries are still performing impressively at retail, despite a decline in many other categories. Our most recent Nielsen data shows that while fresh blueberry retail sales overall declined only slightly (by 0.9%) compared to last April, fresh blueberries posted positive dollar gains in five of the nine sales regions of the country. Additionally, sales of 18-ounce packages saw a 6.1% bump, despite 6-ounce packages decreasing 14.7%. And while frozen blueberry sales decreased 10.4% compared to last April, they were still 31.3% above pre-COVID sales in April 2019. PG: How is the USHBC working to grow demand for blueberries? KC: In June, we celebrate Brain Health Month, and have developed a toolkit providing a variety of assets and resources that can be used throughout the month to highlight blueberries’ role in brain health. Throughout the month, USHBC’s promotional campaign will highlight recipes, resources, nutrition information and health research that spotlight blueberries as a deliciously simple, snackable and healthy option. We are also partnering with the California Walnut Board to launch a retail promotion and learning program that will evaluate the power of digital, in-store and [retail dietitian] activations in Coborn’s, Rouses and Weis supermarkets — 290 stores across 12 regions — across the United States. The program consists of in-store displays promoting “Grab a Boost of Blue, and Walnuts, Too,” along with Face-

book Live events, TV segments, e-newsletter placements and shoppable e-commerce banners. Registered dietitians will also speak to the health benefits of both blueberries and walnuts for Brain Health Month. Then, moving into July, we celebrate National Blueberry Month, and have another toolkit to highlight blueberries during that time frame. The Brain Health Month and National Blueberry Month promotional campaigns are two of six “power periods” that support Grab a Boost of Blue, a strategic positioning and call to action backed by new tools and consumer research for retailers. Grab a Boost of Blue is designed to inspire and motivate consumers to enjoy more of the blueberries they love, in more ways and more often — ultimately driving demand and increasing sales. Retailers, food and nutrition professionals, and industry stakeholders are encouraged to participate and inspire their audiences to think about brain health, using the engaging, easy-to-use content developed by USHBC, including social media images, digital ads and other resources. Progressive Grocer: What is the outlook for blueberry crops in strong growing regions of the country? Were there any weather-related issues this year? KC: Early-season estimations were that this could be one of the largest crops going into the domestic season that we’ve ever seen, and we’ve heard a lot of optimism from most of the growing regions around the country. Unfortunately, significant weather challenges have affected North Carolina in particular, where an early May hailstorm described as “once in a lifetime” did significant damage to the crop there. We’ve also heard of late-season frost and cooler weather in some of the northern growing regions, but nothing that has significantly impacted the crop thus far. The USHBC strives to share these types of insights and crop conditions with the industry on a regular basis. Each week on our podcast, “The Business of Blueberries,” we feature representatives from North and South American production regions who share their crop reports. So, that is a good source of information to keep a pulse on how the crop continues to look throughout the year, and as we head into peak production periods.






t’s been called “the other white meat.” It’s often compared with beef. But pork is its own animal in many ways, including how processors and brands are working to compete with several animal- and plantbased proteins in an increasingly jam-packed marketplace. Innovations in product development, along with changes in consumers’ eating and meal preparation habits, have helped elevate this protein segment. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that overall pork consumption has hovered around 50 pounds per capita for the past 50 years, but the forecast consumption for 2021 is expected to rise by 0.5 pounds. This represents a notable increase from a low of 45.7 pounds a decade ago. Like everything else, the pandemic had a ripple effect on pork as a form of protein. In general, meat department sales got a 19.2% bump from 2010 to 2020, for a total of $82.5 billion, according to the 2021

Key Takeaways The pandemic has had a positive effect on sales of pork. Ground products, convenienceoriented items, premiumization and high-protein snacks are currently trending in the pork segment. Blended products made with both real pork and plant-based proteins have been developed to appeal to flexitarians.


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“Power of Meat” report from Arlington, Va.-based FMI – The Food Industry Association. Fresh pork sales reached $7.2 billion in 2020, up 19.2% from 2019. In processed meats, the latest “Power of Meat” report revealed a 20.8% lift in bacon, a 21% rise in dinner sausage, a 20.2% increase in breakfast sausage, a 19.8% gain in frankfurters and a 16% uptick in smoked ham. Trial was the biggest thing to come out of the pandemic-related shift in lifestyles. “I think consumers really learned how to cook more than ever,” notes Ozlem Worpel, director, fresh meats marketing for Tyson Fresh Meats, which has its business unit headquar-

Now Trending in Pork

ters in Dakota Dunes, S.D. “They tried new cuts and new recipes.” It was a true discovery process for some shoppers, she adds, explaining: “One of the things we’ve learned from the pandemic is that everyone went to the meat case. If the cuts that they were used to and familiar with sold and were out of stock, they said, ‘I need protein,’ and then bought more of what was available.” Once they brought those cuts home, including pork cuts, people figured out what to do with them. “They Googled for recipes, they tried it, and they liked it,” Worpel recalls.

Ground pork is one segment within the fresh pork category with a new dynamic. “Ground pork really increased in that pandemic time,” agrees Worpel. Even if ground pork sales have edged downward from previous highs, they’re still higher than before the pandemic, she adds. Information from the National Pork Board confirms that ground pork is growing and outpacing ground poultry. Ground pork has gained share within pork overall, notching 18% growth, according to the Des Moines, Iowa-based board. In a recent e-newsletter article, the National Pork Board notes that retailers can diversify their meat cases and attract shoppers by adding ground pork to their ground meat offerings of ground beef and ground poultry. “The opportunity is further ripe for retailers, since ground pork is only 3% of all pork sales,” the article points out. Reflecting the perennial popularity of hot dogs and the clamor for new products, the Ball Park brand has rolled out Fully Loaded Nacho Cheese Franks.

The amount that fresh pork sales reached in 2020, up 19.2% from 2019.


Source: "Power of Meat" report, FMI — The Food Industry Association

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Supply-and-Demand Outlook The economics of pork are a bit complex heading into the back half of 2021. On one hand, the price of pork increased 2.6% in April and is 4.8% higher from this time last year. This increase can be attributed to high feed and fuel costs, ongoing labor shortages, and consumers who are eating more pork products when dining out and cooking at home. Meanwhile, some experts have predicted that a decline in demand in China will lead to lower prices in the U.S. marketplace. In an article published in April, the Des Moines, Iowa-based National Pork Board broke down the supply-and-demand dynamics: “More limited domestic pork supply has pushed up prices. But pork is not alone, as prices are up for all proteins, so inflationary pressures are part of the current reality. Pork remains competitive with other proteins, as evidenced by the relative price of various pork cuts versus beef and poultry options. And while hog slaughter this fall may be slightly under 2020 levels, it will be higher than the five-year average. This suggests adequate pork supply for U.S. retailers and foodservice operators during the year-end peak demand period.” Ozlem Worpel, of Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based Tyson Fresh Meats, agrees that the outlook is a bit murky, given the many variables affecting the pork market, such as the export situation, channel demand and freezer inventory. “There are a lot of unknowns,” Worpel admits. “We know we need more hogs and demand is high, but at the same time, we know that plants are still having labor challenges. I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you where it’s going.” Fresh ground pork is attracting new consumers and outperforming ground poultry.


Cooking-at-home consumers bought more fresh pork in 2020, with sales up nearly 20% from the previous year.

One of the things we’ve learned from the pandemic is that everyone went to the meat case.” —Ozlem Worpel, Tyson Fresh Meats

Underscoring the importance of exposure to shoppers, the board recommends merchandising pork alongside other ground meat products. The newsletter article cites an IRI Innovation Opportunity study showing that just six additional items per store would yield 41% more sales, bringing the category an additional $71 million. Akin to ground pork is ground pork sausage, used as a versatile, flavorful ingredient. Earlier this year, Coleman Natural Foods, of Golden, Colo., launched a line of 16-ounce roll-style ground pork sausage made with pork sourced from American Humane Certified family farms. Available in original and hot varieties, the ground sausage can be used in traditional breakfast meals and as an ingredient in entrées like pasta sauce or pizza toppings. On a seasonal basis, pork-based favorites for the grill are heating up with the arrival of summer. According to a new survey from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council and the North American Meat Institute, 73% of consumers in the United States believe that a cookout isn’t complete without hot dogs. The groups also found that hot dog sales rose almost 20% during the pandemic and stayed 8.6% higher in April 2021 versus April 2019. New hot dog products available this year include Ball Park Fully Loaded Nacho Cheese Franks from Tyson Foods Inc. and all-natural uncured hot dogs from the Walhburgers brand, developed in collaboration with Coleman Natural Foods. Also trending right now are convenience-oriented pork



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products, spanning both fresh and processed pork. Driving that trend is the fact that consumers are still preparing many meals at home, yet are looking for shortcuts for both ease of use and time savings. To meet this demand, Tyson Fresh Meats recently introduced a line of seasoned pork loins available in four flavors, arriving first in Walmart stores and later expanding in distribution. “This product also fits with the convenience piece that consumers are looking for,” notes Worpel. Grocers are offering their own takes on convenience with value-added products in the meat case and deli. For instance, The Giant Co., based in Carlisle, Pa., offers a private label Cook-in-Bag line of proteins, featuring seasoned meats available in an oven-ready bag. Pork varieties include a Jamaican Jerk Style pork roast and a Triple Mustard and Honey pork roast.

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Another hallmark of today’s pork category is premiumization. This includes premium cuts of fresh pork as well as processed products like cured meats, which are part of popular charcuterie platters and kits. In fresh pork, Tyson Fresh Meats is elevating its offerings with a new premium line of Chairman’s Reserve cuts, now available in several Target locations in the Midwest. The line includes a tomahawk chop, a ribeye chop, a New York chop and tenderloin medallions. “During the pandemic, we found out that brands played an important role because of the trust factor. We wanted to bring more options to our customers and thought a caseready program would be a great fit,” Worpel says, adding that the variety names were chosen to help guide shoppers. “We decided to use nomenclature associated with beef to give consumers a better understanding.” The new line reflects a range of marketplace demands, she adds. “The main things were to provide consumers with portion control, longer shelf life, a safe product and, for retailers, something with less labor intensiveness,” Worpel observes. Other types of pork products are getting a premium lift, too. Niman Ranch, based in Westminster, Colo., has come out with a new line of breakfast sausage, including applewood smoked bacon breakfast sausage and sweet Vermont maple breakfast sausage; Belcampo Meat Co., in Oakland, Calif., has rolled out new artisanal deli meats, including Smoked Berkshire Ham and Berkshire Bistro Ham; and major pork player Hormel Foods, based in Austin, Minn., recently added new Lloyd’s Pecanwood Smoked Pulled Pork made with Pig Beach Mustard BBQ sauce and a new line of Natural Choice hardwood-smoked lunch meats.

Creative Takes on Pork

Innovation is a hallmark of protein product development over the past year and a half. The most recent “Power of Meat” report from FMI shows that 56% of retailers employed innovation in 2020, up from 49% the previous year. Within the pork sector, innovations reflect consumers’ tastes and habits, from the ongoing popularity of high-protein diets to the desire for new and interesting flavors and formats. High-protein snacks are one example, encompassing a variety of pork options. Powerhouse pork brand Smithfield, of Smithfield, Va., recently launched a line of Meat Lovers Power Bites featuring bites of premium sausage, bacon and ham, along with eggs and cheddar cheese.

Tyson Fresh Meats recently introduced a new line of value-added pork loins available in four flavors.

Wilde Brands, of Golden, now offers a high-protein pork snack with the recent debut of its Pork Chips. The chips are made with 100% premium pork meat and are available in several flavors, including Golden Mustard BBQ, Sweet Chipotle, Black Pepper Bacon and Chili Lime Verde. Innovation also includes new formats and fresh takes on classic items. This year, Johnsonville Foods, based in Sheboygan Falls, Wis., introduced Sausage Strips, fully cooked sausage products that look and cook like bacon. The sausage strips are available in original, spicy, maple-flavored and chorizo varieties. “At Johnsonville, we are obsessed with sausage, so naturally we’re always looking for new ways to enjoy it,” explains Brand Manager Steve Bembenista. “When we thought to slice sausage like bacon, and then combine it with great sausage flavors like maple, chorizo, spicy and our original recipe, we thought we had a pretty darn good idea and needed to share it with the world.”

Pork Meets Plants

The rise of plant-based alternatives to animal-based products has affected the pork category also. As with other proteins, blended products made with both real pork and plant-based proteins have been developed to appeal to omnivores who say they want to add more plant-based food to their diets, but don’t want to give up meat entirely. FMI’s 2021 “Power of Meat” report shows that an overwhelming 82% of shoppers are interested in blended items. Bridgewater, N.J.-based Applegate Farms, a brand of Hormel Foods, recently created Organic Asian Style Pork Meatballs made with brown rice, green onion, carrot, parsley and pork. The meatballs are part of the Well Carved line of blended products that also includes beef and turkey burger blends and turkey meatballs. Further, plant-based hot dogs are emerging in time for grilling season. Greenleaf Foods, a subsidiary of Mississauga, Ontario-based Maple Leaf Foods, has introduced premium naturally smoked Field Roast Signature Stadium Dogs made with pea protein, while the Sweet Earth brand, from Arlington, Va.-based Nestlé USA, has released a new vegan jumbo hot dog made using pea and potato protein. A new pork alternative is hitting the market with the launch this year of the 100% plant-based OmniPork line from Hong Kong-based manufacturer OmniFoods. Made with a combination of plant-based proteins from non-GMO soy, peas, shiitake mushrooms and rice, OmniPork is being introduced first in foodservice and will expand to a broader foodservice and retail rollout later this summer. Options include ground, strips and luncheon alt-meat items. Pork sausage is the new bacon with the recent launch of Sausage Strips from Johnsonville Foods.





Power Surge ENERGY DRINKS ARE SHEDDING THEIR UNHE ALTHY HALO AS THE Y ESTABLISH THEMSELVES MORE FIRMLY IN THE BE T TER-FOR-YOU SPACE. By Bridget Goldschmidt y all accounts, 2020 was a banner year for energy drinks. “2020 unlocked new need states for consumers, driving energy drink category growth in the grocery channel that has persisted into 2021,” notes Laura Lynn Freck, senior director, shopper and category insights at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Red Bull North America. “Many consumers shifted purchasing to trusted energy drink brands in 2020, driving record growth for a brand like Red Bull in 2020 and year to date in 2021.” “The segment has had strong growth during the past year, though our assortment is quite limited, as the category before was not as strong,” says Christine Dang, category manager at Los Angeles-based online grocer Thrive Market. “We are seeing this shift due to the fact that during the pandemic, there were more people at home who needed something to help boost their productivity.” Indeed, this trend looks likely to outlive the virus. “Despite more people staying home due to the pandemic, the need for energy has never been stronger, and our insights show that consumers say they need more energy these days than before COVID,” asserts Paul Sheridan, senior director, global R&D sparkling, energy and foodservice at Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, maker of such brands in the category as Rockstar Energy Drink, which the company acquired last year and recently relaunched worldwide

Having acquired Rockstar Energy Drink last year, PepsiCo recently relaunched the beverage worldwide with a refreshed look.


with a refreshed look, and the newly introduced Mtn Dew Rise Energy. Although, according to Freck, “Growth has been coming equally from full-sugar and reduced-sugar offerings in the category, and equally from core products and flavor offerings from top brands … across can sizes and pack types,” many have observed that better-for-you beverages in this space are becoming increasingly popular. “Consumers these days are looking for a natural and clean ingredient source of energy that doesn’t include the typical jitters and crashes you would get from a traditional energy drink,” explains Dang. “People are now also very conscious about the sugar content within their energy drinks, and they can also be concerned with caffeine levels as well. Retailers are meeting these needs by rethinking the category and focusing on products that try to gear towards a lower percentage of added sugar and caffeine, while also re-looking at the ingredients and focusing on ones that are plant-based.” “We’ve ... seen a significant spike in people looking for functional benefits, particularly from beverages,” says Sheridan.

Betting on Better-for-You

Some newer players in the segment have come out with energy beverages that specifically address these needs. “Consumers want to know exactly what they’re consuming — they want to know and understand the ingredients they are ingesting,” notes Jeff Church, CEO and co-founder of Del Mar, Calif.-based Rowdy Energy, which is now carried in more than 22,000 stores nationwide. “We’re seeing that consumers are seeking healthier options and better-for-you alternatives when making purchases. There has also been a bit of a revolution in natural ingredient development that now allows beverage companies to offer consumers multiple need-states and benefits in a single drink, which is really exciting. Consumers and retailers shouldn’t settle for what they’ve always purchased — beverage choices can be highly functional today.” According to Church: “The brand doesn’t use any artificial flavoring or sugars. All of Rowdy’s SKUs feature caffeine derived from green tea paired with the nootropic L-theanine, giving consumers a powerful lift without the unwanted and irritable crash.” A variety of new SKUs and flavors are set to roll out later this summer, which will bring the brand’s SKU count to a total of 10, seven

Los Angeles Lakers legend LeBron James has been recruited to promote PepsiCo's new Mtn Dew Rise Energy drink.

of them zero-sugar products and the rest reduced-calorie options. “While our zero-sugar products are the fastest-turning SKUs, our reduced-sugar SKUs contain only 18 grams of sugar compared to other leading brands that contain approximately 55 grams of sugar per can,” says Church, adding that Rowdy is “also working hard on a metabolism-boosting, calorie-burning line that we’re planning to pitch to retailers this fall for a Q1 2022 on-shelf date.”

Key Takeaways Having reached for more energy drinks during the pandemic, consumers are increasingly looking for clean ingredients and greater functionality in the beverages. Retailers and brands are reaching out to consumers via the internet, as well as through in-store activations. In addition to more focus on increased health benefits to the consumer, there will be more of an effort to grow energy drink consumption among Gen Z and female consumers.


Beverages “Current market data suggests that consumers are now looking for more better-for-you and much healthier alternatives within the energy drink space,” observes Raj Beri, CEO and founder of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Elegance Brands, which owns and created Sway Energy. “Manufacturers are meeting those needs by ensuring that we consider health benefits during formulation, with a focus on healthier lifestyles [and] zero-sugar and low-calorie options.” The product line, which just launched in Mango, Strawberry, Passion Fruit, Watermelon, Orange and Lemon Lime flavors, “contains the recommended 100% daily value of vitamins A, B 6, B12, C and D,” notes Beri. “Every can of Sway contains 160 milligrams of organic green tea caffeine that may improve brain function, aid in fat loss and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Sway also contains essential minerals and amino acids such as magnesium, L-arginine, D-ribose and amino BCAA that help boost muscle formation, increase energy and aid in the body’s natural immune system. Sway has zero sugar and zero artificial flavors. Additionally, it is low in calories and carbs.” He emphasizes that “no other energy brand has focused on immunity,” making Sway unique in the category. Among the larger energy drink players, PepsiCo has perfected the art of targeting shoppers by offering just the right beverage ingredients. “Through our consumer insights, we found that the morning energy consumer had specific product needs that remained unaddressed until now,” explains Sheridan. “Mtn Dew Rise Energy is an energy drink for the morning energy seeker and includes the product benefits consumers asked for: citicoline with caffeine to boost mental clarity, zinc to aid immune support, antioxidant vitamins A and C and juice, and 180 milligrams of caffeine, equivalent to about two cups of coffee, in every 16-ounce can, without the added sugar.” He promises “exciting new flavors for [Rockstar and Mtn Dew Rise Energy] and partnerships that will allow us to remain connected with our target consumers throughout the year.”

Sway Energy has a unique focus on immunity, according to its parent company, Elegance Brands.

Selling Strategies

Unsurprisingly, as e-commerce use shot up during the pandemic, retailers “shifted a lot of their focus to online sales, as less people are going to physical stores to stop by for a pick-me-up,” says Thrive Market’s Dang, who points out that her company is in a great position to retain those customers who were converted to online shopping and are interested in offerings such as better-for-you energy drinks. “With products nowadays highlighting so many attributes, our platform contains values that are tagged to each specific product that our members can shop by or have listed out on the product page for ease of shopping,” she says. “Some of those included can be low sugar, plant-based, caffeine-free, etc. This has been successful, because our members can take a quick glance at a product and get an idea of what they are looking for. Our marketing emails are also a great way to introduce new products and educate and highlight the product benefits.” Brands are also reaching out to consumers via the internet, as well as through in-store activations. “We are actively working on a digital campaign around retail and customized point of sale around our major partnerships,” notes Elegance Brands’ Beri. “In terms of how successful they have been to date, we are still in the evaluation phase, but trending well.” “Red Bull continues to provide best-in-class options for shoppers in-store, with displays at critical interruption points and cold cans available for the critical moment of need,” says Freck, noting that the brand’s current limited-time offering, Red Bull Summer Edition Dragon Fruit, “has rapidly become the No. 1 growth item in energy drinks, repeating Red Bull’s legacy [of] having the No. 1 innovation item every year since 2017,” according to data from Chicago-based IRI. “From a retail perspective, PepsiCo has an advanced capabilities set called pepviz, led by Jeff Swearingen and our demand accelerator team,” notes Sheridan. “Store DNA (sDNA) and Consumer DNA (cDNA) are two foundational data sets that we use to unlock granular growth for our brands. sDNA integrates everything we know about the outlets that sell or could sell our products, including external

Rowdy Energy offers a range of zero-sugar and reduced-calorie options.


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There has been much discussion in medical journals and beyond about just how healthy energy drinks are, particularly in regard to their caffeine content. “We recognize our responsibility to market energy drinks responsibly, and we clearly label our energy products to provide information to the consumer regarding the caffeine content and additional ingredients,” says Paul Sheridan, senior director, global R&D sparkling, energy and foodservice at Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, whose brands include Rockstar Energy Drink and Mtn Dew Rise Energy. “Caffeine has been widely studied, and major global health organizations, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority, agree that caffeine is safe when used as a part of a normal diet. They do not discriminate between the caffeine in energy drinks and the caffeine in other contributors to daily intake such as coffee, tea and chocolate.” Adds Sheridan: “Caffeine in energy drinks typically ranges from 80 to 100 milligrams per 8 ounces. An 8-ounce cup of coffee contains, on average, 95 milligrams of caffeine.” Laura Lynn Freck, senior director, shopper and category insights at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Red Bull North America, makes a similar point: “An 8.4-fluid-ounce can of Red Bull Energy Drink — the brand’s signature size — contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, about the same amount as in a home-brewed cup of coffee.” So, according to the major manufacturers, if you can tolerate a cup of coffee, you should be fine after downing a can of your favorite energy drink.

factors like footfall, shopper reviews, local points of interest, and internal factors like store format, sales, and execution data. cDNA does the same for the people who buy our products, including sociodemographics, likelihood to shop across different retailers and brands, their interests and media habits.” This approach allows the company “to customize the retail shopping experience that every person has, not deliver a one-size-fitsall approach,” he explains. “With innovation like Mtn Dew Rise Energy, traditionally we would have advertised it to a vast audience. But with pepviz, we’re able to identify who in the consumer set is interested in energy, functional benefits and morning beverages. We can take those customers and look at them on a map, and then tier stores based on importance and where they’re most likely to shop for this product. Then we lean in with marketing and merchandising for those locations, using AI to ensure people are engaging with the content and machine learning to make sure we are merchandising properly. We then work to optimize this experience over time, and this pepviz framework allows us to be much more refined in our merchandising strategies, ultimately resulting in better experiences for consumers and retailers.”

Coca-Cola’s Lack of Energy

Keep it Flowing

Caffeine Conundrum

Despite considerable gains in the energy drink segment over the past year, there have been some setbacks: The Coca-Cola Co. said in May that it would discontinue North American sales of its highly touted Coca-Cola Energy drink, which launched in the region just last year. “As we emerge stronger from the pandemic, our strategy is focused on scaling big bets across a streamlined portfolio and experimenting in an intelligent and disciplined manner,” a spokesperson at the Atlanta-based company said in a statement supplied to Progressive Grocer. “An important component to this strategy is the consistent and constant evaluation of what’s performing and what’s not. As we scale our best innovations quickly and effectively, like AHA and Coca-Cola with Coffee, we need to be disciplined with those that don’t get the traction required for further investment. It is for that reason we’ve made the decision to discontinue Coca-Cola Energy in North America.” The line comes in 12-ounce slim cans offering 114 milligrams of caffeine, as well as niacin, vitamin B 6 and guarana, in four varieties: Coca-Cola Energy, Coca-Cola Energy Zero Sugar, Coca-Cola Energy Cherry and Coca-Cola Energy Zero Sugar Cherry.


When asked where the better-for-you segment of energy drinks is headed, most observers are certain that it will continue to expand. “I think we will see more drinks with an energy source that will include ingredients with more functionality such as a cognitive or calming focus,” predicts Dang.”People want to ingest products that serve multifunctionality — that can include things such as reduced stress, improved mental clarity, aids with digestion, etc. Consumer education on ingredients like adaptogens and nootropics that aid these functions will become more widely known.” “We’re looking forward to innovating more in the energy space and delivering products with the functional benefits consumers are craving,” says Sheridan. The near future of energy drinks will bring “more focus on the increased health benefits to the consumer, as consumers are trending to a more health-conscious lifestyle now and ahead,” notes Beri. “We will also continue to see household penetration grow within the energy drinks category, as there will be a greater focus on gaining Gen Z and female consumers [in] the category.”


Candy & Snacks


hether American consumers are hitting a beach barbecue this summer or already planning their Halloween treat strategy for the fall, candy and snacks are top of mind. “Confectionery has remained a resilient category, with chocolate and candy providing some much-needed normalcy and joy to many Americans throughout an unusual year,” says Carly Schildhaus, public affairs manager for the National Confectioners Association (NCA), in Washington, D.C. “As we get back to the things we love, Americans report that they’ll be bringing chocolate and candy along as they pursue their favorite activities, especially as most consumers agree that physical health and emotional well-being are connected.”

Nothing inspires joy, makes the store experience special or promotes unplanned purchases quite like the candy category. In 2020, as consumers looked to alleviate their pandemic stress with comfort foods, confectionery sales hit $36.7 billion, with chocolate sales at $21.9 billion and non-chocolate sales reaching $11.5 billion. Grocery in particular saw significant gains in chocolate (up 10.5%) and non-chocolate (up 9.9%) — with chocolate making up 65% of confectionery sales in the grocery channel. Total CMG was the ninth-largest center store category in 2020. So far in 2021, the trajectory for confectionery looks sweet. According to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI), dollar sales of chocolate candy are up 6.2% for the 52 weeks ending May 16, while non-chocolate candy sales are up 5.3%. According to new research from Rockland, Md.-based Packaged Facts, consumers are expected to plan extended seasonal and holiday celebrations to make up for “lost gathering time” during the pandemic — in other words, 2021 may see the biggest Halloween candy sales ever. In its “Chocolate Candy: U.S. Market Trends and Opportunities” report, consumers say that they have or will extend seasonal celebrations compared with before the pandemic. Some of these trends may even last through 2022. Last year, seasonal treats were available at stores earlier, and the same is expected from many retailers this year as well. For example, Issaquah,

Key Takeaways Retailers should expect increased consumer demand for holiday treats. Consider offering more premium candy and snack products. Shoppers are looking for new ways to use candy and snacks in meals.




Candy & Snacks

Last year, many food retailers had holiday treats out on the sales floor earlier than normal. This year, Costco Wholesale had its bags of holiday candy out on the floor in May, and shoppers were already taking a good look. Dollar sales of chocolate candy are up 6.2% through May, according to IRI.

Wash.-based Costco Wholesale put its Halloween candy out in May, and shoppers are already showing interest. When NCA published its annual “State of Treating” report in March, it painted a bright picture of the strength of the confectionery category. According to the report, 61% of shoppers changed up their confectionery purchasing patterns during the pandemic, 41% bought more value packs with individually wrapped treats, households purchasing chocolate and candy online at least twice in 2020 increased by 76%, and the annual online dollars per buyer increased by 14.3%. NCA now projects that candy sales will total $39.5 billion by 2025. “Amidst the uncertainty this year, the confectionery category has remained a true testament to how chocolate and candy are an important aspect of our collective emotional well-being,” says John Downs, president and CEO of NCA. “Whether it’s a quick escape for parents from the chaos of balancing work from home with virtual school, a celebration of a milestone moment or simply sending a treat to a friend from afar, chocolate and candy have helped Americans stay connected even when we couldn’t be together.” June is National Candy Month, and Downs is getting ready to celebrate the event by hosting the grocery industry’s first big trade show since the pandemic hit. NCA’s 2021 Sweets & Snacks Expo will host more than 400 of the top candy and snack companies and more than 2,250 retailer attendees to celebrate not just one but two years of the industry’s most innovative products. “This year, this event is even more important, as confectionery and snack products have helped consumers improve their emotional well-being during a challenging time,” Downs notes. “We know after a year of treating and snacking at home during the pandemic, they’re hungry for new product innovation from their favorite brands.”

Rice Cakes Are Back

Candy sales are certainly hot, but the post-pandemic consumer is looking for more than just sweets. It seems as though everyone from Grandma to Generation Z is looking to dried meat snacks, rice cakes, dried fruit snacks and


nuts to usher in the post-COVID summer and fall. According to IRI, dollar sales of salty snacks are up 8.2% for the 52 weeks ending May 16. Popcorn/rice cake sales are up 20.2% during the same period, snack nuts are up 4.2%, dried meat snacks are up 20%, and dried fruit snacks are up 8.8%. Costco has expanded its dried meat aisle, right next to the nuts and trail mixes. To wit, nuts and trail mixes are seeing a jump in innovation — and sales — as health-conscious consumers increasingly seek a value-priced snack to contribute to their overall nutrition for the day. Nuts and trail mix, which tend to offer good sources of protein, supply nutrients that people often have trouble fitting into their diets, such as antioxidants, fiber and healthy fats. Food retailers such as Costco and Minneapolis-based Target are finding success in “snackable” dried fruits, nuts, seeds and mixes that are packaged in convenient individual portions; these snacks are being defined as premium and somewhere between healthy and indulgent. Ninety-four percent of adults snack at least once daily, and 50% snack two to three times a day, according to Chicago-based Mintel. Various factors determine snacking habits, but typically, snackers seek fuel or indulgence, or both — and they can find both in nuts and seeds, trail mix, and similar snacks. Snacking went way up during the pandemic: Deerfield, Ill.-based Mondelez’s annual “State of Snacking” study reported that 52% of adults agreed that snacking has been a “lifeline” throughout the pandemic, and that 88% of adults are snacking more or the same during the pandemic as previously. The rise of snacking is creating ample opportunity for retailers and suppliers of salty snacks to leverage these behaviors into sales. Mintel points to the need for more product innovation for nuts, seeds and trail mixes to be used at other times of the day, or in other meals (at breakfast, for example, or as a dessert or salad topping). In addition, pairing nuts and seeds with other protein-rich components (such as charcuterie meats or cheeses) for snacks or even entrées might offer a compelling value proposition for consumers. Whether it’s Halloween chocolate or Thanksgiving turkey jerky, retailers looking to increase candy and snack sales in the back half of the year could benefit from offering premium products featuring natural, organic and eco-conscious labels that promise indulgence and festive fun. In addition, flavor innovations, particularly seasonal and holiday items that offer novelty, remain an important approach to standing out on shelves, even after the pandemic.

Confectionery has remained a resilient category, with chocolate and candy providing some much-needed normalcy and joy to many Americans throughout an unusual year.” —Carly Schildhaus, National Confectioners Association

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With the introduction of Nurishh, Bel Brands USA has become one of the first traditional cheese companies to add plant-based options to its product portfolio. Informed by Bel’s French cheese-making know-how, Nurishh offers cheesy taste, meltability and comfort, along with plant-based nutrition. The certified plant-based and lactose-free product line is a good source of calcium and vitamin B12, with no artificial colors or flavors. It comes in six varieties: Cheddar Style Slices, Mozzarella Style Slices, Provolone Style Slices, Cheddar Style Shreds, Mozzarella Style Shreds, and Cheddar & Mozzarella Style Blend. By expanding its product offering beyond traditional cheese products, Bel is advancing its mission to become a major player in the healthy-snack sector – diversifying through growth in dairy, fruit and plant-based products. Nurishh is the company’s first wholly plant-based brand. Items in the line retail for a suggested retail price range of $3.99-$4.99.;

Crunch Time

The No. 1 organic chocolate bar in the natural and grocery channel, Theo Chocolate wraps its namesake product around crunchy centers to create Cookie Bites, a certified-organic Fair Trade snack that can be enjoyed by the handful. The poppable item comes in three classic cookie flavors: Double Chocolate 55% Dark Chocolate, a chocolate cookie center offering the optimal blend of cocoa and vanilla, and covered in rich dark chocolate with a touch of salt to round out the sweetness; Snickerdoodle 45% Milk Chocolate, a buttery vanilla cookie center dipped in creamy cinnamon milk chocolate; and Mint Chocolate 55% Dark Chocolate, a chocolate cookie center enrobed by rich dark chocolate infused with peppermint oil for an intense minty flavor. Offering a generous 22 Cookie Bites per serving, the snack retails for a suggested $5.99 per 4-ounce resealable package.

Some Like ‘Em Hot

A cooperative representing more than 3,000 California almond growers, Blue Diamond Growers has brought the heat for its line of Blue Diamond Xtremes almonds. Available in three fiery flavors — Cayenne Pepper (hot), Ghost Pepper (hotter) and Carolina Reaper (hottest) — and made with real peppers to impart authentic spice, the line contains 6 grams of plant protein per serving and is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin E and a good source of magnesium. A 6-ounce can retails for a suggested $3.49. Blue Diamond Xtremes are set to expand online and in stores nationwide beginning this month.

Simple Snacking

The company’s first cracker line to receive USDA Organic Certification, Simple Mills’ Organic Seed Flour Crackers are made from a unique nutrient-dense blend of sunflower, pumpkin and flax seed flours that provides protein, fiber and antioxidants in every serving. This addition to the brand’s portfolio represents Simple Mills’ commitment to supporting organic, regenerative farming practices. Offering a flaky crunch that complements any topping or spread in Original, Garlic & Herb, and Everything varieties, and made with just seven to 10 ingredients, the 2-inch hexagonal crackers are Certified Gluten-Free, as well as free of grains, soy, corn, gums and emulsifiers; Non-GMO Project Verified; and Paleo-friendly and vegan. In addition to securing the cracker’s USDA Organic Certification, Simple Mills established direct contracts with several Midwestern farmers who grow an organic sunflower crop used in the line. These partnerships provide financial incentives to support and encourage the adoption of regenerative agricultural practices that promote healthy soil. Joining Simple Mills’ Almond Flour Crackers, Veggie Pita Crackers and other nutrient-dense snacks, the Organic Seed Flour Crackers retail for a suggested $4.99 per 4.25-ounce box.


Good and Frozen

Family-focused frozen food brand Path of Life has rolled out a line of organic steel-cut instant oatmeal to answer the need for better-for-you convenient breakfast options in the freezer aisle. The gluten-free, nonGMO, dairy-free and plant-based oatmeal is available in two varieties: Organic Berry Steel Cut Oatmeal, a blend of organic cooked oats, organic apple purée concentrate, organic blueberries and organic raspberries, and Organic Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal, combining organic cooked oats, organic apple purée concentrate and organic apples. Most importantly, the product, made from simple, wholesome and thoughtfully sourced ingredients, meets the strict requirements of the USDA’s National Organic Program. A cup of either variety contains under 200 calories, 0 grams of trans fat and zero added sugars. Both steel-cut oatmeal flavors contain two servings and retail for a suggested $5.99 each.

Sparkling With Flavor

Bottled-water pioneer Evian has now introduced Evian+, an innovative product line from the iconic brand as it ventures into another product segment. Evian+ offers a range of flavored sparkling functional beverages packaged in recyclable aluminium cans — another first for the brand. Created with Evian natural mineral water and its naturally occurring minerals, further enhanced by a hint of natural flavors, and enriched with magnesium and zinc, which are said to support normal cognitive function, the sparkling-beverage line comes in four flavor combinations: Raspberry & Ginseng, Lime & Ginger, Grapefruit & Basil, and Cucumber & Mint. All contain zero sugars, zero sweeteners and zero calories. The suggested retail price for an 11.2-ounce can is $1.99, but will differ according to the retailer.

Tuna to Go

Wild Planet Foods, the first large-scale sustainably focused canned seafood company in the country, has now launched a line of Ready-to-Eat Tuna Salad Bowls. Serving as a convenient snack or light meal that requires no heating or prep work of any kind, the line features 100% sustainably pole- and line-caught skipjack tuna — the species with the lowest levels of mercury — and comes in 100% recyclable plastic-free packaging. Along with the tuna, the protein-rich bowls contain organic, non-GMO vegetables, pasta and legumes in three varieties: Wild Tuna Pasta Salad, with organic red peppers, tomatoes and green olives; Wild Tuna White Bean Salad, with organic chickpeas, carrots, red peppers and green olives; and Wild Tuna, Bean & Corn Salad, with organic sweet corn, red peppers and carrots. Wild Planet Ready-to-Eat Tuna Salad Bowls retail for a suggested $4.99 per 5.6-ounce bowl.

Premium Coffee for One

As demand for instant coffee increases, Waka Coffee has introduced single-serve packets featuring premium coffees made from 100% Arabica beans, which are commonly used in coffee shops, to provide the best taste. The beans are then freeze-dried to preserve the coffees’ aroma and depth of flavor. To brew a cup of Waka Coffee, just pour the coffee granules into a mug, add 8-10 fluid ounces of water and stir for a few seconds — that’s it. Debuting at retail this summer, the single-serve line retails for a suggested $11.99 per box of eight 1-ounce packets of Columbian, Decaf Columbian or Indian. In addition, through its Add Water, Give Water program, Waka donates a percentage of its profits to support clean drinking water initiatives around the world. PROGRESSIVE GROCER June 2021



Grocery Delivery Elevated IN FLORIDA, KROGER DEBUTS A NEW MODEL FOR GROCERY RETAILING. roger made a big splash on the beaches of Tampa Bay during the 2021 Memorial Day weekend, despite the lack of physical stores in the state. America’s largest grocery chain finally entered the Florida market last month — digitally — when it started accepting online orders and delivering groceries from a 350,000-squarefoot customer fulfillment center (CFC) in rural Groveland, Fla., to homes in Tampa Bay. I had taken a drive out to Groveland to check out the new Kroger CFC in March before it opened. And I was excited to receive a flyer in the mail last month revealing that Kroger grocery delivery would be available in my ZIP code. So, apparently, were many of my friends and neighbors, who started Tweeting and Tik-Toking videos of themselves dancing in their driveways or at the beach with the Kroger flyer. While news of Kroger’s robotic, Ocado-powered CFCs coming online isn’t new — 11 are expected to open this year — the strategy the grocer is employing in Florida is, in two ways: First, it shows that Kroger believes it doesn’t need physical stores or a vast real estate portfolio to compete successfully in new markets. And second, it shows that Kroger has a completely different definition of what it means to deliver groceries. Kroger’s CFCs offer delivery within a 90-mile radius, which means that the company will be able to service the fast-growing populations of Tampa and Orlando without The Kroger a corner-store advantage. While Publix Super Markets enjoys favored status in the state, Kro- delivery ger enjoys brand loyalty from the people who experience is are pouring into Florida from Kroger-dominat- designed to ed enclaves. During the company’s shareholders impress and meeting in April, CEO Rodney McMullen said be a showcase that Kroger has 55% brand awareness in Florida. for the grocer’s For many of these new Floridians, Kroger was their neighborhood grocer. Now, they fast, fresh and can still have their neighborhood grocer, this friendly value time at their Florida address. It’s likely that proposition. Kroger will extrapolate this strategy to other states where it also doesn’t operate stores. The other innovation coming from Kroger in Florida is the service: This is not your Grandma’s grocery delivery. After placing an order on May 28 (A $9.95 delivery fee was waived for first-time customers.), I received constant updates via text about the status of my order, and Kroger comped five items, including perishables, as part of its promotional strategy in the area. About 10 a.m. on Memorial Day, a colorful truck emblazoned with the Kroger logo showed up at my house and parked neatly on the street (not 178

blocking traffic, like so many other delivery drivers). Two uniformed Kroger associates emerged from the truck, gathered my groceries, put them on a dolly, and both of them walked to my house. They offered to bring the bags of groceries inside, but I was fine with having them dropped at the door. I was expecting the guys to leave immediately, as most delivery people do; instead, they engaged me in conversation. “How was your experience today? You saved $18.06 by shopping with Kroger! You now have 189 rewards points. Is there anything else we can do to help with your order?” Compared with other grocery delivery services, the Kroger experience seemed dreamy, with employees offering to manage order changes, answer questions and let me know about my loyalty membership benefits. Upon inspecting my haul, I noticed that all of my perishables were cold. Unlike my experiences ordering perishables from crowdsourced or other grocery delivery services, my cheese, lettuce and butter felt as if they had come straight from the cold case. That Kroger truck makes a huge difference in the perceived freshness of delivered cold and frozen foods. Kroger’s entry into Florida creates a new model for grocery retailing, offering lessons for food retailers on the relevance of physical stores and customer service in the digital age. Gina Acosta Executive Editor


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