After the extraordinary honorees we presented for Progressive Grocer’s inaugural GenNext Awards in 2018, we were eager to see what this year’s slate of 175 nominees would bring, and we weren’t disappointed.
The entries revealed individuals who are bringing plenty of energy and innovation to bear as they prepare to lead food retail into its next era.
Two types of honorees quickly emerged among the submissions: those who are new to the grocery industry, and those who’ve grown up in the business. Among the latter, we were particularly impressed by such scions as James Buddig, of Carl Buddig and Co.; Thomas Cingari Jr., of ShopRite Grade A Markets; and Jake Tavello, of Stew Leonard’s, none of whom were content to rest on their inherited laurels, but rather, were all the more keen to prove themselves worthy of their family legacy, as well as not fearing hard work alongside their employees.
Among those not involved in family businesses, there were some truly inspirational stories, among them that of Brandon Henson, of Ralphs, who, despite being on his own from the age of 16, managed to put himself through school and ultimately excel as a district floral/produce coordinator, bonding with his associates to the point where he learned Spanish so as to be able to communicate with them better.
Another note: A look at the fields in which our 25 GenNext honorees are exceeding expectations provides a road map to what will shortly be on all grocery industry members’ radar: inventive plant-based products, creatively reducing food waste, stepping up sustainable practices and streamlining ecommerce, to name just a few. Their colleagues across the food business would do well to pay close attention to their younger counterparts’ ideas and practices.
When it comes to adapting to the future of food retail, we can all learn something from the under-40 cohort.