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2021 Top Women in Grocery: Rising Stars

Progressive Grocer’s 2021 Top Women in Grocery awards program recognizes the integral role women play across all segments of the North American food retail and grocery industries. This is the 15th year for the food retailing industry's longest running program recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of thousands of women at all levels in the industry.

Females employed in all sectors of the grocery industry – from the retailer, wholesaler, supplier and solution provider communities – were nominated for above-and-beyond achievements between April 2020 and March 1, 2021 in three categories:

  • Senior-Level Executives (titles of Vice President or higher)
  • Rising Stars (titles lower than Vice President and Area/Region Director)
  • Store Managers (titles of Store Manager/Director/Leader and Assistant Store Manager/Director/Leader)

The following are the Rising Stars honored in this year’s Top Women in Grocery awards.

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Bridget Faughnan

Director of Grocery, Acosta

  • Flawlessly implementing her client’s brand strategies while hitting all financial goals, 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 that will enable company growth both in the e-commerce and brick-and-mortar spaces.
  • Along with her Acosta teammates, Faughnan volunteers at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.
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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, including holding a board position on the Melting Barriers charity and helping St. Vincent DePaul generate funds for homeless families in her community.
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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.
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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. For Chelan Fresh, her team’s SugarBee campaign led to a 167% increase in social followers.
  • 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 voters excited and informed about voting, and developed content for the Its On Us Summit Series to help combat campus sexual assault.
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Laura Sylvester

Compliance Director, Advantage Solutions

  • 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, and took a creative approach to removing roadblocks while continuing to provide a quality customer experience.
  • Sylvester is a supporter of Feeding America; a volunteer mentor for Tennessee Achieves, a pre-college scholarship mentoring program; and works on events committed to resolving food insecurity.
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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%.
  • She developed an interactive augmented-reality program for an adult-beverage client and amplified the program with in-store point-of-sale events and an out-of-store geo-targeted media campaign; the program boosted sales by 6% in test stores, with an additional brand shopper spend of $66,000.
  • Albert is active in several organizations for executive women.
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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 part-time field use by more than 30%, and reduced turnover by 8%.
  • She was a founding member of an inaugural employee resource group focused on improving gender equality at her company, helping to build the framework, committee structures and initial recruitment that expanded the initial team of eight women to a community of 440-plus women and men.
  • Tussing is a member of the Network of Executive Women and volunteers at North Texas Performing Arts, an organization focused on growing interest in the performing arts among young people.
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Erin Heikkinen

Senior Director, eCommerce 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.
  • 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.
  • Heikkinen is a frequent featured speaker and expert panelist, and serves as a volunteer for The Salvation Army.
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Dee Hall

Executive General Manager, Advantage Solutions/Advantage Marketing Partners

  • For the largest beer company in the world, Hall oversaw 175-plus field sales associates and doubled agency revenue during a year of unprecedented challenge and uncertainty; her innovative reimagining and recreating of the in-store demo experience during COVID-19 was critical to the brand’s success.
  • She created and launched Culture Council, a collective of marketing professionals across various disciplines, to leverage their collective experience and passion for multicultural marketing.
  • As co-chair and host of the REGGIE Awards, Hall helps spotlight the best marketing campaigns activated by brands and agencies.
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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 tools that they needed to maintain safety at work.
  • Whittaker collaborated with customers and clients during the pandemic to ensure best practices and personally connected with more than 700 retail representatives from the beginning of the pandemic about attending work; she also helped establish a mentoring program at Advantage and completed her MBA degree by attending night classes.
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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. The operations team completed 937 hours, generating more than 1 million pesos.
  • Llanos works with her church to support ministries for children and young adults.
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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; the program held 5,500-plus demos in 2020.
  • Manzano works with Sunrise Bonita, an organization dedicated to helping senior citizens, and volunteers once a month at an orphanage for special-needs children in Tijuana, Mexico.
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Katherine Burkhardt

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 to drive consumer loyalty and create retailer differentiation has won significant new business for her company.
  • Burkhardt works with PennPAC, a nonprofit that matches University of Pennsylvania alumni with volunteer opportunities.
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Joelle Dove

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.
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Sarah Fair

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

  • Since joining Daymon Creative Services three years ago, Fair has driven efficiency across the agency, modernized existing capabilities and launched new services; in 2020, she helped deliver 16% top- and bottom-line growth for the packaging division.
  • Part of her 2020 strategy included expanding into new packaging options, including sustainable packaging; other new services included 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 the agency’s capabilities to better support e-commerce; the agency now offers photorealistic solutions that help get products online 12 weeks faster.
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Trish Myers

Manager of Analytics, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

  • In 2020, 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.
  • During the pandemic, Myers had to juggle overseeing school at home for her three young children. She is an active member of WISE (Women Impacting Store Brand Excellence) and team lead for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Connecticut chapter.
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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; she collaborated with Daymon’s 17 business managers, her leadership team, a retail customer and private-brand manufacturers to navigate the surge in demand.
  • 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 a 12-week period.
  • In recognition of her business achievements, she received the Milty Award, named after Daymon co-founder Milt Sender.
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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.
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Jean Ryan

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

  • As the long-term nature of the COVID-19 pandemic became evident, Ryan pivoted her role to identify ways that Daymon could help retailers thrive in their “new normal”; In one example of her ingenuity, she developed a signage program regarding 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. Also seeing the growth of e-commerce, she led her teams to focus on digital marketing opportunities.
  • Ryan expanded her support of Adopt-a-Family and made the program available to all of Daymon’s Strategic Advisory associates, which helped collect more than $1,000 in donations.
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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, and she also launched a private-brand sustainable packaging service.
  • In recognition of her contributions, McCormick received a promotion in November 2020 and was named a 2020 Store Brands Rising Star.
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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.
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Elizabeth Croisetiere

Senior Account Executive, Advantage Solutions/EDGE Marketing

  • Croisetiere developed a program to help drive impulse purchases of magazines at Kroger stores, which ran in June 2020; the initiative featured cart signs that enabled shoppers to download a $1-off coupon for magazine purchases, resulting in a 13.8% sales lift.
  • In December 2020, 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; the program experienced active engagement from 50% of employees.
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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-in-class post-promotional analyses.
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Hillary McTeer

Senior Business Development Manager, Advantage Solutions/Eventus

  • Despite the pandemic, McTeer found ways to continue experiential programming in a safe, effective way: One program, Red Bull - Back to College, a drive-thru event that included scholarship opportunities, giveaways, and a chance for college students to show school spirit during a time when most activities had been canceled, achieved more than 200,000 impressions.
  • Her Crown Royal - Purple Bag Program was a storefront initiative that supported Packages from Home, a nonprofit organization that sends care packages to deployed American military personnel. Customers were encouraged to fill recycled purple bags with pre-selected goodies and a handwritten note. Activated at a total of 24 stores, the program resulted in 4,000 bags filled. 
  • In her work, McTeer helped drive revenue for the overall Retailtainment team and overdelivered on budget.
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Brayanna Montoya

Client Services Manager, Advantage Solutions/Eventus

  • When sampling programs were put on hold, Montoya led the development of a Mother’s Day drive-thru pilot program for Walmart; she had only two weeks to plan and execute the program with her team, but they made it a success that was approved by Walmart.
  • 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, which ran from August through October 2020.
  • Montoya serves on Advantage’s Latinx employee resource group and women’s employee resource group, and she’s also a member of the American Marketing Association.
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Laura Cosgrove

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

  • Cosgrove developed a plan to make Walmart a beauty destination by using trained “beauty advisors” to assist customers with product selection, answer questions and keep the beauty sections stocked; during a test of the initiative, stores with a beauty advisor showed 5.15% year-over-year growth versus regular departments in control stores.
  • As COVID-19 hit and the beauty advisor program had to be put on pause, she turned to Advantage’s 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 and supports many charities, including Saving Grace and the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.
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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 was able to generate 2 million direct-to-home sampling impressions for her clients; this resulted in almost $1 million in incremental revenue for her company.
  • Jones agreed to co-chair a company-wide monthly meeting to come up with ways to reinvigorate content and keep employees engaged in the virtual space; additionally, she served as a mentor to the two newest members of her team during the pivot to remote working.
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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.
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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.
  • Williams is an active supporter of Susan G. Komen and Feeding America branches in her area.
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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 retailers and wholesale retailers.
  • In a down year due to COVID-19, between April 2020 and February 2021 her sales team produced $14.6 million sales in revenue, a 110% increase over the prior year.
  • Many sales records were exceeded by Johnson’s team in 2021, such as the New York City team called the Inner City Independents, with the best year in more than years; she is also a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and Metropolitan Ministries.
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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 volunteered with employer diversity task forces, as well as taking part in activities at her church.
  • Lee increased her staffing goal of 92%, ending the year at 95%.
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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-of-stock 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.
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Courtney Brown

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; she was nominated to assist upper leadership with planning and improvement of best practices and company culture.
  • 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.
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Karen Hunstiger

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, as well as being recognized for her leadership; 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 human resources.
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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 KPIs; 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.
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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, to keep her team safe.
  • Through her leadership, a new development day structure rolled out; she helped organize new technology for Mars Wrigley, which bolstered the relationship between the client and Advantage; and she and her team won a 2021 safety award for the Northeast region.
  • 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 (ERGs) and a seat on the Black & African-American Network Diversified ERG board.
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Kelly Silence

Zone Director, Advantage Solutions/Waypoint

  • Managing one of the largest West Coast territories in geography and revenue, which is consistently top ranked in both EBITA and profitability, Silence led a team that generated sales across restaurants, chain accounts, business/industry, colleges/universities, and group purchasing organizations.
  • When COVID-19 hit her territory in the Northwest first, she developed virtual training for her team’s use, identifying stress and anxiety in her team and advocating for professional mental health resources and COVID-19 assistance programs; she also worked to develop an incubator for women seeking leadership positions.
  • Silence is a founding member of Waypoint Culture Champions and a charter member of Women’s Interactive Mentorship.
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Liz Ziegler

Director of Culinary, Advantage Solutions/Waypoint

  • 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.
  • In the same month, she directed her team to focus on changes in the foodservice industry, creating new weekly recipes for a three-month period; and she also directed a shift to assisting clients introducing new products during an uncertain time.
  • Ziegler makes food donations to a youth center, conducts cooking classes at a community center and raises donations for a Culinary Institute of America scholarship fund.
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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.
  • A leader in her community and her church, Griffin is regarded as a leader with an ever-positive attitude who inspires others to believe in themselves.
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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 1,000-plus store managers to track and access data; this process also assisted departments in gathering real-time data on active cases. Additionally, her department leads the process for tracking associate vaccinations against the virus.
  • Stiller and her team received an award for leadership and teamwork for their work after Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.
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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 restructure, and even though her own position was eliminated and she had to apply for a new position, she focused on caring for her team and helping them through the process.
  • As director of merchandising, Wilhelm relied on her experience in operations, category and merchandising to inform her cross-functional understanding.
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Ashley Flower     

Public Relations Manager, The Giant Company

  • As part of the company’s brand refresh, Flower successfully launched a brand-new company page, complete with new imagery, copy and content strategy; engagement is at a brand high, and followers increased organically by more than 6,000 in one year.
  • 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; generating 1.2 million earned media impressions, exceeding the initial key performance indicator of 600,000 impressions.
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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. 
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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 including retail stores, distribution centers and support offices to provide a safe space for courageous conversations and to develop better understanding. 
  • She successfully planned and executed racial equality funding of $500,000 by partnering with community organizations with a shared vision for racial equality and economic equity.
  • Noor currently serves on the board of directors of the YWCA in Carlisle, Pa.; the HACC- Central Pennsylvania Community College Foundation board, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission task force.
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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 and support the communities in which they operate.  
  • 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 community.
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Caron Sanders          

Director Human Resource, 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 cases, including COVID-19 positives, close contacts, mandated quarantines due to travel, and other situations. 
  • She developed a comprehensive benefit pamphlet, “Care Grows Here,” which highlighted the organization’s benefits to the entire population and 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, resulting in more than 8,000 volunteer hours in 2020. 
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Rayma Alexander

Director, 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 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 time of 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.
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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 to the evolution from face-to-face consultations, store tours, classes and community events to truly adopting a dynamic online presence. 
  • Beyond her day job, 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. 
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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 shares her time and expertise with others by volunteering 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. 


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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 serve and live.
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Monica Simmons-Dolce

Director 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 the 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; she’s also a mentor at U.S. Dream Academy, which aims to give children the skills and vision to lead productive lives. 
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Yesim Smith

Human Resources BP, Giant Food

  • Smith was instrumental in the record growth and success of Giant Delivers in 2020 by 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-through Family Day and celebrations for Pride Inside and Hispanic Heritage Month. 
  • Having 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. 
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Pallavi Jain       

Director II, Product Management, 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 70-plus enhancements her team delivered, some of the most notable were enabling EBT online, same-day delivery, and self-service lockers for click-and-collect customers.
  • 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 several other key performance indicators, including site conversion, basket size and customer retention.
  • Jain is an active participant in PDL Women in Technology+ activities; she’s also an avid trekker who recently completed a Mount Everest base camp hike.
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Venita James      

Trends Manager, Peapod Digital Labs

  • 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 the Peapod Digital Labs sourcing manager in executing events.
  • She partnered with Peapod Digital Labs’ sourcing manager to 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. 
  • James is a volunteer and guest speaker at First Gen Success, a nonprofit that provides resources for first-generation female college students.
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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 rather than being tied up with administrative tasks and bureaucracy.  
  • 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. 
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Andjela Petrovic       

Manager III, Omnichannel Strategy, Peapod Digital Labs

  • Petrovic spearheaded an on-demand training program, Omnichannel On Demand, for which she developed the materials, filmed footage and helped distribute the Omnichannel On Demand 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. 
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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.
  • Playing a key role in the RBS Cares program, DeWaters spearheaded a virtual volunteer day of service during which associates donated more than 20,000 service hours, and she’s also president of the Public Relations Society of America’s Charlotte, N.C., chapter.
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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 for the Lion’s Share Credit Union. 
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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 affinity resource group and Empathy Engine Project; she also drove her location to be the top fundraising store in her market for the USO.
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Stephanie Duffy

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

Perishable Manager, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. 

  • 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.
  • She recently created a step-by-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. 
  • During the holidays, Griffin worked with the Salvation Army on its efforts to provide additional materials and fulfill donation requests; she brought in decorations with words of encouragement and COVID-safe snacks for her team, which were very well received. 
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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 became co-chair of Stop & Shop’s BIPOC associate resource group in 2021.
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Denise Algire

Director, Risk Initiatives, Albertsons Co.

  • The national medical director for Albertsons in addition to overseeing risk initiatives, Algire was chosen in January 2020 to lead the company’s pandemic plan development per WHO and CDC requirements for COVID-19 readiness; her prior military experience with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency prepared her for this assignment.
  • 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.
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Christine Ang-Herrera

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

  • 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.
  • Her team saved money with the Train the Trainer program, teaching inside trainers and eliminating the need for external trainers. 
  • Ang-Herrera helped raise money for COVID-19 kits and personal protective equipment for front-line workers, sponsored the education of two children from a non-governmental organization partner with virtual events, and provided assistance to victims of two strong typhoons that hit The Philippines.   
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Alexandra Ball

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

  • Overseeing the movement of about 2.5 million cases annually, Ball ensured that sanitation products were in stock during the pandemic.
  • 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.
  • Ball participates in the Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network, as well as belonging to a wide range of wine grower and educator groups.
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Vicki Bittner

Service Deli Operational Specialist, Albertsons Co.

  • 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%.
  • Bittner is a member of the Southern California Diversity & Inclusion Council; she also passed the Certified Cheese Professional exam, which only 1,000 people have passed since its inception.
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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.
  • Due to the Alameda 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.
  • Branson volunteers for the Special Olympics and food pantry distribution, and is a group member of Oregon State Developmental Disability Advocacy.
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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. 
  • 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 which enabled the organization to exceed its fiscal year 2020 financial target.
  • Brophy supports breast cancer awareness and research.
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Divina Gracia Buenafe

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 (CMA), a certified financial consultant (CFC) 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 minimal to no business service disruption to Safeway Philtech’s 24/7 service delivery.
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Katherine Chin    

Senior Strategic Sourcing Director, Albertsons Cos.

  • 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.
  • She was able to take critical feedback from suppliers that would create additional supply capacity and implement change within Albertsons to allow the company to take advantage of the freed-up capacity; her collaborative but firm approach has positioned Albertsons Own Brands for success and continues to drive incremental sales for the company.
  • Chin created and drove several key initiatives within strategic sourcing to improve employee morale and engagement. 
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Danielle Cremer

Senior Store Planner, Albertsons Cos.

  • As the company accelerated plans for Drive Up & Go late in the year to meet the customer needs for online shopping, 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 Albertsons Community Team, dedicating her time in the community for United Way Holiday Helpers, Toys for Tots and the Shakespeare Festival.
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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 for operational decisions, upcoming ideas and project initiatives.
  • 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. recognized her and the SoCal Executive Leadership team with the Star Award.
  • Cruz is a member of the Southern California division’s Diversity & Inclusion Council.
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Anupama Dande

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 year, accounting for $200,000 savings in a year, in terms of productivity loss.
  • Dande created a multiregion module solution for driving an unprecedented surge in e-commerce traffic, which helps to increase the resiliency of the systems.
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Marlowe Dias      

Quality Assurance Director, Albertsons Cos.

  • 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 demonstrated full compliance with USDA National Organic Plan Standards; she was also instrumental in the successful implementation of an Albertsons third-party audit program.
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Debbie Gilboy     

District Manager, Albertsons Cos.

  • 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 (REAB) 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.
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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.
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Valerie Hund 

Senior Manager, SRE Loyalty, Albertsons Cos.

  • Hund spearheaded and implemented a standard monitoring framework for the 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.
  • 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 the tremendous demands of raising a child with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.
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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 (EVCS) retail installation initiative, including everything from contract negotiation to internal and external stakeholder coordination.
  • For six years, Ikeuchi has coordinated 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.
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Kathy Jones

Own Brands Operations Manager, Albertsons Cos.

  • Jones is a 44-year veteran at Albertsons who manages the setup and maintenance of our 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 and her contributions allowed the company to respond to changing buying habits quickly and secure product inventory for customers, and sales directly resulting from her work were well in excess of $200 million.
  • Jones runs a wildlife rescue from her home, often housing non-domesticated animals while searching for new homes for them or locations for their release.
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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 stores for online delivery and pickup from 500 stores 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.
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Nancy Keane 

Public Affairs/Communications Manager, Albertsons Cos.

  • From the onset of COVID-19, Keane spearheaded relief efforts for Albertsons and Safeway across the Southwest to support medical workers and patients at outdoor surge test sites during a heat wave by providing pallets of bottled water and support, and led a 50-pallet water delivery to the Hopi Nation, nationally one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19.  
  • 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; she procured more than 30 million media impressions through traditional and social media channels.
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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 as the company’s stores receive immunization doses to offer to customers.
  • Krill contributed to the company’s efforts to position pharmacy technology in a long-term service delivery model leveraging both onshore and offshore talent, resulting in almost $2 million in savings for Albertsons Technology.
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Alexa Langona    

Director of Own Brands, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, working tirelessly to get documentation and regulatory approval for every supplier.
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Emma Ly

Senior Sourcing Manager, Albertsons Cos.

  • 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.
  • During 2020 product shortages, she used her industry expertise to quickly source additional control brand products in certain categories like frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • Ly’s organizational skills and ability to multitask during all hours of the day, while also making sure that her two young kids stayed focused on their own remote learning, was nothing short of a superhero effort.
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Kelly Malone

Service Deli Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos.

  • Malone stepped up as the Almeda fires 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 fires could leave their pets until they found new living arrangements. 
  • Amid the fires and the COVID-19 pandemic, she managed to outperform the rest of the Portland division, with a sales increase of more than 7 percent. 
  • Actively involved in training and mentoring district and division deli associates, Malone is a positive leader and effective communicator. 
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Dominika Matthews

Digital Marketing and Analytics Manager, Albertsons Cos.

  • During her first six months at Albertsons, Matthews made a large impact not only in the Denver division, but also among all divisions of the company: She grew new registered loyalty households by 10 percent and increased active households by 5 percent.  
  • 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. 
  • Matthews has been selected to participate in national business development strategies and is consistently called out for successful and innovative campaign results, including two strong holiday reward campaigns that significantly increased sales.
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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.
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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 percent-plus growth in e-commerce and doubling customer retention from prior years. 
  • All of 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. 
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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 made 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 also 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.  
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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 (EDI) partner conversion to a new B2B system and implementing it across various workstreams, she and her team greatly contributed to reducing risk and applying 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 the creation of fun activities. 
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Robin Porter

Senior Manager Maintenance and Purchasing Support, 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. 
  • Collaboration is extremely important to Porter, as seen by how she leads her team to improve their skills and capabilities; she had her team do deep-dive training on refrigeration contract reviews and developed a weekly hour-long “study group” for the team to build teamwork.
  • Porter’s training helped her team better understand company capitalization policies, identify work orders that qualified and transition those to capital purchase orders, helping improve the company’s financial record keeping and reducing expenses. 
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Ashley Rae

Deli Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos.

  • 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, which had 150-plus attendees from her district. 
  • 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.
  • To improve herself and be a role model for others, Rae is currently enrolled in a Retail Management Certificate training program. 
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Karen Rasser

Sourcing Manager, Albertsons Cos.

  • During the beginning of the pandemic, Rasser went above and beyond by rushing essential items to stores on a daily basis and spending 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 they 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. 
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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 to basis to discuss leadership strategy and career advancement opportunities; she’s is also a council member of the Seattle division’s Women’s Inspiration and 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-of-store focus. 
  • Riddle was the division leader for center-of-store shrink control, achieving an improvement over last year of approximately $261,000.
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Maryrose Rinella

Senior Director Own Brands, 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 the alcohol business, she identified and led an innovation platform, launching 37 new items in the past 18 months for a total of $10 million plus incremental sales.
  • 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. 
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Kristina Sokukawa

Senior Product Manager, Albertsons Cos.

  • 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, she was promoted to senior product manager in July.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
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Andrea Telang

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

  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Although Telang’s daughter is now an adult, Telang remains extremely involved with the Girl Scouts of Northern California, using vacation time to volunteer at overnight summer camp, receiving food safety certification to serve as a head cook and acting as a Red Cross volunteer lifeguard. 
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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. 
  • To continue her education, Terrazas is pursuing her master of science degree in food safety at Michigan State University, and she has presented at scientific conferences throughout Northern California, including Stanford University and the University of California, Davis. 
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Stephanie Wendell

Senior Director of Sales, Own Brands, 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. 
  • 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.  
  • Wendell created a successful onboarding and training program leveraging technology to train and develop five new Own Brands sales managers and internal team members. 
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Ji-Ea Yi

Senior Product Manager of Martech, Albertsons Cos.

  • Yi leads marketing technology development across owned marketing programs; this includes managing program and product managers with third-party agencies.
  • 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 individual shoppers in a timely fashion.
  • Pharmacy has been a key focus of the new initiative, with highlights including a series of COVID-19 vaccine awareness communications that use email and push notifications; this endeavor generated more than 1 million email sign ups, 23% coming from new customers. 
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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 GMHBC categories that were particularly hard hit 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, thus procuring several thousand additional cases of product.
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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%.
  • Franjul is dedicated to supporting the Northern Illinois Food Bank and always available for packing events and other occasions.
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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.
  • In 2020, 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 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.
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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 full-time employees; working with the district manager, she also implemented a new, targeted hiring and recruiting initiative for 18 traditionally 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.
  • Instrumental in handling COVID-19-related issues among associates, Gresham built a close relationship with the Medcor crisis response team and set best practices regarding associate pay and return-to-work communications; among her peers, she became the go-to person regarding COVID-19 protocol.
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Kathy Kaupert

Electronic Marketing 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.
  • 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.
  • Kaupert’s work on processes and programs for the company’s loyalty app helped increase infrequent loyalty household engagement by 75% within four weeks, while frequent loyalty household engagement grew 126%.   
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Sarah Kelley

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

  • 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.
  • Working with the education and human resource department, she teaches new store directors and trainees what to look for when inspecting bakery and Starbucks departments, and how to meet customers’ needs.
  • During the pandemic, Kelley helped meet shopper demand by stocking shelves across all departments for two months, in addition to her everyday role.
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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 and understand installations and repairs from a user’s perspective.
  • After some stores were damaged during the spring 2020 Chicago riots on her day off, she immediately took action to get them 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.
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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; recipients included large school districts, eight nursing homes and EMS workers.
  • Okano partnered with the Blue Door health facility on Chicago’s South Side to provide health screenings and immunizations to low-income residents.


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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 (up 10.1%), skin care (up 28.5%) and cosmetics (up 8%) — were also hurt by more consumers working at home.
  • Nationally and locally, she negotiated with hundreds of vendors to provide protective products for associates and customers, buying and securing hand sanitizers, 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 and developed daily store shipments (force-outs) to ensure that locations had sufficient inventory; also, in 2020, she won 15 Albertsons GM/HBC sales contests.


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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.
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Tina Schmitz

District Pharmacy Manager, Albertsons Cos./Jewel-Osco

  • Schmitz oversees 34 Jewel-Osco pharmacies in the Chicago area; ince the first quarter, she improved her script trend by 95 basis points and sales trend by 141 basis points.
  • Total immunizations increased 45.3% since Q1, the number of shingles vaccines administered grew 30.2%, and year over year, the number of flu shots increased 35.8%, hitting 3,295; in the span of several weeks, her team administered more than 11,670 COVID-19 vaccines.
  • 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 long-acting injectable medications to people with mood disorders and opioid dependency.
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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; HIV-specific medication sales exceeded $3.1 million.
  • 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 thus far; Phase 1a involved partnering with Illinois’ Cook and Will counties to vaccinate health care workers and first responders.
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Mary Frances Trucco

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, its $1 million donation to the Chicago Together Now Fund, and the retailer’s new e-commerce technology.
  • Trucco regularly assists local food banks, work that included helping to raise $4 million at the register for the Nourishing Neighbors campaign, which benefited five local food banks and depositories supported by Jewel-Osco.
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Amy White

Director of Marketing, Albertsons Cos./Portland

  • With the onset of COVID-19, White was first in the Portland division to ensure customer safety efforts were top of mind and displayed in-store, online and on social media, while also launching 96 new Drive Up and 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.
  • As a strong advocate for the advancement of women and of people of color, White oversees the diversity and inclusion council, leads a monthly call, and has developed the division’s plan for celebrating diversity.
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Teresa Beck

Meat Assistant Sales Manager, 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; this grew meat deli wall sales and market share.
  • She was instrumental in developing workshops for new meat cutters in 2020, and is in the process of creating an advanced workshop for experienced cutters and meat managers to improve quality, salesmanship, and profit-and-loss accountability.
  • Beck worked with Providence Health Care to deliver nearly 30,000 certificates for a free Christmas dinner to employees, and rolled out the program to other local organizations.


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Helen Carver

District Manager, Albertsons Cos./Safeway

  • 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 by Carver and her team.
  • 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 were reopened, she ensured that customer and associate safety measures remained top priority.
  • Carver kept her stores staffed and developed a talent bench during the pandemic, promoting 27 store directors, assistant store directors and department heads.
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Jessica Chavez

Floral Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos./Safeway

  • 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.
  • Her creative, organizational and communication skills paid off in the critical holiday periods in 2020: 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.
  • Chavez mentored seven new floral department managers within a team of 33.
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Sharee Cochran

Senior Buyer and Lead, Albertsons Cos./Safeway

  • 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 the departments involved.
  • 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.
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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 novel ideas increased retention at hard-to-staff DCs; 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 winding through warehouses — with carts decorated as floats.
  • When COVID-19 necessitated virtual hiring, Connolly immediately created a template for this process, which was shared with other facilities company-wide.
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Shelley Danner

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; due to supply shortages during the pandemic, she had to manage an unusually extensive list, but still delivered more than 131,000 cases to 18 food banks.
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Angela Fish

Bakery Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos./Safeway

  • 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 the local food pantry, and volunteers at a local church that provides meals for the needy.
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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, and acts as a subject-matter expert in deli and foodservice.
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Kristina Krieger

District Manager, Albertsons Cos./Safeway

  • Krieger’s district tops the division in sales and profits, and she was able to produce double-digit identical-sales growth and profits above plan despite the pandemic and wildfires; by diligently controlling costs and expenses, she also exceeded projections for bottom-line performance in every quarter.
  • 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 all-clear sign was given.
  • Personally, Krieger volunteered in her community at a church Christmas toy drive and a “trunk or treat” Halloween event.
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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.
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Jill McGinnis

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.
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Mabel Perez-Haines

Director Food Safety NorCal, Albertsons Cos.-Safeway

  • Perez-Haines implemented and managed 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 their customers and associates safe during the pandemic.
  • Perez-Haines successfully implemented sustainable food safety practices in all stores, ultimately increasing food safety results by 14% over the past four years — with a 3% improvement last year, despite extraordinarily difficult conditions.
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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 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.
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Rosalind Green

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

  • Elected this year to serve on the diversity and inclusion council for her division, Green mobilized a subgroup of members to celebrate Black History Month activities in stores.
  • When seasonal staffing for Cape Cod, Mass., locations suffered due to a halt to hiring J1 visa associates during the pandemic, she found a way to hire and transfer associates at the last minute, and achieved record sales and profit in Cape Cod last summer.
  • An active member of her church, Green mentors young Black women and has coordinated and planned various events and fundraisers for her community.
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Tiffany Henault

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

  • In the first few weeks of her new role in e-commerce, Henault restructured the training manual, condensing more than 200 pages into a user-friendly checklist for trainers to use when working with new shoppers.
  • She led the division in fundraising efforts for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Turkey Bucks (a Thanksgiving dinner meal for families) and Spirit of Giving campaigns, and motivated front end teams to raise more than $1 million for Boston Children’s Hospital.
  • Henault teaches English as a second language to children and is an active member of the Medway Agricultural Committee, an organization that encourages and promotes agriculture, and facilitates conflict resolution when issues arise.


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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 at-risk and underprivileged youth in the New England area through clothing, holiday and food drives, and family and development services.
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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 drive-up 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, delivering a 25% increase in flu shots given in 2020.
  • Parta serves on the board of the National Charity League, an organization that encourages community service and volunteering opportunities for mothers and daughters.
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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.
  • 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.
  • A passionate supporter of education, Holmes serves on the BASIS Goodyear Booster board, fundraising and contributing to events for a charter school.
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Jamie Sturrett

Human Resources Manager, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 division.
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Carrie Wright

Human Resources Generalist, Albertsons Cos.-Southwest

  • 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-to-day efforts of her office.
  • She maintained open lines of communication with internal and external connections, and shared and trained associates, ensuring that they understood evolving policies and procedures.
  • 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.
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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; the platform will be expanded to hot foods and floral orders.
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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.
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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 and develop meaningful content and contact for members.
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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-over-year 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.
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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 click-and-collect and e-commerce channels at Kroger.
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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.
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Rachel Swellie

Senior 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, all during a pandemic.
  • She’s also a key sales lead to Kroger’s category management team in Cincinnati, where she has engaged with high levels of 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 and is currently working on an implicit-bias training initiative for the company.
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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%.
  • As a dedicated trainer in the company, Weese created a “Selling with Data and Insights” training module that will help develop future leaders; she also created best-in-class training material to help the company better serve retailers.
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Holly Stauder

Sales Director, Anheuser-Busch

  • In the past year, Stauder re-established and developed a positive relationship with a major retail chain after a dormant period of 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 three years, and is a member of the Network of Executive Women.
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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, 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 was recognized in 2020 as Big Y’s Employee Services (human resources) Department Employee of the Year.
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Morgan Spencer

Manager of Marketing Services, Big Y Foods Inc.

  • With 13 years of experience at Big Y and a background as a 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.
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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, including logistics, club operations and marketing, 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.
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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.
  • 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.
  • Marrazzo developed a unique program that allowed BJ’s to market co-brand memberships to each member of a household individually, achieving this in a year when her direct supervisor left the company.
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Arthi Ramamurthy

Director, Digital Programs, BJ’s Wholesale Club

  • In 2020, Ramamurthy was a key leader in growing BJ’s digital business to provide members with more convenient ways to shop for essential products during the pandemic; she partnered with multiple teams across the organization to expand BJ’s digital fulfillment options and scale them chainwide as quickly as possible.
  • 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 was critical to expanding BJ’s buy-online/pick-up-in-club service to include fresh and frozen items.
  • Ramamurthy also managed a cross-functional effort to integrate BJ’s Awards and exclusive coupons with the same-day delivery service managed by Instacart.
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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.
  • 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.
  • Bowie-Edwards was one of the 2020 recipients of Brookshire Grocery Co.’s Logistics Manager of the Year award.
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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.
  • 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.
  • In addition to her responsibilities as a key strategist for BGC Racing, Dugie volunteers with Christian Women’s Job Corps and participates in the career development program in her local school district.
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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 included everything from monitoring governmental requirements to developing policies and practices to keep everyone 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.
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Carmela Hinderaker

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

  • In the past year, Hinderaker 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 and 90-plus call center workers transitioned to working remotely.
  • 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.
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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 grew this segment of company growth in the southeast 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’s success spread outside the company to support parents.
  • Active in her local PTA, Zeedyk participates in The Great American Teach-In.
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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 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.
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Lynleigh Kersting

Senior Manager, Category Leadership-Kroger Team, The Coca-Cola Co.

  • When COVID-19 brought a surge in sales along with an aluminum can shortage and soft-drink 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 and volunteering at Covington Cold Shelter.
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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, as well as almost 20% of Coke Consolidated’s home market business, 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 was appointed to the academic advisory board at the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business Center of Sales & Marketing Excellence.
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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% in April 2020, and she encouraged the category mix in her grocery chains to grow still beverages by 29.31% over prior year.
  • Across her seven chains, she attracted customers through marketing to purchase sparkling beverages in packaging other than aluminum; as a result, multipack PET sales grew 34.47% while the sparkling soft-drink category grew 11.29%.
  • Weaver worked with brand partners to establish a charitable giving campaign at one Piggly Wiggly chain; Coca-Cola Consolidated donated 32,500 meals on behalf of Piggly Wiggly, with the number of meals eventually reaching 175,000.
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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.
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Dominique Paolini

Business Account Manager, Crossmark

  • Overseeing national client relationships and supporting a sales team with more than 40 members, 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.
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Natalie Runyan

Director HQ Sales and Marketing, Crossmark

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

Director, Category Management, Ferrara

  • Santa Ana spearheaded the first grocery test using Ferrara’s non-chocolate shelving flow; this optimization drove a 2.4-point increase in dollar sales in the category and a 2.9-point increase in trips. 
  • She partnered with the learning and development team to create a training module, “How to Ace Virtual Presentations,” during the pandemic. 
  • Santa Ana’s efforts in philanthropic giving helped Ferrara to support communities affected by the pandemic, support local organizations and promote corporate volunteerism; she’s also a co-founder of Ferrara’s Hispanic employee resource group.
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Elizabeth Tansing

Senior Director, State Government Relations, FMI-The Food Industry Association

  • Tansing organized the FMI government relations call, giving retailers a forum to share what was happening in their states; the call continues to be popular, with upwards of 300 participants still calling in. 
  • 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; the tracker was a top-accessed resource on FMI.org in the second quarter of 2020.
  • Tansing serves as an industry representative on the We Card board, with 25 years’ service.
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Shay Dalton

Director of Learning and Leadership, The Fresh Market

  • Dalton successfully selected and launched a new learning management platform that provides foundational training programs and management development programs to all 11,000 team members and managers; she and her team have developed 140-plus new courses that provide video and in-person learning modules, improving the customer experience by more than nine percentage points while seeing a 30% decline in customer complaints.
  • She created three new Learning Academies to increase team member product knowledge, merchandising standards, procedures, and food safety and sanitation, resulting in The Fresh Market’s recognition as the Cleanest Grocery Store in America. 
  • Dalton built coaching plans for all store managers, regional managers, directors and VPs to receive assessments with personalized one-to-one coaching and individual development plans.
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Revae Embs

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

  • 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 absences.
  • 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 in the corporate office by 67%.
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Meredith Stringer  

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

  • 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. 
  • After the store’s main supplier of random-weight bulk and candy items revealed that it was closing its business in March 2020, Stringer managed the transition to a new supplier and successfully had stores ready to fully service customers by May of that year. 
  • She partnered with The Fresh Market’s local team to add outstanding local coffee suppliers and products to most of the grocer’s stores. 
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Heather Feather       

Director, E-Commerce Technology, 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 impact 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.
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Jameeta Lewis-Davis          

Team Member Communications and Engagement-Supermarket Director, Giant Eagle

  • Lewis-Davis helped create a team member portal, serving as a centralized hub for critical COVID-19 information as well as general team member communications.
  • 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.
  • Working with the merchandising teams, Lewis-Davis created centralized portals by category to organize information and communication for store team members; she also developed a tool known as the Store Leader Digest, which contains key headlines of information that store leaders need to run their businesses on a weekly basis.
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Renee Richardson

Senior Manager of Training, Education and Community Relations, Giant Eagle

  • As leader of the BLACC business resource group, Richardson took center stage in the company’s stance to stand up against racism: She reignited the group by increasing member engagement through community involvement and regular programming, thereby increasing membership by 50%. 
  • She developed a training strategy across the pharmacy organization to allow for better efficiencies in training completion, reporting, and monitoring, and collaborated on the development of the training strategy for COVID-19 testing and immunization efforts.
  • Outside the office, Richardson is an active member of the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association, creating its diversity council in 2020 and currently serving as the committee’s chair.
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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 has brought people together by planning volunteer activities with the Pittsburgh Food Bank and creating other team-building events. 
  • Rovnak’s focus is on continuous improvement, which she demonstrates 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.
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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% and touching new organizations.
  • Each year, she brings vendor partners together to fund Harris Teeter’s largest financial community sponsorship, the presenting sponsorship of the Cooper River Bridge Run; despite the event’s postponement last year, she developed a program to entice vendors to fund many event-related donations 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 for her empathy, engagement, empowerment and ownership.
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Jill Fenton

Customer Sales Executive, Walmart Seasons, 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. 
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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 suddenly ceased shipping Hershey’s chocolate, Karim ramped up an Ice Breakers initiative that continued to drive Hershey’s Amazon sales; according to OneClickRetail, Ice Breakers finished 2020 as the leading candy/mint/gum brand on Amazon.
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Jackie Schultz

Manager, Category Management Seasons-Kroger Team, The Hershey Co.

  • Shultz’s strategies and programming over the past year drove incremental growth across two mature categories: Hershey’s Syrup, up 26% in dollar sales, 15% in units, and Hershey’s Cocoa, which saw 41% growth in dollar sales, 15% in units. Cocoa also achieved household growth of 45.5%.
  • In stores, she spearheaded a customized, cross-category initiative merchandised baking chips with categories like confections and cookie mixes; these “solution centers” reinforced usage occasions.
  • In 2020, Schultz received the Reggie and Effie Awards’ Best in Class Brand Activation Marketing Campaign honor for her 2019 promotion involving H-E-B’s customized s’mores quesadilla program. 
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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%, and net share gains increased 1,030 basis points.
  • Ishee belongs to the Network of Executive Women, and is studying for her MBA in strategic management at Villanova University.
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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, a certified personal trainer, launched KidsFit at Home, allowing kids to stay active and safe during the pandemic; since the launch last spring, videos have received more than 5 million views and have become part of schools’ online curricula.
  • 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.
  • Driftmier starred in many videos with her own children and increased membership in the KidsFit Club by 271%; the free membership program encourages healthy choices.
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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.
  • Today, she leads communications efforts around mass community and in-store pharmacy vaccine programs, handling 15 to 20 interviews daily and providing talking points for Hy-Vee pharmacy leaders participating in public presentations; she also oversees the grocer’s COVID-19 website and other written vehicles.
  • Every week, Gayman meets with the CDC and other agencies for vaccine information updates; at Hy-Vee’s 2020 stockholders meeting, she received the chairman’s Above and Beyond Award for outstanding, influential work.
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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. She also helped shape Instacart’s storefront display placement offering, which gave brands a new means of differentiation. 
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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.
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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 focuses on health-and-wellness 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.
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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 led 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.
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Kris Floyd

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

  • Floyd and her team found innovative ways to help local businesses that were closed or struggling during the pandemic; this 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.
  • These initiatives and others boosted deli/bakery sales by 33 points as compared with budget; in addition, Floyd and her team drove down shrink by $2.3 million.
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Heather Gray

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, with close to 9,000 associates hired for Dillons and more than 13,000 for Columbus.
  • She assembled 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.
  • Gray promotes diversity, equity and inclusion as the executive sponsor for the Columbus division’s African American associate resource group.
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Portia Frost

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

Division E-Commerce Manager, The Kroger Co.-Delta 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 and begin contributing at a high level from day one.
  • 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.
  • An active member of the Women’s EDGE and African American associate resource groups, Wilson is also an avid supporter of the United Way.
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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 selected 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 co-chair for her neighborhood watch program to advocate for safety and unity.
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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 partnered with local law enforcement and city officials to promote safety and job opportunities for residents of the community and was district coordinator for fundraising opportunities, including the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the National Brain Tumor Walks.
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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 unconscious bias 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.
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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 interviews and advising them on how to prepare for job interviews.
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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 in the county at drive-thru vaccination clinic events where more than 10,000 vaccines were administered to local educators.
  • Spark is the current treasurer of the Arizona Pharmacy Association board of directors.
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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; to date, Kroger has already hired eight interns with autism.
  • 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 to targeted departments.
  • Achoe was inducted into the Phi Lambda Sigma Pharmacy Leadership Society for beginning a new career path in diversity and inclusion after her success in the field of pharmacy.
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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 partnered with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Alpha Omega Veteran Services to provide Thanksgiving dinners to 1,000 veterans.
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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 a panelist for IDDBA’s Future of Salad Bars at Retail industry initiative.
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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 designed under the new brand.
  • Her team hosted listening sessions with Black associates to pinpoint ways to make meaningful change, and then developed a Framework for Action plan to make Kroger a more inclusive and equitable company.
  • As a participant in Kroger’s associate resource groups, Lickliter participates in mentorship opportunities and programs supporting associate growth and development.
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Chelsea Roberts

Category Manager-Grocery Center Store Edibles, The Kroger Co.-General Office

  • Roberts takes ownership of the business she manages and 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 the fourth quarter.
  • 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 that has organized a canned food drive, a blankets drive for seniors, and an Adopt a Family holiday program, among others.
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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 champions the research and development internship program, taking 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.
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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 in health outcomes research, Kinney designed and implemented a prescription-dispensing tool to identify inappropriately prescribed pain medications before they were dispensed to patients.
  • 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; she then led implementation of COVID-19 antibody testing, and has recently been leading clinical program development of COVID-19 vaccine initiatives.
  • In 2020, Kinney was recognized with two awards for her work: the Bronze Research Poster Award from the Pharmacy Quality Alliance, and the Silver Medal Research Abstract Award from the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy.
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Martha Taylor

District Manager, The Kroger Co.-Houston Division

  • Under Taylor’s leadership, Kroger’s Houston division increased grocery pickup sales and maintained best-in-class 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, including the elimination of five administrative positions and the addition of three field positions.
  • Taylor received the Houston division’s Blue Heart award, which is 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.
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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, especially when some of the protests turned violent.
  • Ellis-Spansel was recently named chair of the Women’s EDGE associate resource group at King Soopers.
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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, and is now working on getting personal training certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, additionally, she chairs King Soopers’ Health and Wellness associate resource group.
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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 with more than 7,000 customers engaged.
  • She led Mariano’s community efforts to help fight food insecurity during the pandemic, which included coordinating grants totaling more than $200,000 to several hunger relief organizations in the communities Mariano’s serves.
  • 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; because of this effort, Mariano’s received the Illinois Restaurant Association’s Sara Rowe ProStart Company of the Year Award.
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Alex Spurlock

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

  • Spurlock helped roll out Produce Suggested Ordering to the QFC division 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 volunteered for Food Lifeline once a week.
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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.
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Christina Fecher

Manager, Public Relations, 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; she helped lead her team to position Meijer in thousands of news stories in 2020, a 28% gain over 2019.
  • 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.
  • Fecher is a regular volunteer for Stand Up for the Cure and the Meijer YoPro group.
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Cherie Hacker

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

  • 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 foods business sales in 2020.
  • During this record year, she underwent cancer treatment and is now in remission; with the advent of COVID-19, she and her team used small test kits to test all product remotely.
  • Hacker is a volunteer for Kids Food Basket, which is committed to ending childhood hunger, and a member of Network of Executive Women.
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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 is 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; she also co-chaired the People of Color team member resource group (Mosaic), established a board of directors, and partnered with the health and beauty merchandise team to improve textured-hair offerings.
  • Hendon is a volunteer at Northpointe Christian School, and Kids Food Basket.
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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, for an 11% sales increase and a 1.5% reduction in shrink.
  • Pawlowski is a member of Network of Executive Women and works with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.
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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.
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Holly Roelofs

Manager, Customs Compliance, Meijer Inc.

  • Roelofs is 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 that time, $750,108 in actual refunds have been recovered, and another $700,000 is anticipated.
  • Roelofs has volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club, Gilda’s Club, Operation Good Cheer, and Meijer Virtual Lunch Buddy; she also volunteers at her church.
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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, kids who are there for extended stays, to maintain educational continuity.
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Kristen Schroeder

Director, Human Resources-Northern 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, where she serves as mentor and human resources liaison.
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Tiffany Jackson         

Logistics Manager, Milo’s Tea Co.

  • 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 without micromanaging. 
  • 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%, all while several team members were out due to COVID-19.
  • Jackson negotiated Milo’s contract terms and fuel costs with its transportation carrier to save the company about $500,000.
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Diana Gonzalez         

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

  • 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. 
  • She implemented a new technology called iAuditor, allowing the team to collect consistent data, standardize inspections, and send reports and insights, which in turn helped to identify areas of failure and resolve problems. 
  • Gonzalez has been active in her church as the director of the children’s ministry for the past three years, and has traveled to Nicaragua three times in the past five years as a missionary.
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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-with-honey” 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; her team developed and implemented ads that generated in 236 million impressions at $3.11 cost per mille and generated 1.1 million clicks with a 64-cent cost per click.
  • Despite a sudden reallocation of marketing spend, Johnson maximized dollars to get within 1% of the marketing budget forecast, which had positive impacts for the business.
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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.
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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 an influencer in the California markets around the Pepsi direct store team, she was recognized for adding $1 million-plus in incremental sales to the broader group. 
  • Dent is an active member of the California chapter of the  Network of Executive Women, playing a role in the development and execution of speaker series and member events.
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Lynn Hyde       

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

  • Hyde has established herself as a strategic sales executive within Albertsons and the West region; under her guidance, sales grew 13.4%; revenue, 14%; and profit, 12% for her geography.
  • She is recognized within Albertsons for delivering best-in-class insight 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%.
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Carol Simpson           

Senior Director Shopper Marketing, Kroger, PepsiCo

  • 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 COVID1-19 to ensure PepsiCo annual operating plan delivery at Kroger, while maintaining newly acquired digital households, and successfully piloted new strategies to deploy tests with curbside sampling, in-store virtual assistants and high-value targeted digital offers to drive trial while leaning into online shopping trends. 
  • Simpson won PepsiCo’s Global Marketing Grand Prix BAM award, which recognizes outstanding marketing across the company.
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Tieun Vieux      

Territory Manager, PFNA, PepsiCo

  • Vieux partnered across various PepsiCo sectors with 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. 
  • Tirelessly 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 prestigious Dale Stortz National Sales Award in 2020.
  • Vieux is a member of PepsiCo’s Network of Executive Women, and she also led the region’s MOSAIC employee resource group, leading the region’s giving program to raise $31,000 for charity.
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Michelle Wendling      

Senior Director of Sales, PFNA, PepsiCo

  • Wendling worked 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 were as safe as possible while properly notified and quarantined if needed. 
  • She also worked with her PepsiCo counterparts to deploy “Thank You, Frontline Worker” point-of-sale material to ensure that the store theme stayed relevant with the changing environment.
  • 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 her local bank board, Choice One.
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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 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, coordinating with Habitat staff and leading her team to work on three houses built for those in need.
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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.
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Monica Jackson-Russo      

Growth Analyst Director, Procter & Gamble

  • Jackson-Russo’s new role as growth analyst director enables her to have a direct impact on customer growth strategies in the most critical category of paper goods within the retail industry these past 12 months.
  • 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.
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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.
  • Beyond the Meijer team, she positively influenced the broader organization through her leadership in Procter & Gamble’s Women’s Network, driving a 50% increase in participation, and through her recruiting efforts that led to two hires.
  • Westbrock has consistently been top-rated among her peers, earning the “1” rating reserved  for top-level performers within the company.
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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 the communities that Publix serves. 
  • 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 it purchased directly to Feeding America member food banks.
  • Brous was responsible for effectively and efficiently responding to hundreds of daily media inquiries and ensuring that associates, customers and community partners had access to pertinent information throughout the pandemic. 
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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 without a walk, still setting a fundraising record of more than $40,000. 
  • Many people who work with her say that she leads with a “servant’s heart,” which can be seen through her extensive community involvement: She is a volunteer with the First United Methodist Church of Jupiter/Tequesta, the annual Christmas toy drive and Adopt a Family, the White Doves Christmas program, the Edna Runner Tutorial Center, and much more. 
  • Cook has served on a number of boards, including United Way of Martin County and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach. 
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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 together in a single version, along with QR codes for digital coupons, to ease the customer shopping experience. 
  • Outside the purchasing department, Roberts mentors other Publix associates through the Publix Leaders Leading Leaders program, and has been the purchasing lead for the Special Olympics register campaign for the past five years. 
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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, leads her region in partnering with the Southwest Florida Salvation Army to collect holiday gifts for less fortunate children, and volunteers with a number of community and philanthropic organizations. 
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Michelle Turula

Account Executive-Safeway NorCal Division, Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

  • Despite pandemic challenges, in 2020, Turula surpassed her prior year by 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 recent graduate of the inaugural class of ReyesUP, a program developed by the company, Pepperdine Graziadio Business School and the Center for Women in Leadership to inspire, develop and connect women across Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling Co. 
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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, a change that increased its total request fulfillment by almost 200%. 
  • With Botonis’s work migrating production operation services from third-party vendors, Save A Lot improved incident resolution by 40%, with more than 90% of all incidents resolved by the company. 
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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 Save A Lot’s St. Louis district managers, and she created a scrubber guide for all store teams, resulting in a 36% decrease in work orders and helping Save A Lot save approximately $63,000. 
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Katie Kobus

Director of Marketing Activation and Media, Save A Lot

  • As Save A Lot transitioned from corporate-owned to retail partner-centric, Kobus successfully restructured the marketing organization to address the new strategic focus, and took on oversight of the 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. 
  • In 2020, Kobus successfully onboarded Save A Lot’s largest owner group onto the weekly ad program, supporting both weekly promotional offers and one-day events. 
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Chelsea Fonda

Regional Director, Save A Lot

  • In June 2020, when 11 of Fonda'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, and to additional contributions to several local charities.
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Kara Mathes

Distribution Center Manager, Save A Lot

  • Since April 2020, Mathes has reduced distribution center operations from seven days to six days, 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. 
  • Beyond her day-to-day role leading the distribution center, she often serves as a distribution representative for organization-wide projects.
  • Working with a local high school, Mathes coordinated its annual Christmas basket order, an initiative that resulted in sales for the local store and had a positive impact on the community.
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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.
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Amanda Rolbiecki

Regional Director, Save A Lot

  • Rolbiecki balanced increased demand for Save A Lot’s services with the needs of her district’s employees and produced stellar results on both ends: Her district had zero district manager turnover, she improved total regional shrink by $1 million, and she increased identical-store sales by 3.4%.
  • 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%.
  • Rolbiecki was recognized as the Local Face of College Park, Fla., for leadership of local Orlando, Fla.-area women in business.
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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 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 marked the first time an incentive was offered in the company’s stores and led to an all-time floral sales record for Valentine’s Day.
  • Fagan contributed to a 73% boost in year-over-year sales in the garden centers, for a total of $260,000 in sales.
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Jessica Freels

Senior Category Manager, 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.
  • 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.
  • Freels took on an extensive project to flow $1 million in obsolete product out of a distribution center to stores.
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Donna Lipton

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

  • 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 dramatically improved the retailer’s responsiveness to social media posts by integrating the call center into the social media monitoring process.
  • Lipton led changes in the environmental décor package for Save Mart’s revamped FoodMaxx stores, which contributed to increased item movement.
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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 more than 50 employees, and created schedules, orders and training documents that are still in place for the enterprise.
  • When team members had to quarantine, she took the initiative to support all departments, and even worked behind the counter, decorating cakes, frying chicken and baking fresh bread.
  • At the same time, Nobriga rolled out multiple 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.
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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 at the corporate, distribution center and store levels, and also implemented a successful 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 Starship Technologies to provide contactless robot grocery delivery.
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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, mentoring and development of two new members on the human resources team.
  • She ensured that compliance was met regarding all ShopRite policies and mandates for federal and state law; in fact, her district received the highest compliance rates.
  • 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. She also stepped up to create and facilitate diversity training when social justice issues moved to the forefront.
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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.
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Mary Brush

Account Sales Manager, SpartanNash

  • Account manager for 54 stores with 38 owners, Brush onboarded three new retail independent customers amid the pandemic.
  • 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.
  • Brush has a special-needs brother and volunteers at his adult care facility and for the Special Olympics; she is also a lector at her church and teaches Sunday school.
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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.
  • Because of her work during COVID-19, the company could ensure the safety of its 18,000-plus 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.
  • 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.
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Jennie Garbarek       

Manager, Floral Merchandising, SpartanNash

  • Garbarek organized and executed the first company-wide truckload rose promotion, resulting in a $67,000, or a 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 (dairy, produce, floral), 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.
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Audra Ladronka        

Manager, Category Administration, SpartanNash

  • 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.
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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.
  • An active member of the Michigan Pharmacy Association, 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.
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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.
  • She wrote three one-way process manuals for new AP Automation systems, including one for SpartanNash’s largest national account.
  • Backman successfully implemented a new electronic document system in her division last summer, driving increased efficiency by approximately 35%. 
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Darlene Collins

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 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.
  • An active member of her church for 30-plus years, Collins shifted in-person volunteering to virtual outreach events, and at work she leads fun and celebratory activities for the inventory management team.
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Sharon Fleener

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, including at the Disabled Veterans House, in Portsmouth, Va., and Vetshouse, which serves homeless veterans. 
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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, along with numerous other philanthropic initiatives. 
  • Goebel is a U.S. Army veteran with a family legacy of service: Her father and grandfather served in the Army, both of her sons joined the Army, and her husband retired from the Army.
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Kim Connery

Category Manager, Tony’s Fresh Market

  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic, Kim continued weekly donations to food banks that she has long supported to give back to the communities in which she lives and does business.
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Tania Trinidad

Pricing Supervisor, Tony’s Fresh Market

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 privileges and rights.
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Mandy Plewniak

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 resulting in outstanding sales growth for Topco members.
  • Significant fluctuations in cost and product availability due to COVD-19-related shopping patterns made garlic an extremely volatile category, but because of contracts in place through Plewniak’s oversight, Topco members saw a more stable supply than the market and experienced significant cost avoidance, and member garlic costs remain nearly 60% below the current market.
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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 was charged with rolling 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. 
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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 to save members more than $28 million in 2020.
  • Leading an evaluation of members’ front end cooler needs in 2020, 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 about refrigerant banking and conversion requirements.
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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 of Buffalo and Erie County.
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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.
  • In addition to running the pharmacies when needed, she trained associates on how to create a culture in the pharmacy emphasizing remarkable customer service despite increased anxiety over COVID-19.
  • Salay was always among the first to volunteer, whether it was raising money for Ride for Roswell or passing out samples at The Taste of Buffalo.
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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, activities and/or field trips to help youth achieve social, mental and academic success while developing healthy and productive lifestyles and behaviors.
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Colleen Thompson

Senior Manager Brand Engagement, UNFI

  • Thompson oversaw the development, management, marketing materials and communication on 100-plus Field Day new 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 Taskforce and Brands Marketing Diversity Taskforce, while also volunteering locally at RI Food Bank and Amos House.
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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 received the Minnesota Grocers Association Bag Hunger Award and the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital Community Impact Award.
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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 the company’s other three districts. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
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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.
  • Her dairy department displays in 2020 resulted in double-digit sales growth, including programs for tailgate season in the fall, the holiday season and Oat Month; she also maximized sales potential with hot-item and high-velocity displays.
  • 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.
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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.
  • Last year, 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.
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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 leading transformational change within Shoppers and helping to introduce a new learning system for front-line associates.
  • Thomas is a member of the Coca-Cola Global Women in Leadership Program and a winner of the Black Achievers in Industry Award from the Harlem YMCA, among other accomplishments.
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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.
  • 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.
  • During this particularly busy year, Serrano began an MBA program at California State University, Northridge.
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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 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 in this fiscal year across all banners.
  • A 35-year employee of the company Haley received the Wakefern Customer Service Award and is a board member for the Association of Coupon Professionals.
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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 recently co-led a company organizational review and design initiative that netted a cost savings of more than $10 million. 
  • 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, and serves on the FMI Future Leaders planning committee. 
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Courtney Siessel

Procurement Manager, Grocery 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.
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Laura Lingad

Director of Operations, WiseChoice Foods LLC

  • With a strong background in the restaurant industry and product development, Lingard 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 in less than six months
  • Lingard 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, and a battered-women’s shelter, where she provides career-building and skills training.