2020 GenNext Award Winners: Leading the Way
Categorizing the grocery industry as a rapidly changing, dynamic industry has never been more accurate than it is now. When COVID-19 hit the United States in March of this year, we all saw food retailers, CPG companies, suppliers and service providers rush to respond to consumer demand while keeping both their employees and customers safe.
Progressive Grocer’s 40 GenNext winners on the subsequent pages have all played pivotal roles in helping the industry adapt — specifically during these difficult times of the pandemic, but also more broadly for long-term growth.
You’ll discover leaders who have been working in their parents’ stores since they were young children and those with varying backgrounds that you never would have guessed would end up where they are now. You’ll find store managers and site leaders, and also scientists and accountants. You’ll learn the stories of men and women fighting for diversity and inclusion in the industry, and those aiming to mentor and recruit future leaders.
Since launching the GenNext program, we PG editors continue to be impressed and inspired by the work that young individuals are doing in the industry. They’re not only innovating at their jobs, but also contributing to their communities in many ways that have become ever more important amid the uncertainty of 2020.
General Manager, Billy’s Marketplace
Kelvin Rodriguez began working at his family’s grocery store as a kid, fell in love with the industry and decided early on to do everything possible to best service his family’s store. Rodriguez became the first male in his family to graduate college and, after graduation, took over his family’s store. After seeing his customer base shift more heavily toward Millennials, he has conducted his own market research and updated the store to fulfill that demographic’s desire for more in-store experiences. Determined to make his store a one-stop shop for customers, he has also added a beer bar and a coffee shop. Thankfully, he stayed ahead of the curve and implemented Instacart for e-commerce in November 2019, before the pandemic hit, and the service has seen tremendous growth at the store.
President and COO, Birch Benders
Before joining the natural pancake and waffle mix brand Birch Benders in 2018, Rajesh Babu held a number of strategic leadership roles and was involved in acquisitions while at WhiteWave Foods, which was acquired by Danone in 2016. Since Babu joined Birch Benders as its eighth employee, the company now has four product lines, distribution in more than 10,000 stores and a workforce triple its original size. He has built the company’s strategic growth plan process and organized an ad hoc research and development process in family kitchens to keep innovation moving during the pandemic. Babu also has a passion for giving back, donating his time to mentor and grow hundreds of entrepreneurs. He has become a go-to resource in the Colorado natural food scene for dozens of fledgling food companies.
Category Manager, Brookshire Grocery Co.
Working his way up from courtesy clerk to category manager, with a handful of promotions in between, Kolton Harris has brought exceptional growth to Brookshire Grocery Co. He’s raising expectations for building relationships with suppliers, conducting product and consumer research, monitoring inventory and merchandising efforts, and developing and executing business plans. While still a store director, he proved that he had a vision for merchandising and selling product, winning a company-wide contest by increasing same-store sales the most over the prior year. In his current position, he has developed programs to help bring the beverage aisle to life and extend it throughout the store, resulting in 8.6% growth before the pandemic. To adjust to pandemic demands, Harris has streamlined the promotional planning process with carbonated soft-drink vendors, which is beneficial now and will be in the long term
Financial Planning and Analysis Manager, Brookshire Grocery Co.
Brandon Overmeyer started as a parking lot attendant in 2013 while still in college, and he was promoted six times in four years. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he entered the financial planning and analysis department as an analyst and quickly was promoted to manager, making him the youngest manager in the corporate office. Overmeyer was tapped by Trent Brookshire, the company’s COO, to lead a customer feedback action team, and he guided the team in compiling and analyzing data, and then assumed leadership for the results, meetings and follow-ups. He is also helping to revolutionize the company’s budgeting process, with increased accessibility to insights to results. Overmeyer is successful at building strong business relationships, bringing greater visibility to the company’s financial operations as a whole, and staying active through project leadership, committee responsibility and community service
Space Management Supervisor, Brookshire Grocery Co.
In his current role, Austin Nutter has streamlined and optimized every space management process and reconfigured department resources to meet the ongoing initiatives of Brookshire Grocery Co. Nutter and his team create store-specific planograms for 270 categories, meaning more than 85,000 planograms annually, using Blue Yonder’s planogram generator solution, a huge increase from when they manually built only 6,000 planograms a year. He has created user adoption within the company and presented at various conferences and webinars on the power of automation in category management. Nutter has made it possible for the team to update and cut in new items on a weekly basis instead of annual planograms, increasing planogram production by 166% and delivering best-in-class results that CPG companies have sought out.
At just 11 years old, Kristine Ramirez would work alongside her dad in the grocery industry. She began her official career as a packer, and then progressed to cashier, and now she currently operates two stores in New York, is working on a construction site for a new store, and is overseeing and advising on two locations in Florida. Ramirez’s success comes in part from her ability to spot changing consumer interests and adapt her stores in response. One situation that exemplifies this flexibility is when she successfully advised her father to incorporate organic and plant-based offerings in one of the family’s New York stores. The location was originally adjacent to government housing, but it quickly became a popular spot for Columbia University students as the campus expanded. These students and staff have embraced the new offerings.
Joe DeCicco Jr.
Partner/Head of Purchasing, DeCicco & Sons
Joe DeCicco Jr. grew up learning the grocery industry from his father and his uncles. Then, as a senior in college in his early 20s, he opened his own DeCicco & Sons supermarket with his two cousins. Now, DeCicco operates nine locations in New York — the most recent having opened this past October. He plans to continue scaling the operation without ever straying from the business’ original core principles, including strong family values, top-of-the-line quality and service, and a unique in-store experience. DeCicco also developed a DeCicco Cares initiative, which has donated food to local health care workers during the pandemic, given to organizations such as Autism Speaks and other local nonprofits, and created a scholarship program for employees.
Director of Retail Business Processes, Fareway Stores Inc.
Once Robert Baxter had graduated from college, he’d already had seven years’ experience at Fareway. In 2012, he was appointed to a newly created role as a member of the retail sales team training and development initiative, and was recently promoted to director of retail processes. Baxter has been integral to more than 30 new store openings and hundreds of store resets and directly influenced more than 60 interns, resulting in a 70% intern retention rate, with more than 18% currently holding a management position. He also brought together four departments to develop a technology tool that enhances retail operations with an all-in-one movable workstation to improve efficiency in product labeling, store signage and pricing. Outside of work, he serves as a Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Iowa mentor
Planning Manager, Ferrero USA
The operation and management of financial interests within a business can easily become its making or breaking point. Kristen Friedman joined Ferrero USA three years ago from Henkel Corp., where she rose through the ranks and was given increasing responsibility over larger budgets and developmental plans. At Ferrero USA, she organizes and guides the company through the annual plan development process, which includes ensuring that all deliverables associated with volume targets, sales budgets, KPIs and customer plan development are aligned cross-functionally and completed in accordance with the process timeline. Friedman helped identify how Ferrero USA could save $8 million from its 2019-20 operating budget. She also goes above and beyond in mentoring and leading the associate team she manages, with a goal of operating as a high-performing team.
VP, Corporate Controller, Grocery Outlet
When Grocery Outlet went public in 2019, Lindsay Gray was a key member of the leadership team that executed a successful initial public offering, leading the IPO finance function. With 14 years in accounting and finance (including audit at Deloitte) and seven in the retail industry, Gray’s distinguishing combination of technical strength and personable nature makes her stand out as a leader. She is only the second female leader at Grocery Outlet, and was one of four women who started a group called Working with Outstanding Women (WOW), an internal support network for female employees. Gray has expanded her compassion outside of her immediate team to foster a close-knit community of women at Grocery Outlet, and in 2019, she received the Jim Read award for exemplifying the company’s values.
VP, Investor Relations, Grocery Outlet
Joseph Pelland has been with Grocery Outlet for five years, rising from the manager level to his current position. Since the company’s 2019 IPO, Pelland’s role has expanded from providing internal guidance and a financial point of view in the strategic decision-making process to also speaking externally with prospective and current investors. He was a key member of the team that has developed and implemented a formalized process, structure and perspective as the Grocery Outlet advances from what had been a fully family-owned enterprise to a publicly traded one, while planning growth in a scalable way. Pelland’s ability to transform what had been an instinctual, “gut-based” approach to investment into repeatable and consistent processes has been invaluable to the company’s growth and success.
VP, Operator Recruiting and Training, Grocery Outlet
After six years of being responsible for strategy and analytics, where he focused on broad-scope company priorities and innovation, Jeff Phillips’ drive to make a difference in people’s lives led him to a more hands-on role in operator recruiting and training. He now has direct contact with and influence on aspiring independent operators, and has the opportunity to improve the experience and outcomes of the broader network. Phillips is overseeing a year-long revamp of operator training to make it scalable, consistent and mostly virtual. He and his team of more than 20 people are also rethinking the program to embrace nontraditional candidates who don’t have previous grocery experience, to more effectively deliver the “American dream” of entrepreneurship.
Pharmacy Operations Director, Harris Teeter
In her current role, Lindsay Capozziello challenges her team to think of the customer they’re serving and align their actions in a way that influences the customer’s life. She delivers quality counseling conversations on diet, lifestyle changes and medication adherence to achieve this mission. Capozziello has also led her team to a 65% increase in adult and adolescent vaccine administration rates, which translated to more than 35,500 Americans receiving protection from vaccine-preventable disease, and $3 million in sales. In addition, she serves as co-chair on the North Carolina Immunization Coalition and is a member of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists’ policy and advocacy committee. When COVID-19 hit, she ran one of the first pharmacist-driven drive-thru testing sites in an underserved North Carolina county
Store Director, Harris Teeter
Terrell Towns joined Harris Teeter in 2011, and in 2016, he applied for the management development program. His work ethic, passion, drive and dedication resulted in a number of promotions to further his career path. In June 2019, in his first store manager role, Towns increased sales by 18% and reduced the total amount of out-of-stocks. In February 2020, he was then promoted to the Weddington Corners store, where he increased sales nearly 40% and achieved a new record. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he rallied his team to be strong and, with his dedicated leadership, got through difficult times while always maintaining a high level of customer service to keep shoppers satisfied.
Site Leader, The Kroger Co./Manufacturing
From producing baking mixes to milk to frozen pizza, Eric Behn has more than 15 years of CPG manufacturing experience at four plants, succeeding in technical and operational roles. At his first plant, he championed waste reduction, generating $300,000 in annual savings, while at his current plant, he drove the installation of two new production lines, increasing profitability by 50%. Behn showed his innovative spirit at the wastewater treatment plant he worked on in Greensburg, Ind., which was a constant source of complaints from the community because of the odor. He worked with Kroger’s corporate engineers to use new technology that would capture methane from food waste and turn it into electricity. The fully enclosed system eliminated odors, improved the quality of life for the plant’s neighbors, and reduced the carbon footprint
Contact Center Manager of Service Governance, The Kroger Co.
Samantha Bock is a workforce management expert, leading human resource staffing into the next phase of remote customer support and growing Kroger’s presence into other countries, for a truly diversified model. She designed and implemented a multinational, geographically diverse service delivery model to ensure that customer needs are met at all times, and in spite of any single event. When the pandemic hit, she spearheaded the effort to double capacity by May 1, bringing up new vendors in Jamaica and The Philippines who could grow with the company while working from home even as they were also dealing with COVID-19. Outside of work, Bock is the board chair for Empower Youth, an organization focused on providing meals to children on evenings and weekends.
Assistant Store Leader, The Kroger Co./Louisville Division
Brianna Cid began her career at Kroger as a cashier and quickly took on additional responsibilities. Since becoming an assistant store manager, she has assumed the role of secretary of the African American Associate Resource Group for the Louisville division, and is leading a plan of action for diversity in the division. This plan includes a new division diversity manager position, a partnership with local universities for diversity training, a zero-tolerance policy for racial slurs and epithets, an inclusivity role stipulating that at least one candidate of color must be interviewed for any new position, and the Louisville division president’s involvement as a supporter of change. Cid was also recently named community giving affairs District 1 manager.
Laura Beth Kovolisky
Lead Business Acceleration Consultant-Merchandising, The Kroger Co./84.51° Division
Laura Beth Kovolisky seamlessly connects dots across the trifecta of experience (academic, practitioner and consultant); cross-discipline expertise (supply chain, category management and sales); and perspective (CPG and retail) to deliver initiatives that are significant, scalable and sustainable. She reinvented the shelf for the dog food category at Kroger this past year by enlisting a CPG partner on advanced analytics that ultimately led to the development of five distinct customer segments. In-market testing she quantified the scaled size of the prize at $10 million-plus, and the initiative is currently being rolled out across the enterprise. She also championed job sharing as a flexible work option and is currently piloting a program with benefits for both employees and company
DMM/Coordinator Home Electronics, Toys and Sporting Goods, The Kroger Co./Fred Meyer
To couple leadership results with business results is rare, but Catherine Mosich does this seamlessly as the head of a 30-person team of associates that has been instrumental in rolling out the company’s new Home Electronic Stores of the Future. She delivered new categories, products, fixtures and a robust décor package for four iterations of this dynamic, innovative format at Fred Meyer. Due to her success, plans are already in place to expand the format. Mosich has brought energy and innovative ways of thinking to brick-and-mortar locations, sparking a renewed interest from customers in this ever-changing environment and making them want to return, as well as helping Fred Meyer compete with online retailers.
Sunny Reelhorn Parr
Executive Director, Kroger Foundations, The Kroger Co.
As executive director of the Kroger Foundations, Sunny Reelhorn Parr led the transformation of grant-making policies, governance, program focus and measurement to align with Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social impact plan to create a more equitable and efficient charitable food system. Her strong background in finance serves her well as steward of more than $20 million in grant-making every year. With a goal to increase the amount of healthy food that’s recovered and redistributed to people who need it, she started the Innovation Fund and managed its first open call in 2019, resulting in the first cohort of seven innovators with new solutions to prevent or reduce food waste. When COVID-19 hit, Parr quickly provided additional funding to help scale these innovators’ programs and recover more food from farmers’ fields.
Division Recruiting and Training Manager, The Kroger Co./Atlanta Division
After joining Kroger as an assistant store manager trainee, Latasha Williams rose through the ranks to her current position, in which she has achieved one of the lowest times to hire for applicants enterprise-wide year-over-year. She also developed a Train the Trainer process for new store assistant store managers, and has redefined the recruiting process from passive to active recruiting. Williams leads the division’s intern program, which now has an 85% stay rate, and has partnered with the corporate team to develop a standard procedure for the entire enterprise. She shows an innate ability to staff hard-to-source locations by leveraging nontraditional resources such as social media. In addition to her day-to-day job, Williams has her own nonprofit, Blaze-Her, for women to have a seat at the table
Senior Food Scientist, Litehouse
In her six years with the Litehouse research and development team, Katie Clayton has developed more than 400 product formulas, with 75 of them entering the marketplace. In the retail channel, she brought dozens of new salad dressings, sauces, marinades, smoothies and more to market, working cross-functionally to identify flavor trends. In 2019, Clayton shifted to the foodservice and ingredient division, where she manages the technical side of the relationship with some of the company’s biggest customers, and is a key strategic partner when it comes to finding dressings and sauces to complement their salad kits, meal bowls, restaurant offerings and more. Clayton has a passion for coupling her love of food with her love of teaching. and is involved in local community education initiatives, including representing Litehouse at a local high school.
Director, Plant Operations, Litehouse
In his nine years with Litehouse, Evan Ormiston has risen from an entry-level employee to director of plant operations at the company’s largest manufacturing facility, where he’s responsible for more than 400 employees. In his current position, he played a pivotal role in a manufacturing automation project, installing higher-speed and better-quality machines that resulted in a 100% throughput gain. With his people-first mindset, Ormiston has had a tremendous impact on his team, in addition to driving process improvements. While manufacturing manager, his one-on-one coaching approach was instrumental to the professional development of junior team members, which resulted in the promotion of 11 employees. Ormiston is also part of a plant managers’ group of manufacturing management professionals who meet monthly to discuss industry challenges, growth opportunities and other important issues.
Director of Merchandising-Deli/Bakery/Franchise, Meijer
In response to changing customer shopping habits, Becky Bronkema launched a meal solutions program led by the deli team that included a wide-scale rollout of heat-and-eat items, unified branding across the fresh department of the Meals Made Easy program, and dominant front end display of the meal solutions in all new stores. She and her team also pioneered the opening of two new food concepts at Meijer. The first is Humbliss, a new Mediterranean scan-based trading bowl program, and the second is a partnership restaurant with Hissho Sushi. Bronkema is also testing a major disruptive labor and service change that would overhaul Meijer’s deli service salad and hot food components. She is actively involved in Women at Meijer and the Network of Executive Women.
Director Meat, Seafood and Packaged Meat, Meijer
COVID-19 has been challenging for the meat and seafood category, but Ryan DeLeon is empowering collaboration and seeing record results. He partnered with local companies such as Gordon Food Service to alleviate its shrink while leveraging supply to help meet Meijer’s customer demand. DeLeon ran a 30% year-to-date comp while breaking $1 billion in revenue in just over six months. To offer customers innovative solutions, he developed a “ready to cook” meal destination where customers could pick their protein and sides, instead of choosing from predetermined combinations. His exclusive brat partnership with Bell’s, a Michigan-based brewery, is also on track to annualize more than $1 million in volume. DeLeon also co-led the Young Professionals (YoPro) group at Meijer, in which he provided opportunities for development and fostered partnerships with charities.
Director Store Support, Meijer
During the past eight months, Craig Matthews has led the effort to protect team members and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. He led the rollout of Meijer Pickup as an extension of the COVID-19 response by working with IT, building out team member and customer processes, identifying and procuring all equipment, and designing and building the space within the store. Matthews was also a key leader on a cross-functional team that reduced labor operating costs by more than 25%, while average pay still grew at a rate significantly higher than margin and inflation. What’s more, the processes and procedures regarding food safety, social distancing and health screening that Matthews and his team implemented have been adopted and implemented by the Michigan state government.
Director Market Format, Meijer
Meijer began debuting its small-format market stores in 2018 with Bridge Street Market in Grand Rapids, Mich. Since then, Justin Stricklen has taken responsibility for these markets, opening Woodward Corner Market in Royal Oak, Mich., in January of this year and Capital City Market in Lansing, Mich., this past October. He’s also leading a market store in Detroit slated for 2021. The stores are 100% self-checkout and designed to bring a new level of fresh and value in a smaller footprint, with more than 4,000 hyperlocal items and local food and beverage tenants. Stricklen is also a member of Meijer’s crisis management team, and he and his team planned an event in April to give away more than 60,000 snacks and an employee discount to the staff at Beaumont Hospital.
Marketing Manager, Menomonie Market Food Co-op
Menomonie Market Food Co-op, in Eau Claire, Wis., is Kendall Williams’ first time working in the grocery industry, and, in under a year and a half, she has taken the store’s marketing from reactive, unorganized and often ineffective to an efficient, well-oiled machine that produces powerhouse creative and ideas. She built and launched a modern website with e-commerce capabilities in less than 30 days and built the co-op’s first online personal shopping service, resulting in approximately $80,000 in online sales that would have been lost during the first three months of the pandemic. Beyond the online store, Williams has also reimagined and relaunched the co-op’s education program, resulting in a more than 70% increase in class signups before COVID-19, and developed incredibly effective campaigns for large sales events, many of which led to record-breaking numbers.
Value-Added Production Manager, Ocean Mist Farms
The produce industry is in Kevin Tottino’s blood as the fourth generation in a nearly 100-year-old family business. For nearly 10 years, Tottino has built and run the value-added operation of Ocean Mist Farms, introducing the first value-added item for the company, Season & Steam Artichokes. The product line marries microwaveable packaging technology with the company’s flagship product to build a new market opportunity. He has also brought mechanized processes to the value-added production facility to increase both efficiency and plant capacity, which previously relied heavily on hand-picking and now uses auto-baggers. Additionally, Tottino serves on the Annual Castroville Artichoke Festival board of directors to organize an event to raise money for local parks and recreation programs, community enrichment for seniors, and animal assist programs
Category Digital Sales Director, NA Skin Care, Procter & Gamble
Ruthie Apple joined P&G more than nine years ago and has seen success with multiple promotions. She most recently doubled the business (in three years) as the Amazon skin and personal care lead. Now, as digital leader for NA skin care, she has once again rewritten the playbook for how to win in the digital retail arena. Apple tailors her recommendations to meet retail partners, and within six months she helped double the percentage of business done online for Olay. The playbook she developed also allowed retailers to quickly take advantage of the exponential consumer shift to online shopping when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Beyond her day-to-day work, Apple coaches recruits from her alma mater, empowers her direct reports and is a leader of the Asain Pacific American Network.
Senior Director Analytics & Insights, P&G Kroger Team, Procter & Gamble
Dean Ho has proved his ability to work across the P&G organization and with various executive-level stakeholders to win the future of retail. He led the Kroger team to align the first P&G/Kroger digital action plan as the commercial e-commerce leader over the past two years, crossing the $100 million sales mark to result in more than 230% growth. Ho leads a team of 19 that also created the first commercialized P&G/Kroger analytics and insights data platform for grocery, saving 10,000 hours of total team business by automating 80% of total business reporting, with data automation, innovation tools and a one-stop data shop. Ho also rolled out a paid search capability and led the first commercial API data connection between Kroger and P&G.
Director, Home Care Sales Kroger Team, Procter & Gamble
Laura Rojo-Carrillo’s expertise over the past eight years at P&G has led her to her current position, in which she manages a $280 million-dollar business and multifunctional team with Kroger across the Dawn, Cascade, Febreze and Swiffer brands. Under her leadership, the P&G business had been growing double digits prior to the March surge due to COVID-19. Rojo-Carillo has spearheaded efforts to offer lunch-and-learns, speakers and newsletters that champion diversity, equality and inclusion. In light of recent 2020 events of racial injustice, the time has never been more ripe to foster conversations of equality in corporate America. Intolerance of inequality and creating an environment to educate, discuss and drive change are what Rojo-Carrillo has done and continues to accomplish at P&G
VP Sales, Procter & Gamble
Brandon Vick has been with P&G for a decade and is focused on making an impact on company culture, diversity and inclusion. He personally mentors more than 30 individuals within the company, and he has quickly ascended to new roles due to strong performance. Vick is on the AALT (African Ancestry Lead Team), where he has increased the number of AA applicants and reduced attrition of AA employees on the P&G Walmart Inc. Global Customer Team. He was also selected as a “male champion” for the Network of Executive Women, is an Inroads alum that co-led the corporate networking pillar, created a grass-roots recruiting strategy to grow the AA pipeline, and has won the P&G Great Manager of Others award several times.
Chief Transformation Officer, Save A Lot
Since 2018, Reid Tuenge has been Save A Lot’s chief of staff, VP of merchandising, SVP of retail operations and now chief transformation officer, in which capacity he’s responsible for driving substantial innovation that positively impacts the business. Tuenge is playing a huge role in the company’s transition from a mixed retail-wholesale model to a focused wholesale model as it re-licences its corporate stores to independent operators. Part of his focus is developing a turnkey program that provides the tools and support needed to allow each retail partner to go to market in the most successful way possible. Tuenge has also led efforts to establish strategic discount pricing to better position Save A Lot within its competitive landscape, and is leading the implementation of e-commerce into the company’s business model
VP, Merchandising & Marketing, ShopRite Supermarkets Inc. (SRS)
Michael Martin started at SRS as an assistant store manager, rising through the ranks to his current role (after six promotions) at only 32 years of age. He has successfully developed and implemented several new initiatives, which helped drive customer experience, grow sales and improve overall profitability. These include a new perishable program that includes a recent focus on growing foodservice sales and expanding e-commerce. He deployed several creative tools to capture new customers via target marketing, tested new “one-night only” sale events, and experimented with new pricing and promotional tactics to drive sales and profitability. Martin also developed a customer deli app marketing program, resulting in a 55% increase from the prior year. During COVID-19, he developed a new self-service program in seafood and bakery, resulting in higher sales and improved shrink.
Director of Retail, Meat & Seafood, SpartanNash
Overseeing strategy implementation for the meat and seafood departments at more than 155 stores and supervising seven direct reports, Dan Estelle has a strong commitment to community support and the industry. In response to COVID-19, he partnered with seven local west Michigan restaurants to develop more than 35 products for a pre-packaged heat-and-serve program, donating 100% of the more than $100,000 in sales back to the restaurants. Estelle also leads efforts to reduce food waste: He lowered shrink through a partnership with the Flashfood app, interdepartmental promotion, and working with local food banks and food pantries. He’s also a member of the SpartanNash 100 Club, meaning that he volunteers for more than 100 hours per year with local charities.
Matt Van Gilder
Director, E-Commerce, SpartanNash
Matt Van Gilder joined SpartanNash as a service clerk while still in college and then completed the SpartanNash ASD Training Program. After several marketing positions, he made his way to e-commerce and has grown business by leading innovative products such as the development and launch of Fast Lane delivery and introducing GPS location technology to its click-and-collect program to nearly eliminate wait times. During COVID-19, when e-commerce increased by 500% to 600% year over year, he worked to train more than 150 new shoppers, quickly purchased and deployed new equipment, and put in place a system that allowed tips. Van Gilder is also very engaged with the community, donating Fast Lane services to local nonprofit partners such as the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge and local hospitals to enable their clients and patients to receive free delivery while undergoing treatment
Director, Retail Marketing, SpartanNash
Jessica Wong executes key consumer-facing programs such as the rewards program and the retail health-and-wellness program, while also developing a comprehensive shopper marketing program, executing the weekly circular and in-store point of sale, and overseeing the promotional planning process. She led the Explore Michigan corporate initiative to create vendor partnerships and organize customer giveaways, so people could safely explore the state during COVID-19. She also transformed an in-studio partnership with two media outlets for “busy moms” and “ask an expert” segments to a one-person show amid the pandemic, prepping the food and filming the show from her house. Wong also launched a local campaign in July 2020 that included reaching out to farmers and producers for video and photos, and asking them to share more about themselves and their operations.
Wilson Dos Santos
Category Manager III, Stop & Shop
Wilson Dos Santos has quickly progressed upwards in his 15-plus years at Ahold Delhaize USA’s Stop & Shop banner. In 2017, he was promoted to a category manager on the packaged and frozen meat desk, where he manages a quarter-billion-dollar business. He manages more than 35 brands that fall under 20-plus vendors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dos Santos led his team through the resulting supply-chain issues and still grew his business by double digits. He also led one of the largest resets of his key categories to date, matching current market trends and shopping patterns. Wilson’s leadership over the past two years has shown the diversity needed in retail, specifically in the meat industry, and he has mentored a number of team members to reach their next level at Stop & Shop.
Lead R&D Researcher, WestRock
Using her background in biotechnology to address a pressing foodservice packaging sustainability problem, Natasha Melton developed a recyclable, compostable paperboard cup prototype designed to hold hot and cold beverages, one of 12 winners of the NextGen Consortium’s NextGen Cup Challenge. She was also instrumental in marrying sustainability, performance and consumer appeal with her work on an alternative to traditional polycoat barriers used in foodservice packaging to prevent staining from oil and grease, helping develop EnShield Natural Kraft paperboard, which has been brought to market. Melton has also embraced the opportunity to provide inspiration to other young women of diverse backgrounds, leading a Women in Science and Engineering Group at WestRock, and a Pathways to Science program that recruits and develops Latina girls for STEM careers.