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06/15/2022

2022 Top Women in Grocery: Rising Stars

Progressive Grocer honors this year's awards program winners in Rising Stars category

Progressive Grocer’s 2022 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 16th 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 in subsequent 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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TWIG 2022 Sr.

Lingyun Zhang

Product Director, Acosta

  • Zhang delivered The Finance Flash Report, giving Acosta the ability to project business performance across all divisions, countries and companies within its entire operation.
  • She co-led the launch of the Acosta Client KPI Dashboard, which enables users to quickly identify key opportunities across several hubs/markets; this dashboard has proved invaluable, becoming the single source of truth at Acosta when it comes to client performance.
  • A member of Acosta’s IT Engagement Council, Zhang helped cultivate a healthy corporate culture, pulling out all the stops to share the cultural traditions, stories and recipes of the Chinese Dragonboat Festival in a spectacular live presentation.
     
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Liz Braciak

Senior Shopper Insights Manager, Advantage Solutions/Advantage Customer Experience

  • The Meijer Baby Week program, including targeted online order sampling and Braciak’s post-performance analytics, drove nearly 15% of targeted brands’ sales from digital purchases, converting more than 7% of shoppers to digital engagement with supporting brands.
  • As leader of the Content + Connectivity Pillar for PRISM, Advantage’s LGBTQIA+ employee resource group, Braciak crafted content that garnered 3,300-plus views and newsletters delivered to more than 15,000 associates.
  • Braciak led NextUp Michigan in a series of Courageous Conversations on gender identity, race and neurodiversity.
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Alisha  Pettigrew Gourley

Senior Director, Operations, Advantage Solutions/Advantage Customer Service

  • Gourley developed and implemented event-specific training videos to provide an additional layer of education and support as event specialists prepare for high-profile in-store activations; the initiative has led to improved overall job performance.
  • She launched an enhanced interactive Fresh Ambassador Certification training program to grow the meat and seafood categories at Walmart’s Supercenter and Neighborhood Market retail stores.
  • A youth pastor at her church, Gourley developed a leadership initiative in which she mentors young adults as they lead children’s programming.
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Sarah Moffett

Director, Business Development, Advantage Solutions/Advantage Customer Experience

  • Having relaunched the in-store sampling program at Walmart after nearly two years, Moffett led the top-performing in-store sampling sales team within the division, delivering 49.5% of all in-store event counts for 2021.
  • Amid the Great Resignation, she was the only sales leader not only to retain her original team, but also to add three more direct reports, becoming the leader of the largest sales team (by number of people) for Walmart Retailtainment.
  • In addition to her job duties at Advantage, Moffett leads the company’s Adult Beverage Legal Best Practices task force and is a member of the Women’s Interactive Network.
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Emma Bryan

Senior Director, Business Development, Advantage Solutions/Daymon

  • Bryan built several business cases to add more talent to help support the increased responsibilities and workload assumed by her team after a major reorganization by a customer.
  • She played a pivotal role in the onboarding of a strategically important retail customer, securing additional services by being awarded the customer’s creative design, WIC administration and special-project sourcing business.
  • Bryan planned and moderated Advantage’s panel discussion featuring key company leaders in Conversations of Courage regarding their experiences of living with a disability and how it shapes their leadership outlook.
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Jennifer Bergman

Senior Director, Advantage Solutions/Advantage Sales

  • Bergman was able to deliver huge EBIDTA growth, beating the grocery budget by 15%.
  • She was instrumental in executing a strategic initiative for associates to stay connected through a localized mentoring program, implementing developmental plans for associates’ career growth and aspirations, and forming a network of support for the sales teams.
  • Bergman is VP of the Mid-Atlantic Food Trade Organization, an industry association that hosts events for top retailers and grocery CPG companies, with the aims of uniting the food industry, fostering good will, raising money for charity and providing scholarships to students.
     
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Connie Germoso

Retail Operations Manager, Advantage Solutions/Advantage Sales

  • Germoso’s retail sales team worked with Wakefern’s business teams to develop a store-level selling program with group owners, leading to an on-shelf availability average of 96% and executing 5,000 incremental displays equating to $3 million in sales revenue.
  • At Walmart, her region generated $5.5 million in sales revenue by achieving 97% display penetration, up 20% from the prior year; overall, the region ended 2021 with a projected net sales value of $54 million-plus for the client.
  • Germoso is a mentor at Celebrate Hope Center in Staten Island, which provides aid to those battling addiction.
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Stephanie Kryger

Team Lead, Advantage Solutions/Advantage Sales

  • Winner of a Business Development Manager of the Year award, Kryger took on management responsibilities, resulting in additional growth of 34% on top of her direct account ownership; this new level of responsibility also enabled her to further develop her mentoring skills.
  • When a client’s line of products was slated for discontinuation, she worked with key retailer decision-makers to reverse the decision by bringing strategic insights showing the importance of the product line.
  • In addition to being a member of NextUp, Kryger is a volunteer leading and organizing all fundraising efforts for The Cat’s Meow, a local Idaho nonprofit.
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Victoria McQuarrie

Director, Business Development, Advantage Solutions/Advantage Sales

  • McQuarrie was a critical member of the team that delivered $44.7 million in new revenue for the Advantage sales organization, which represented a 143% increase in new business revenue versus the prior year.
  • She led the transition and onboarding of all large strategic wins for the sales organization, including the two largest clients that Advantage won in 2021, which saw sales increases of 12.7% and 3.1% within the first 28 weeks of their partnership with the company.
  • McQuarrie volunteers with her local library as an English literacy tutor for adults and completed an Ironman Triathlon in 2021.
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Kathi Caruso

Director of Retail Operations, Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services

  • Caruso implemented a monthly recognition program to spotlight associates who go above and beyond for the organization; a total of 240 associates were recognized, with those who exemplified top performance featured in the program’s newsletter.
  • She co-chaired and created content and structure for the new-hire orientation program, which has since been rolled out to all associates within SAS Retail Services.
  • Caruso takes part in such groups as Leonard Green and Partners-Women in Leadership, where she supports female peers through a professional share network, and she’s also a mentor for SAS associates in China.
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Karen Hunstiger

Director of Talent Development, Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services

  • After expanding to a dedicated program in 2020 with her retailer, Hunstiger continued to show strong bottom-line performance, delivering an increase of 12% over her budgeted revenue through June and a 25% increase to her previous year’s results.
  • She supported hosting 392 live one-hour new-hire orientation sessions and the integration of 6,357 new associates, driving a 23% increase in new hires making it to stores on day one, and doubling the overall retention of those new hires who made it to day one — a 51% increase.
  • Hunstiger created and implemented a mentorship program to support the company’s international partners in China.
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Jodi Rambone

Director of Operations, Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services

  • Thanks to the idea-sharing environment that she fostered with the operations team, Rambone grew the ADUSA brand from $29.5 million in 2020 to a projected $33.5 million in 2022, and she finished 2021 with an ISA completion rate of 99.9%.
  • She redefined the relationship between recruiters and territory supervisors, creating a team in which recruiting is a shared responsibility, revamping the referral process, and getting more attention and engagement; while 45% of new hires came from referrals last year, 2022 is trending at 50%.
  • Rambone completed 52 full-store remodels, each averaging seven to 10 weeks.
     
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Kelly Divo

Director of Sales, Corporate Accounts, Advantage Solutions/Waypoint

  • Divo encouraged her team, whose territory spans 34 states, to hunt for new opportunities to grow business, which helped in obtaining double-digit growth for more than 80% of its clients, despite unprecedented times for the industry.
  • In addition to investing the time to mentor and coach two new regional account executives to be future leaders, she had to assume responsibility for the planning and execution of trade shows because of fewer team members; despite this challenge, the events proceeded smoothly.
  • Divo developed and implemented successful sales promotions at distribution for key clients; the most recent results indicated 12% growth.
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Jessica Nichols

Client Manager, Advantage Solutions/Waypoint

  • With COVID changing how she typically built rapport and strengthened relationships, Nichols got creative with such initiatives as Virtual Coffee, which entailed sending clients a Grubhub gift card to order coffee for meetings. 
  • Other examples of her innovative selling ideas included organizing an “unpack the box” meeting, which was a virtual call with an operator or sales rep during which each participant unpacked a box of samples together and reviewed the products. 
  • Nichols also created a Virtual Bread Box, a turnkey program that suggested samples and point-of-sale and menu ideas to support sales presentations.
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Kelsey Weber

Director, E-Commerce, Advantage Solutions/Waypoint

  • Based on e-commerce audit presentations, Weber sold incremental image capture and written content work worth nearly $50,000 to improve client assets and be in compliance with distributor requirements.
  • She helped develop six customized digital playbooks for top distributors to provide insight and education to manufacturers on each distributor’s e-commerce policies, protocols and ways of working.
  • At an in-person meeting with top clients, Weber presented information on the current state of foodservice e-commerce, which spurred three top clients to incorporate new e-commerce resources as part of their 2022 strategy plans.
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Taryn Guy

Manager ADvantage Program Planning, ADUSA Procurement

  • Guy stood up and managed the ADvantage Support Center from end to end, including development, user acceptance testing (UAT), launch, daily management and administrative needs, while also overseeing analysts’ responses to cases.
  • She launched the vendor-facing ADvantage Scorecard, a monthly publication for vendors on enhancements and all dealings with IT and supply chain data analytics, conducted numerous Scorecard review sessions with vendors, and created a Scorecard guide and video.
  • Guy partnered with market research company IRI on critical report training and supported several key vendor negotiations.
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Sarah Baird

Director Fulfillment Support, ADUSA Supply Chain Services

  • Baird led the setup and support for the opening of an automated facility for The Giant Co., and headed the device selection project to lay the foundation for a new e-commerce order-picking ecosystem.
  • She was the key contact for all contingency planning and disaster recovery, ensuring the best operational outcomes while keeping excellent customer service and retention, as well as risk mitigation, at the forefront of all decision-making.
  • As part of a team focused on the creation of a better working environment for women at the ADUSA Supply Chain companies, Baird contributed workable solutions to leadership, including enhanced parental leave.
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Jordan Nickerson

Director Supply Chain Strategy, ADUSA Supply Chain Services

  • Nickerson led efforts associated with identifying the 2022 annual priorities for the companies of ADUSA Supply Chain; these priorities were cascaded throughout the organization to focus associates on the most important bodies of work for the year.
  • She headed a 12-week focus group comprising top female leaders and individual contributors across the companies of ADUSA Supply Chain to come up with viable ideas to create more progressive workplaces for women.
  • In partnership with the VP of HR, Nickerson led strategic development efforts to create ADUSA Supply Chain’s first diversity, equity and inclusion strategy.
     
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Rebecca Severance

Director Logistics Operations, ADUSA Supply Chain Services

  • Severance launched a prepaid tracking pilot for inbound freight for the Food Lion brand, which gave visibility to the top 75 vendors, and she led the development and execution of a process that reduced appointment rescheduling via email by 92%.
  • She helped redesign the logistics operations function to support the future state of the supply chain, leading to the addition of at least 17 incremental positions.
  • Severance completed the Cornell Food Executives Program, which covers food industry trends, personal leadership style, work-life balance, best-in-class food retailing strategies and the economic environment.
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Jennifer Gardner

Director, Government Affairs, Ahold Delhaize USA

  • As the lead government relations business partner for Food Lion, Gardner helped brand leadership navigate regulatory matters affecting operations, business performance, competitive position and business strategy. 
  • In addition to spearheading Food Lion’s partnership with Reinvestment Partners (RP), which created the RP Rx program that provides fresh fruit and vegetable incentives for customers, her team’s work led to $13.6 million in newly available funding for the program. 
  • Garner aided in the creation of three new produce prescription programs: BCBS Eat Well, Mecklenburg County Rx and the Rx Veterans Affairs Program.
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Faith Greiner

Strategy Manager, Ahold Delhaize USA

  • After she developed analytical insights for a business development partnership with a retail competitor, Greiner began facilitation and analytical work to branch out from that partnership with a U.S. brand. 
  • She supported the highest-priority strategic work in her organization: the revitalization of its second-largest U.S. grocery brand. 
  • In addition to achieving size and scale on such projects as centralizing the contract management process, Greiner spends her time away from work volunteering with The TAD Project, a nonprofit organization that offers a digital learning series on mental health education and suicide prevention.
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Josanna Busby

Category Manager, Food Lion

  • Despite unprecedented challenges, Busby grew sales by more than 12% from the prior year and achieved significant market share growth in the seafood and packaged meat categories by adding new items and securing alternative suppliers.
  • She developed a robust local offerings program, individualized to each state in Food Lion’s 10-state footprint, that helped grow local sales by 4% over the previous year.
  • As the manager of Food Lion’s Confident Seafood and Sustainability program, Busby focused on increasing transparency and led Food Lion to become the first Ahold Delhaize USA brand to launch the Ocean Disclosure Project, a voluntary reporting tool for retailers and suppliers. 
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Sara Creel

Manager of Labor Systems, Food Lion

  • Under Creel’s management, Food Lion executed the seamless rollout of several key labor initiatives company-wide in 2021, including an associate mobile scheduling app and a new labor management system; her ability to forge strong relationships across the organization was critical to the success of the function. 
  • She was instrumental in developing next-generation labor behavior key performance indicators that will allow the company to better understand labor behaviors while improving customer service.
  • Creel was named a “Count on Me” award winner for living Food Lion’s core values of courage, integrity, teamwork, care and humor.
     
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Sabrina Elliott

Director of Operations, Charlotte East Region, Food Lion

  • Dedicated to providing a best-in-class shopping experience, Elliott delivered improvements to front end and customer service metrics that outpaced other regions; in 2021, her region received a Net Promoter Score of 86% for friendliness. 
  • She found creative ways to improve the customer experience and added a QR code to her business card to make it easier for customers to provide feedback; her innovative idea was later adopted by the Food Lion marketing team and other leaders.
  • Elliott partnered with the city of Charlotte’s Mayor Youth Employment Program to provide local young adults with employment opportunities.
     
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Melissa Harrington

Director of Finance, Food Lion

  • Harrington provided layered and nuanced financial reports for Food Lion leadership during a critical time of massive expansion; from store remodels to adding home delivery and Food Lion To Go programs, her team accurately projected and budgeted for multiple milestones.
  • She was a key player in a project to replace decentralized financial systems with SAP S/4 HANA financial software; her work has been critical to the project’s ability to deliver transparent and consistent global reporting.
  • Harrington and her team tracked COVID-19 impact from sales through operating expenses to ensure that the effects were clearly understood through reporting packages.
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Susan Lansley

Strategic Initiatives Manager, Central Division, Food Lion

  • Lansley was instrumental in implementing the Food Lion To Go e-commerce platform at 30-plus new locations in the Central division; her leadership helped grow the division’s e-commerce sales by 75% and improve associate productivity by five basis points over the previous year.
  • Her work supporting the remodel of 19 Tennessee stores ensured that customers continued to have a safe, clean, easy-to-shop experience during the transition, and helped those stores deliver a sales increase.
  • Lansley partnered with the e-commerce team to open many new home meal solution offerings, such as fried chicken and hot wings, for online customers.
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Lydia Mahon

Integrated Planning Manager, Food Lion

  • Mahon partnered with a third-party company to uncover new ways that the marketing team could deliver more cohesive messaging to customers, and is leading a project group to implement the learnings from that project.
  • She helped bridge the gap between the marketing and commercial planning teams to align both teams’ goals and create a more consistent brand experience for Food Lion customers.
  • Mahon established a dedicated project management organization within the marketing team to allow a standardized way to manage the hundreds of projects that receive marketing services each year; the team will ensure that the work is done more efficiently.
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Lucia Mangione

Director of Merchandising, Northern Division, Food Lion

  • Mangione spearheaded initiatives to expand and improve on Food Lion’s Hispanic produce offering, and optimized kosher products within the perishable and fresh meat departments in select stores.
  • She adopted an automated production planning tool for the deli department that uses machine learning to forecast store-specific item-level demand, track hourly consumption and recommend production quantities using real-time store-level data; the tool helped grow same-store sales in the deli, and a rollout across all stores is planned.
  • Mangione is a member of the Food Lion Women’s Business Resource Group.
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Erin McMahan

Marketing Manager, In-Store Communications, Food Lion

  • McMahan was instrumental in the development of a new omnichannel décor package for the Food Lion brand that is currently being tested in stores.
  • She partnered with her signage specialist and Food Lion’s consumer insights department on an in-depth evaluation of what Food Lion customers want to see and read in stores, and how to implement in-store communications for the best return on investment. 
  • McMahan’s team created a plan to enhance the Food Lion price perception message within certain markets, which included ongoing monitoring of competitor pricing and evolving the way that Food Lion’s focus on affordability shows up in stores.
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Lisa Owens

Director of Operations, Richmond/Norfolk Division, Food Lion

  • Owens’ focus on analyzing sales data, executing merchandising initiatives, improving customer service and reaching out to business partners for their expertise helped boost sales by more than 3% and average sales per customer by 5% in 2021.
  • Her region excelled in several company benchmarks, including sustainability and shrink, where she achieved her deliverables for every department; under her supervision, four underperforming stores finished the year with significantly improved results.
  • By listening to customer comments and taking action to meet their needs, Owens led her division to a seven-point Net Promoter Score increase in 2021.
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Kathryn Sowers

Director of Operations, Central Division Food Lion

  • Sowers achieved results that outperformed both budget and forecasted numbers for 2021, delivering a 6.9% same-store sales increase and more than 19% growth in sales to budgeted sales for the year.
  • For a resort store near seasonal attractions, she built a strategic plan that included staffing, product, delivery timing and specific product needs; the strategy doubled sales overnight at the location for three continuous weeks. 
  • Sowers also found the time to create a divisional community recognition plan for 285 stores in her division to recognize local first responders such as firefighters, EMS workers and police personnel with food gift platters and baskets.
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Kristin Wells

Category Manager, Food Lion

  • Despite missing one quarter of 2021 due to illness, Wells delivered superior results in 2021, growing top-line sales by 16%, increasing movement by 7.7% and boosting margin before shrink by 4.24%.
  • In a strategy shift for tomatoes, she sourced new items from various suppliers and worked with internal and external logistics teams, demand-planning analysts, buying system specialists, market share data analysts, and quality assurance and inventory management associates to deliver 10.5% movement growth and 21.2% sales growth.
  • Wells’ passion for supporting local farmers led to more than 20% increases in local sales and helped many farms grow their operations exponentially.
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Jessica Groves

Manager, Community Impact, The Giant Co.

  • Groves implemented the company’s first 30 Days of Hunger Action in honor of Hunger Action Month in September 2021; activities to raise funds included the Giant Grocery Grab, where “celebrity” contestants shopped until they dropped.
  • She developed and implemented a comprehensive community support plan, including $40,000 in donations and more than 125 volunteer service hours by employees, for three new stores that opened and one store that relocated.
  • Groves initiated the company’s first social impact report, which was released this past spring and detailed the company’s strides in community relations, sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, and more.
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Lisa Kinsey

Director of Accounting, The Giant Co.

  • Kinsey revamped reporting, which gave business partners more tools to make data-driven decisions and led the profitability analysis to improve results on underperforming stores.
  • She oversaw the financial aspects of the company’s expansion and integration of the e-commerce division’s new grocery pickup locations, additional locker solutions in some stores, a partnership with Instacart to offer “instant delivery,” and the opening of a new automated fulfillment center in Philadelphia.
  • Kinsey is a founding member of the Take Care team, the company’s charitable fund, which provides assistance to employees experiencing difficult situations who are in need of financial help.
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Deb Kreider

Director, Category, The Giant Co.

  • With sustainability a key initiative, Kreider worked with suppliers to transition packaging from Styrofoam trays to clear recyclable PET trays within several meat categories; she also worked with a key seafood supplier to convert from foam case packaging to reusable plastic containers.
  • She led her team in thinking outside the box when working with partners and new suppliers to ensure product availability in every category, ultimately exceeding sales targets.
  • Her meat and seafood departments exceeded budgeted growth targets in sales, department gross and favorable shrink, and store-made signature items in each department grew 23% year over year.
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Kristi Monnett-Nailor

Manager, Merchandise Planning, The Giant Co.

  • Monnett-Nailor helped launch Giant Direct e-commerce brands, which led to millions in incremental funding via increased vendor monetization during the pandemic.
  • She introduced such new ideas as additional promotions; the introduction of a two-week circular that reduced labor for the operations team; a stronger, more approachable focus on meal solutions each week; and an increase in digital support.
  • Monnett-Nailor improved process efficiencies and optimization with condensed seasonal playbooks, a more well-balanced temporary price reduction calendar to reduce labor in stores, and a weekly competitive summary.
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Dana Sherwood

Creative Director, Brand Experience, The Giant Co.

  • Sherwood led a team of 17 in the design process of opening four unique and diverse stores, each crafted specifically for the neighborhood it serves.
  • She oversaw the aesthetic design of the company’s first e-commerce fulfillment center and designed the 124,000-square-foot space to accommodate the Philadelphia headquarters for The Giant Co. within six months.
  • Due to her ability to execute the brand’s omnichannel strategy and consistently deliver exceptional results, Sherwood was promoted to creative director this year, and now also oversees all elements of circular production and delivery as well as leading the social media team.
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Kathy Sweigert

Director of Human Resources, The Giant Co.

  • Sweigert’s region met its budget of nonperishable shrink and was the best in the brand by a significant amount, with every store in the region achieving its shrink budget.
  • With a focus on delivering premier conditions in her stores, which aren’t located in highly urban areas, she has led her region to deliver the No. 1 sales comps in the company for two consecutive years.
  • Sweigert recruited four department managers, two assistant department managers, one store manager and one assistant store manager from a competitor, while internally, she placed nine members of her team in the salaried management training program and approved 157 promotions.
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Kate Clarke

Senior Manager, E-Commerce Merchandising, Giant Food

  • Clarke leads the partnership between Giant Food and a local food and beverage incubator, which has introduced more than 20 small-business entrepreneurs to Giant’s e-commerce channel this year.
  • She launched several efforts to monitor and mitigate out-of-stock issues in e-commerce, including weekly reviews of top items across vendors, and worked with suppliers and assortment teams to conduct substitution audits that fed new data into online shopping algorithms.
  • Clarke oversaw the introduction of the company’s ship-to-home program, providing online customers with an endless array of items that might not be stocked on store shelves.
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Theresa Creaturo

Manager III Category, Giant Food

  • Creaturo drove her department’s commitment to increase sustainable, healthy and renewable products in each segment by adding new vendors and challenging existing suppliers to match updates in light bulbs, batteries, kitchen gadgets, reusable containers, lunch and reusable bags, and candy.
  • Under her guidance, seasonal sales in candy and general merchandise increased, and she improved processes for defining the customer’s best-in-class assortment and accuracy for store-specific allocations.
  • Outside of her work in the candy and general merchandise categories, Creaturo is a certified wine specialist and a member of the Guild of Sommeliers.
     
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Alyssia Greene

Manager, Shopper Marketing, Giant Food

  • Greene expanded her current role to facilitate multi-partner summits that include best practices and methods to improve shopper marketing influence and to ensure that the program has the necessary depth, breadth and scale.
  • She closed a gap in shopper marketing data by working across brands and with external analytic partners and the company’s digital consultancy brand to find the path toward a scale-level analytics suite for shopper marketing as a whole.
  • Greene created and launched Giant’s first dedicated diversity, equality and inclusion shopper marketing program, offering shopper marketing channel placements directly to diverse suppliers at preferred rates.
     
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Su Jin Roberge

Manager of Clinical Programs, Giant Food

  • During the pandemic, Roberge, realizing that pediatric immunizations might be lacking due to the move to virtual health care, developed training for pediatric immunizations, which was launched in all stores in the summer of 2021.
  • She worked on medication administration and training that was fully implemented to all stores, allowing customers to save a trip to, and co-pay at, their physician’s office because they could be serviced more conveniently by pharmacists instead.
  • Dedicated to the future of the industry that she has worked so hard to advance, Roberge is an active preceptor who works with students from several colleges of pharmacy, helping prepare them for careers in retail pharmacy.
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Greta Stankovich

Category Manager Frozen, Giant Food

  • Stankovich’s skills in driving strategy, growing volume, and management led to a promotion to oversee the third-largest category in the company, where she had to contend with service levels below 50%, but was still able to grow sales.
  • During a time of supply chain challenges, she sought alternative sourcing and new suppliers, continuously updated her assortment to optimize items based on availability, and created collaborative relationships with stakeholders, vendors and cross-functional teams.
  • As well as being an active member of NextUp, Stankovich mentors women within Giant Food through the Women’s Inclusion Network.
     
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Suzette Stevenson

Asset Protection Director, Giant Food

  • Stevenson beat the 2021 nonperishable shrink target by four basis points, the highest level of execution to budget in the company for at least 20 years.
  • She developed a more innovative tool/process to help mitigate shrink across all departments, including a new vendor tool for processing payments that simplified business transactions at store level and from a financial reporting aspect.
  • Stevenson also was able to create a learning and development strategy for the asset protection team and subsequently implemented department-wide training to include all levels of the team, with ongoing collaboration across several corporate divisions.
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Brittany Quirion

Director of Operations, Hannaford Supermarkets

  • Leading 13 store teams and approximately 2,500 associates in the mid-coastal Maine area, Quirion strategically developed talent within the company, always with a strong focus on diversity, and partnered with all areas of the business to achieve outstanding financial results.
  • In 2021, she received the John J. Russell Award, which is presented annually; the award is named after a former Hannaford officer and board member revered for his warmth, humor and interest in the development of others as much as for his honesty, integrity and business acumen.
  • Quirion volunteers at area food banks to assist the needy in her area. 
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Rachel Richard

Category Manager, Beer, Wine, Liquor, Hannaford Supermarkets

  • Under Richard’s leadership, the beer category at Hannaford has grown dollar share in the super-premium, craft and flavored malt beverage segments, outpacing the competitive market by 1.3%.
  • As the chair of the Women’s Business Resource Group (BRG) at Hannaford, she held monthly leadership meetings to discuss goals for the quarter, making it a point to reach out to every department within the company.
  • Richard was one of the main drivers in the creation of a BRG at brewing company FIFCO, Women in Beer, with the aim of eventually forming a collaboration with Hannaford’s BRG to empower women at both organizations.
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Katie Wallace

Director of Category, Merchandising, Pricing, Hannaford Supermarkets

  • In her role as Hannaford brand ambassador for a strategic transformational initiative, Wallace helped develop tactics to support the project’s key strategies and played a major role in effecting change across the U.S. organization.
  • She guided the VP and director teams through a goal-setting process that created alignment around strategic areas of focus and supported tactics for the department, including fresh and center store category management, merchandising, and pricing.
  • Despite the company’s pivot to a remote environment, Wallace’s leadership enabled her team to deliver excellent results, amid ongoing supply chain issues.
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Krystin McDermott

Senior Corporate and Executive Recruiter, Peapod Digital Labs

  • McDermott hired 17 diverse director-level positions last year, increasing the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion metrics, and also drove training for hiring managers on interviewing best practices.
  • She led the co-op program and ran the strategy for recruiting 40 students specializing in product management, technology and data science, which resulted in 10% of the co-op population receiving full-time opportunities at Peapod Digital Labs.
  • When not performing her demanding job duties, McDermott is president of Peapod’s Mental Health Inclusion Network and the organizer of the Women’s Monthly Book Club, as well as being the leader of a group Bible study.
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Raina Rusnak

Consumer Insights Lead, Peapod Digital Labs

  • Rusnak improved her team’s Associate Engagement Score from an inherited 37% to 100% and also stepped in to successfully lead a newly reorganized research team in the absence of an appointed leader.
  • She was responsible for saving the company more than $500,000 in contract negotiations with research suppliers, and built a cohesive, functioning team that she aimed to inspire on a daily basis.
  • When not at work, Rusnak somehow found the time to routinely write well-received thought leadership articles for industry publications on proper methodology and best practices; she also sits on the board of directors for the Highpointers Foundation.
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Caryn Scaduto

Manager, Digital Production, Peapod Digital Labs

  • Over the past year, Scaduto took on added responsibilities, the most significant of which was assuming leadership in managing the company’s relationship with its product content provider, and she and her team also undertook a new taxonomy review project.
  • She helped establish a new rhythm for routine department page updates so as to take advantage of changes in assortment and seasonal highlights.
  • Scaduto led the committee for volunteerism and service within her company, and is also a co-lead of the Helping Hands Inclusion Network, which enables employees to connect with their communities for volunteering, donating and raising awareness.
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Marcia Doucette 

Business Consultant, Retail Business Services

  • Doucette led a project for The Giant Co. that implemented a solution to reduce in-store waste and feed families more affordably, which resulted in the diversion of more than 1 million pounds of food from waste.
  • She also oversaw a multiyear program that implemented a production-planning tool for some fresh departments to provide accurate item-level store forecasts in support of growing sales and optimizing production.
  • To help the company deliver exceptional products to the business faster and more effectively, Doucette participated in workshops focused on re-creating project execution methodologies and processes.
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Mary Kossel 

Workers’ Compensation Manager, Retail Business Services

  • Due to Kossel’s strategic engagement of the workers’ compensation team in a claims closure project, 50% of the accident claims from 2000 to 2018 were closed, while the outstanding liability was reduced by $80 million. 
  • She worked to develop a targeted course to accelerate training for new hires to be able to quickly learn claims basics, and collaborated with two local universities to identify that career fairs and class participation helped engage students’ interest in this particular career field.
  • Despite her busy work schedule, Kossel also served as a director on the board of the nonprofit Carolinas Risk and Insurance Management Society.
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Linda D. Zimmerman

Director of Business Intelligence and Analytics, Retail Business Services

  • Zimmerman and her team enabled personalized intelligence by building out a natural-language processing framework used for customer-facing bots, which derives insights from call center responses, reducing manual labor in the process.  
  • She created a new operations team focusing on process stabilization and improving the time that it takes to resolve issues; this has already led to a 20% reduction of ticket volumes.
  • Under Zimmerman’s leadership, the organization delivered data services and products in support of 68 projects; meanwhile, she devotes her spare time to personal community improvement projects such as clearing debris from local shorelines.
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Allison Delaney

Manager of Healthy Living, Stop & Shop

  • Delaney developed a Nutrition Partners Our Picks merchandising program centered on educating shoppers on easy ways to alter their diets; the program helped to improve the brand’s health-and-wellness profile and drove incremental revenue potential.
  • With the Boston Community Transformation Partnership, she worked to improve access to healthy foods in a low-income neighborhood; she also hired a dedicated nutritionist to work with customers and developed a variety of educational programs.
  • Delaney created two unique college partnerships to develop diversity in dietetics; the programming includes a $150,000 endowed scholarship fund and summer intern opportunities.
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Michele Merchant

Category Manager, Stop & Shop

  • Merchant was an integral part of executing Stop & Shop’s cage-free egg initiative for stores in Massachusetts; she worked with vendor partners and internal support areas to develop a clear way to communicate the change and impact to customers at the point of purchase. 
  • She engaged key supplier partners in the Go Points loyalty program; leveraging data insights and her strong partnering capabilities, she pushed the envelope on the program, achieving excellent results that will lay the groundwork for future initiatives.
  • Using her forecasting, systems and supply analysis skills, Merchant played a key role in moving the dairy supply chain from an outsourced to an internal model. 
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Jennifer Mohrlein

Human Resource Business Partner, Stop & Shop

  • As the staffing lead for her region, Mohrlein was vital to improving the performance of her store management teams; she motivated her teams to onboard new associates during a challenging time and implemented different staffing strategies.
  • Partnering with Center Store Manager Mark Mancini, she spearheaded a networking and mentoring program for assistant store managers to meet regularly and discuss current challenges in the industry and in their stores; the program helped foster a more inclusive workplace.
  • Mohrlein worked through her store teams to partner with local community organizations to aid recruiting practices during The Great Resignation.
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Kristen Riley

District Director of Operations, Stop & Shop

  • Riley turned some of the most challenging locations into profitable stores, perfecting current organizational processes, developing new systems to help her team better understand high-value activities and engaging with leaders on her team in a new way.
  • Through the Rising Stars program at Stop & Shop, she promoted more than 95 people in her district to full-time roles and promoted and developed 24-plus store leaders over the past 12 months.
  • Riley completed the Harvard Business School’s leadership program, Leading with Purpose, and was invited to be a chair of the multicultural associate resource group for Stop & Shop.
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Tiffany Taylor

Director of Category Management, Deli and Bakery, Stop & Shop

  • Taylor led key roadmap strategies, including the rebranding of in-store bakeries and bakery products; that project provided an updated and upgraded label that called out key product attributes and improved store operational efficiencies and speed to shelf.
  • She successfully led the launch of a private-brand premium tier of deli slicing meats, which exceeded initial performance forecasts and filled product voids due to supply chain disruptions.
  • The financial performance of her departments far exceeded both sales and profit targets in 2021; meanwhile, she serves as co-chair for the Stop & Shop Women’s Associate Resource Group.
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Daisy Dederick

National Sales Manager Gift Cards/Commission Income, Albertsons Cos./Corporate

  • Dederick spearheaded the conversion of third-party gift cards from Blackhawk Network to Incomm within a three-month timeframe at 2,300-plus locations, resulting in a successful 2021 holiday season that added $30 million to Albertsons’ bottom line.
  • She directed the implementation of a new vendor, CashStar, which was responsible for taking over the proprietary bulk gift card business online; this led to increased sales of e-cards through the bulk system by 8%.
  • During the national coin shortage, Dederick innovated a unique process with a Coinstar vendor to use coins collected at the vendor’s stores and distribute them to divisions in dire need; the total coin count was 84 million-plus. 
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Alexa Langona

Senior Director Own Brands, Albertsons Cos./Corporate

  • Langona led the fresh Atlantic salmon category initiative to eliminate brokers, buy directly from fisheries and consolidate to suppliers that caught only ocean-raised salmon, resulting in annual cost savings of $1.6 million and reducing shrink at store level.
  • She jumped into the new segment of value-added premium burgers by working with a cross-functional team, product development and a supplier partner to create five new SKUs that generated $17.7 million in sales in first six months. 
  • Langona developed a sales accelerator strategy to build awareness and drive sales for plant-based items and other meat alternatives, resulting in sales increases of more than 500% year over year.
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Liliana Santos-Dominguez

Director Own Brands Innovation and Product Management, Albertsons Cos./Corporate 

  • Santos-Dominguez was essential in developing Albertsons’ new category management process, CATalyst, which resulted in a shopper- and data-based decision-making platform that will be the foundation for future growth of Own Brands.
  • She led Own Brands price pack architecture and brand work for new Soleil sparkling water, which led to 15% year-over-year sales growth.
  • Santos-Dominguez respositioned Soleil’s price pack architecture, moving the brand to an 8-pack 12-ounce primary consumer unit, which helped lift the number of incremental households that became repeat Soleil purchasers by 49,000. 
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Ann Stocum

Retail Implementation and Transformation Manager, Albertsons Cos./Corporate

  • While leading the COVID crisis response team, Stocum assisted in the coordination, facilitation and training of new backstage Kings and Balducci associates by ensuring that employees received proper guidance as part of their journey in becoming team members at Albertsons Cos. banners.
  • She provided training and support for OBIEE Dashboard, which involved more than 1,000 stores and offices.
  • A recipient of the company’s Quarterly Recognition Award, Stocum also helped fundraise for and support the annual MS walk, prepared a yearly luncheon for 100 contracted Albertsons associates, and volunteered for Building a Better Spokane.
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Michelle Tomy

Director, Retail Operations, Albertsons Cos./Corporate

  • Tomy developed a modern approach to managing direct store delivery out-of-stocks by using artificial-intelligence reports, eliminating the need to physically scan out-of-stock tags and providing valuable trend insights.
  • In addition to playing a key role in creating an enterprise-wide reporting dashboard that quickly provided visibility into regulatory data requirements related to WIC and SNAP, she helped develop a new national strategic merchandising standard for fresh-cut produce sets.
  • Tomy led the project to automate the report reconciliation process; the solution identified anomalies using bot automation, which resulted in significant improvements in operations.
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Tina Young

National Replenishment Manager, Albertsons Cos./Corporate

  • Selected to be an initiative owner under a major supply chain transformation project, Young helped save the company $1 million this year. 
  • Moving to a new position that required her to stand up a team of buyers who would purchase product from three top food suppliers, she hired 11 individuals, trained the new hires and succeeded in having her team not disrupt service to stores. 
  • In addition to mentoring three individuals, Young reduced warehouse labor by working with a supplier to increase full pallet ordering, which was up by four percentage points, and direct plant shipments, up by 11 percentage points, in six months. 
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Casey Patterson

Pharmacy District Manager, Albertsons Cos./Denver

  • Patterson partnered with district managers and store directors to pick up vaccine weekly to ensure that all of her stores had enough, allowing her territory to give more than 350 shots per store per week for the duration of the vaccine season.
  • She partnered with three county health departments to offer weekly external clinics; this included making appointments, having sufficient vaccine available and making sure that the clinic was staffed.
  • Joining forces with a local mayor, Patterson coordinated with the asset protection and construction teams to convert a closed store into a clinic that was held five days a week and gave more than 1,000 shots per day.
     
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Sarah Long

Director, Meals Digital Marketplace Strategies, Albertsons Cos./Digital

  • For the ReadyMeals launch, Long onboarded vendors, set up ingredients and built system formulas to create a portfolio of more than 250 menu items, which built the base for the current $1.9 million in weekly sales these products bring in.
  • She participated in a task force on developing in-house technology to integrate a third-party company, such as DoorDash, into an in-house order management system, allowing for adoption of multiple prepared food storefronts to compete with quick-service restaurants.
  • Amid launching a ghost-kitchen format to drive fried chicken sales for Jewel-Osco, Long was able to dedicate time to City of Hope, among other worthy causes.
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Carmen Calderon

Human Resources Representative, Albertsons Cos./Jewel-Osco

  • Calderon aided a distribution center in staffing and hiring initiatives by using Microsoft Teams and SharePoint to keep the distribution operations and human resources teams informed on current needs and accomplishments in filling positions.  
  • She focused on ensuring that the leadership team mirrored the diverse front-line workforce and community by increasing its person-of-color representation by more than 10% and female leadership by 8%.
  • Calderon mentored an administrative payroll clerk to assist with human resources functions, leading to that individual being selected for a human resources specialist position and ultimately becoming her fellow HR rep.
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Elizabeth Davidson

Pharmacy Manager, Albertsons Cos./ Jewel-Osco

  • Davidson not only oversaw her Crown Point, Ind., store staff, she also took on the role of training the pharmacy teams across Indiana, and even went after hours to personally bring medications to home-bound patients who couldn’t afford delivery. 
  • Amid securing 27 flu clinics, she grew the pharmacy business by driving a 29.96% increase in weekly scripts and a 31.1% increase in weekly sales.
  • Providing a way for vulnerable people to obtain proper addiction treatment, Davidson developed a program with the Lake County Correctional Facility that administers Vivitrol at the prison to inmates, as well as in the store to parolees or released patients.
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Danette Focht

Meat/Seafood Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos./Jewel-Osco

  • Leading meat and seafood operations in an 18-store district, overseeing budgets, building volume and improving efficiencies, among other duties, Focht boosted year-over-year meat sales by nearly $1.5 million, improving segment sales in sliced and frozen meats and launching a new skillet dinner program.
  • During the same period, she executed remodels at four stores and continually mentored and promoted meat market staffers. 
  • An active volunteer at an animal shelter and a residential child care facility, Focht also serves on the board of the division’s Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network associate resource group.
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Dana Fox

Pharmacy Manager, Albertsons Cos./Jewel-Osco

  • Fox strove to ensure that that patients received prescriptions in a safe and timely manner as she also managed inventory, complied with regulations and managed a team of 12 direct reports.
  • She launched a community engagement initiative to promote healthy living and teamed up with a local park district and schools to provide COVID-19 vaccines; her store was first in the district for both COVID and flu vaccine jabs.
  • Fox boosted prescription sales by 49% in 2021 over the previous year, an achievement that she reached while also serving as a preceptor for two local pharmacy colleges and volunteering at an animal shelter.
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Amber Armstrong

General Merchandise Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos./Mid-Atlantic Division

  • Promoted in October 2021, Armstrong headed up sales and merchandising for the GM/HBC departments of 274 Acme and Safeway stores generating $618 million in annual retail sales.
  • One of Albertsons’ GM/HBC national sales leaders in 2021, she was responsible for a 7% lift during the last two quarters and posted e-commerce sales that were up 81% compared with the prior year.
  • As well as being an active member of the Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network at Albertsons, Armstrong became a devoted volunteer with the Pennsylvania Epileptic Foundation after she was diagnosed with epilepsy last year.
     
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Maria Delacruz

Manager Marketing Promo, Albertsons Cos./Northern California Division

  • Managing pricing for Albertsons’ Northern California division, Delacruz turned in a strong performance during a year when costs were top of mind.
  • She executed a program with the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers sports teams that encompassed dozens of vendors and 1,000-plus items each and resulted in significant sales lifts; meanwhile, as a subject-matter expert, she often participated on the company’s special-projects teams.
  • Delacruz leads the Nourishing Neighbors food donation program, working with more than 50 nonprofit groups to collect $4.3 million-plus in donations in fall 2021 alone. 
     
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Crystal Hedgpeth

Floral Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos./Northern California Division 

  • Hedgpeth increased her division’s local market share to make it the No. 1 division for floral sales; during a recent quarter, she exceeded sales projections by $5.8 million and beat profits by $1.4 million. 
  • She partnered with Albertsons’ e-commerce team to create Bloom Cart by Safeway, a ghost storefront on DoorDash that offered hand-tied arrangements for delivery within two hours and led to more than $80,000 in incremental sales; she also launched the internal Bloom Magazine. 
  • Sharing the beauty of blooms, Hedgpeth repurposed unused live floral samples into bouquets donated to local essential workers.
     
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Freda Roussell

Sales Manager Bakery, Albertsons Cos./Northern California Division

  • Promoted to the division level in 2021, Roussell took on more responsibilities across 290 locations with a $450 million sales contribution. 
  • While at Albertsons’ Pavilions chain, she updated and simplified bakery offerings in a move that led to higher sales — 20% in doughnuts alone; an expert baker, she reinvented the dessert category for a 21% lift, introducing plant-based food colors and upgrading product assortments, and helping to create a new cake manual for team members.
  • Roussell serves on Albertsons’ Racial Justice and Equity Advisory Group and is a member of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association. 
     
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Nicole Wilson

Director Center Store, Albertsons Cos./Northern California Division

  • Tasked with managing center store items for the division — a multibillion-dollar business — Wilson drove a 1.7% increase in grocery and 1.9% in general merchandise in 2021. 
  • She successfully integrated the grocery and general merchandise teams into a cohesive organization while she simultaneously led transformation of merchandising for center store categories, saving weeks of labor in changing displays and improving sales by 368 basis points. 
  • A member of the division’s Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network team, Wilson also joined the executive board of City of Hope and, in her little spare time, is learning Spanish to further develop her skills.
     
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Susan Tegart

Patient Care Services Manager, Albertsons Cos./Seattle

  • At the company’s Seattle division, Tegart managed immunizations, collective agreement prescribing, diagnostic testing, medication therapy management, biometric screens and medication adherence.
  • She led the division’s COVID-19 vaccine campaign, which resulted in the administration of more than 1.24 million doses, and coordinated vaccine clinics for underserved communities, businesses with essential workers, and the county’s largest school districts, as well as guiding the division to dispense 277,000 flu shots.
  • A President’s Award winner, Tegart forged strong relationships with public and state health administrators and professional pharmacist associations.
     
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Jacqueline Michlitsch

District Manager, Albertsons Cos./Shaw’s

  • Michlitsch oversaw financial results, profitability, staffing, customer satisfaction and community engagement for 18 central Massachusetts stores staffed by about 1,800 associates. 
  • While keeping her district running smoothly, she served as division lead for Albertsons’ assistant store director training program and promoted at least five assistant store directors to store directors.  
  • Michlitsch founded and chairs her district’s Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network resource group and started a popular speaker series; away from work, she’s involved with a nonprofit that helps low-income first-generation students get into college.
     
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Dawn Myers

Communications Manager, Albertsons Cos./Shaw’s

  • Handling daily internal communications with Shaw’s stores, Myers tackled duties ranging from providing leadership presentations, to overseeing portal content, to keeping district leadership, store directors and department managers up to date.
  • She introduced new televisions in breakrooms that communicate with team members in a positive and informative way; to get a better handle on the medium’s capabilities, she learned firsthand how to operate video and production equipment. 
  • Myers helped develop a Smiles in the Aisle Facebook page for team members, which quickly garnered 1,500-plus members.
     
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Syeda Zaidi

Grocery Buyer, Albertsons Cos./Shaw’s

  • Managing an inventory of more than 1,500 items across different distribution centers and serving as the point person for vendor communications, Zaidi worked diligently to ensure that consumers got the products they wanted.
  • Having previously moved from a merchandising management role to procurement, she took on a challenging role in bakery procurement, in addition to training a new buyer in nonfoods and helping a senior buyer with dairy buying. 
  • Secretary of the Diversity and Inclusion Council at Shaw’s, Zaidi continued to hone her own skills, becoming Bloomberg certified and winning a case competition from the Institute of Business Forecasting and Planning.
     
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Dione Baird

Sales Manager, Albertsons Cos./Southern Division

  • Baird shared her comprehensive knowledge of growing flowers at 146 stores across Texas and Louisiana.
  • She added more than 75 FTD locations to existing floral departments in Texas, updated the retailer’s exclusive orchid rooms and expanded the roster of items by 189 SKUs; these and other efforts led her department to beat its sales plan during the most recent fiscal year by $21 million and exceed margin commitments by more than $23.7 million. 
  • Having first joined the industry in 1986 at her local Dominic’s Food Store in Chicago, Baird has proved highly adept at fostering lasting relationships, including with local vendors, marketing partners and shoppers. 
     
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Ashley Canonica

Senior Director of Marketing, Albertsons Cos./Southern Division

  • Responsible for all marketing efforts in her 146-store division, Canonica achieved success through innovative loyalty efforts and by focusing on data-driven shopping patterns and programs. 
  • Reaching out to lapsed shoppers through mailers and household targeting, she propelled an $11.60 incremental spend per week and invested in television, digital and direct mail that led to more store visits. 
  • Canonica is a leadership champion for the Southern division of NextUp, a member of her company’s divisional diversity council, and a leader of community and volunteer events, including collaborations with the Dallas Cowboys football team.
     
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Julie Spier

Director of Pharmacy, Albertsons Cos./Southern Division

  • Responsible for pharmacies at 143 stores, Spier leveraged her 34 years of retail pharmacy experience to deliver positive year-over-year sales.
  • She and her team beat sales by $39 million and drove a total department gain of nearly $21 million; beyond lifting the performance of pharmacies based on COVID vaccines and boosters, she implemented several creative enhancements to improve customer count.
  • Spier sits on the Louisiana Pharmacy Congress Board and is president of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy; in addition to serving as a volunteer for various nonprofit organizations; she sat on the division’s diversity advisory board. 
     
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Deborah Gilboy

District Manager, Albertsons Cos./Southern California Division 

  • Bringing together a team of store directors and operational specialists across a diverse, high-volume district, Gilboy collaborated with them to grow sales and profits and improve service. 
  • She spearheaded the opening of a new micro-fulfillment center, the first to bring two banners together in one location, and also completed a year-long remodel that embraced automation and robotics for better, faster delivery. 
  • Gilboy successfully promoted several women and people of color in her district; among other outreach initiatives, she partnered with the Los Angeles Chargers football team to distribute groceries, holiday meals and toys to families in need. 
     
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Rosita Szatkowska

Grocery Operations Specialist, Albertsons Cos./Southern California Division

  • Under Szatkowska’s dedicated leadership, her district finished first in the entire company in e-commerce and finished at the top for value wine events and Double Discount Weekends in its liquor departments.
  • She helped start a career advancement mentorship program in her district, as well as a women’s mentorship program in which each store manager chooses at least three candidates to develop for future leadership roles.
  • Szatkowska attended the University of Southern California’s Food Industry Management Program and is a member of the Southern California Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network.
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Erin Epley

District Pharmacy Manager, Albertsons Cos./Southwest Division

  • Epley was responsible for achieving projections for sales, profit, shrink and customer service, and her division was top in sales and script growth, as well as in household conversion rate and physical inventory results.
  • Her division administered 255,000 COVID-19 shots and 58,594 other immunizations, and her collaboration with local counties and cities resulted in thousands of community members having easy access to the vaccines they rely on.
  • Epley sits on the board of directors for the Arizona Pharmacy Association and is a member of several company resource groups, including the Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network and the PRIDE group.
     
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Michelle Hill

Center Store Operations, Albertsons Cos./Southwest Division

  • Overseeing 18 grocery, general merchandise and liquor departments in her district, Hill was responsible for communicating marketing plans to each department through weekly store visits and as-needed coaching with department managers.
  • She helped implement a forecasted ordering system for grocery and general merchandise, and also worked to improve center store sales.
  • Hill serves as co-chair for the Hispanic Employee Resource Group for Albertsons’ Southwest division and is also a member of the We Care Council, which helps support employees who have witnessed or are experiencing hardship.
     
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Jennifer Holmes

Finance Director, Albertsons Cos./Southwest Division

  • Through the implementation of Day for U, Holmes created automated programs to recognize store associates by providing milestone anniversary and birthday information to store directors.
  • She saw her team through a significant finance transition and worked with countless partners to ensure her employees, the division office and the stores were supported throughout the peoccess and didn’t feel any operational impact.
  • Outside of work, Holmes is the vice chair of the BASIS Goodyear charter school booster organization, where she spends several hours per week creating, organizing and fundraising for online and socially distant events for students, faculty and staff.
     
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Dahianara Liranzo

Senior Human Resources Manager, Albertsons Cos./Supply Chain

  • Liranzo oversaw the overall strategic direction, planning, coordination, administration and evaluation of the human resources function for two distribution centers, which have more than 700 associates in multiple locations. 
  • As a member of the Shaw’s supply chain leadership team, Liranzo partnered with department leaders to drive an associate experience that supports the company’s business goals.
  • Liranzo is a volunteer for the Spina Bifida Association of Massachusetts, for which she provides translation services and outreach support for Latino parents who have children with the medical condition.
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Romery Espinal

Senior Manager Software Development, Allegiance Retail Services

  • Espinal managed all IT development at Allegiance Retail Services, including new software development for the organization, both in the headquarters office and in the company’s 111 member stores, and also handled outside vendors’ IT needs.
  • She became involved in the process of piloting a computer-generated ordering software, launching a bill-back manager to help streamline funds and transitioning more than 100 databases moving into SQL. 
  • In an effort to help wholesalers move product more quickly amid the pandemic, Espinal set up a system for them to post on their websites the invoices for receiving stores.
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Danielle Gibbs

Commercial Analyst, Walmart, American Greetings

  • H-E-B was up almost 50% in Christmas sales because Gibbs provided a creative shopper solution when a competitive supplier didn’t deliver all of the needed gift wrap for the holiday; she also grew the business by an incremental 54 feet across six stores, ultimately leading to a 150-foot competitive takeover of incremental space in 16 additional locations.
  • She simplified a reorder process to not only reduce labor for the field, but also increase shipments by more than 50% in a one-month time period.
  • Away from work, Gibbs purchases wish-list items as needed for an area dog rescue organization, and even rescued a puppy with a donation.
     
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Katie Kubasta

Senior Account Executive, American Greetings

  • Kubasta exceeded the sales plans for both Meijer and Wegmans; the latter saw 12.5% sales growth, while the former turned in its best-ever department performance, beating an aggressive plan by 8% and growing sales by 12%.
  • She led the design of a first-of-its-kind celebrations-focused “Department of the Future,” which took a new approach to merchandising several key categories, with major lifts to several divisions.
  • Kubasta is a Denison University admission ambassador, interviewing high schoolers who have applied to the college and providing feedback to the admissions office as well as remaining a point of contact for the prospective students and their parents.
     
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Beth Reppermund

Master Commercial Analyst, American Greetings

  • Working in conjunction with sales, marketing and product teams to drive sales growth and household penetration, Reppermund managed analytics for American Greetings’ Kroger account and engaged weekly with Kroger’s analytical organization to ensure best practices and share insights.
  • She steered analytical work on sustainability initiatives, including reducing landfill waste at company headquarters, and helped offset 100% of American Greetings’ carbon footprint through reforestation efforts.
  • Reppermund mentored new female analytics talent and led collaborative discussions across analytics organizations to share insights and solutions to help drive total business growth.

 

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Karen Viers

Account Executive, American Greetings

  • Viers managed a collection of grocery divisions for the Albertsons Cos., as well as owning one of American Greetings’ key regional relationships, with WinCo, and used her sales expertise to deliver innovative programs that aligned with her customers’ strategic vision.
  • Through her leadership, she delivered 12% year-over-year sales growth for her retail divisions and industry-leading Valentine’s Day sales performance for Albertsons, while also leading a Nurses Day and an essential-worker Thank You program.
  • Outside of her job duties, Viers is an active member of NextUp and a volunteer at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in her local community.
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Alexa Karas

Senior Director, Sales, Anheuser-Busch (A-B)

  • Karas’ team managed the beer, wine, spirits and nonalcoholic portfolios for Kroger, generating more than $800 million in revenue, and she facilitated best-in-class communication on inventory, innovations and programming opportunities with the grocer.
  • She partnered with Kroger on an enhanced inventory program resulting in the best in-stock position of any other beer supplier, and also partnered with the food retailer on a speed-to-market launch of an innovative brand.
  • Karas was selected as the community service lead and co-chair of the A-B National Women in Beer Steering Committee Team for 2022, and is involved with the Cincinnati chapter of NextUp.
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Shelly Dean

Director of Food Safety, Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. (AWG)

  • Under Dean’s leadership, the AWG food safety team implemented and oversaw the supplier approval program and the distribution center’s food safety plan, sanitation plans, pest control programs and annual internal food safety audits.
  • She created a comprehensive food safety manual and procedures, led the design and implementation of several state-of-the-art compliance systems, and initiated a company-wide master sanitation and compliance plan.
  • The 2021 chair for FMI’s Food Protection Committee, Dean is also a member of the NGA Food Safety Task Force and the International Fresh Produce Association Sustainability Council.
     
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Wendy Schimmel

Senior Category Manager, Packaged Meats, Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. (AWG)

  • No matter what supply challenges she faced, Schimmel’s commitment to finding solutions, identifying promotional opportunities and leveraging her strong vendor partnerships led to strong sales growth across a portfolio that included bacon, breakfast sausage, lunch meat, hot dogs, home meal replacements and frozen cooked poultry.
  • She was project lead for several high-level company projects, among them the integration of new retailers, trade management and analytical tool development.
  • Schimmel was also unafraid to try something new and look outside of the box to drive the AWG business.
     
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Lori Turner

Director, Corporate Communications, Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. (AWG)

  • Leading all communication for the company and its 1,100 member retailers, Turner also took on a new role as the direct conduit between AWG division contributions, direct reports, the board of directors and the CEO. 
  • In addition to the enormous role of leading communications, she also co-chaired the annual AWG Innovation Showcase, chaired the Annual Shareholders Meeting and oversaw the corporate administration budget for the entire company.
  • Turner served on the AWG COVID-19 Task Force, was the charter chair of the AWG Cares Charitable Foundation and received recognition as the AWG Top Performer of 2021.
     
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Ina McDonald

San Diego Regional Manager, Barons Market

  • McDonald oversaw training, hiring and firing at all of Southern California independent grocer Barons Market’s stores, and also managed the remodeling of two locations.
  • She developed an innovative pilot program for Barons’ floral and plant departments that aimed to add excitement to the overall customer experience and position the grocer as a plant and floral destination in the region, in turn driving a 25% increase in sales over the initiative’s first few weeks.
  • In the area of talent development, McDonald mentored her district’s supervisors and managers, including one supervisor who was recently promoted to become Barons’ youngest assistant manager.
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Kecia Bossie

Employment Manager, Big Y Foods Inc.

  • Amid staffing challenges, Bossie developed new processes and procedures to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations, and also forged a partnership with the marketing department to expand Big Y’s digital footprint through various social and electronic platforms.
  • She developed a campaign that led to the first-ever company-wide hiring event, which yielded 800 new hires with a 75% retention rate, and also created toolkits to support each location’s recruitment efforts. 
  • Bossie is an active board member with several nonprofits, including the Western New England Collaborative, the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and Springfield Works.
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Katherine Yoshida 

Senior Manager, Data Science, Bowery Farming

  • Yoshida designed and implemented a system called Automated Recipe Search, a project that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to regularly and automatically adjust recipes so that Bowery Farming continues to grow the best possible plants.
  • She led the post-harvest group in the data/AI organization, which is responsible for all systems that involve harvesting, quality control and allocation of Bowery Farming products.
  • Besides talking to farmers, learning their pain points and devising solutions to address those obstacles, Yoshida is a member of aGirlCulture, Bowery’s internal career development network for women.
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Angel Brown 

Director of Pharmacy Operations, Brookshire Grocery Co. (BGC)

  • Through outstanding customer service, Brown and her team surpassed the sales increases of the two previous years of the pandemic while overseeing the opening of the pharmacy department for the company’s second flagship store, FRESH by Brookshire’s.
  • Through her leadership and monitoring of store performance this past year, she led 20 out of 138 pharmacies that had not met their EBITDA goals to increase their performance by 10.8%.
  • Brown is a member of the Texas Pharmacy Association and volunteers in the community as a member of the Parent Teacher Association for her community’s middle and high schools.
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Michelle Clark 

Director of Treasury, Brookshire Grocery Co. (BGC)

  • In the past year, Clark has served as lead for banking, treasury and payments in BGC’s acquisition of 17 Reasor’s supermarket locations, and led Curbside and Instacart implementations.
  • She also led the implementation of smart routing with a processor to reduce interchange costs, and developed the process to alleviate coin shortage issues through the use of retail coin redemption terminals. 
  • Beyond her job duties, Clark serves as a volunteer for the East Texas Food Bank, BGC’s Charity Golf Tournament, and the FRESH 15 Charity Race, the last of which, together with BGC Racing’s Heroes Run, has raised more than $1.25 million for charities since 2014.
     
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Rubi Gonzalez 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager, Brookshire Grocery Co. (BGC)

  • Working with 750 employees-partners in the company’s three warehouses and transportation operations, Gonzalez created and successfully implemented Rookie of the Week and Partner of the Month programs to increase inclusion and reduce turnover. 
  • She acted as a role model to her colleagues, and was constant in her efforts to help everyone in her area appreciate the value of being a diverse and inclusive workplace. 
  • Gonzalez is a founding member of the Hispanic Professionals Association of Tyler, a Texas organization that brings local Hispanic professionals together to serve as a resource for other organizations seeking them.
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Jennifer Reeves 

Project Manager, Information Technology, Brookshire Grocery Co. (BGC)

  • Reeves had the largest acquisition (in sales volume) in BGC’s history, consisting of 17 stores, and managed a cross-functional team of employees-partners from pharmacy, fuel, IT and other departments.
  • As a project manager, she opened two new Spring Markets and a FRESH by Brookshire’s location, and led an enterprise team through the necessary activities to open the three new stores.
  • Reeves led the planning of two epic road races, the FRESH 15, in Tyler, Texas, and Brookshire’s + Super 1 Foods Heroes Run, in Bossier City, La., which have grown runner participation from 2,500 to 4,500, and surpassed $1.25 million raised for charity.
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Camilla Arnold 

Senior Manager Strategic Projects, C&S Wholesale Grocers

  • Arnold led training and development for workforce management principles and worked with customer service leaders and teams to create a culture of workforce management that drove double-digit improvement in service-level agreements.
  • She led the integration team that successfully reviewed, approved and implemented a new customer service cloud-based contact center platform for 90-plus agents across three contact centers, thereby improving the customer experience.
  • Arnold is on the board of members of Southeastern Vermont Community Action Agency, a nonprofit serving two Vermont counties that enables people to cope with and transcend poverty.
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Karissa Atwood 

Senior Director, Supply Chain and Trade Relations, C&S Wholesale Grocers

  • Atwood was instrumental in developing enhancements to the manufacturer partnership programs and critical to the success of integrating two new business acquisitions into the C&S family.
  • She led a team of people responsible for delivering results on supply chain programs for C&S nationally, and was responsible for coordinating actions across six C&S divisions in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Houston, Midwest and West Coast regions.
  • Atwood leads a mentorship program within the C&S procurement division, and is part of the company’s Scholars Program at Franklin Pierce University, working closely with FMI.
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Chelsea Deputy 

Manager, National Demand Planning, C&S Wholesale Grocers

  • Deputy led her team to prevent stock shortages due to brisk pandemic sales; as a result, her customers were the first to quickly recover from the unprecedented demand and demonstrated strong performance during critical holiday periods. 
  • Through her dedicated leadership, national demand planning tested, reworked and implemented numerous process improvements, including modifications to legacy tools and models, and modifications to promotional communication. 
  • Deputy regularly volunteered to be available nights, weekends and other periods outside of normal business hours to help her customers every step of the way, whenever she was needed.
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Erin Dourdounas

Senior Analyst Private Brands, C&S Wholesale Grocers

  • Dourdounas launched That’s Smart, a price-point label program for independent customers across the nation, which involved setting up 225 SKUs of products across 10 distribution centers, as well as setting up new vendors and making sure that orders and supply chain were correct.
  • She also implemented an opportunity on dually slotted private-brand spice items in Brattleboro, Vt., which created a reduction in inventory cost, in addition to efficiencies for the buyer, the warehouse and the customer.
  • A volunteer soccer coach, Dourdounas participated in, and donated to, the Adopt a Family program, helping to support local families in need. 
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Marisa Kutansky

Communications Director, Cardenas Markets LLC

  • Kutansky’s responsibilities ranged from connecting with her direct team, to store personnel, to the more than 3.2 million households that interact with the brand on a weekly basis.
  • Because of her strong initiative, stellar leadership skills and strong relationship with the media, the company’s brand presence yielded an unprecedented reach of 687,578,038 impressions.
  • Kutansky is a member of EDGE, a professional development forum for female professional team members at Cardenas, with an appreciation for all female team members throughout the talent pipeline; she’s also president of the Inland Empire chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.
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Aimee Asp 

Director of Advertising, Coborn’s Inc.

  • Asp successfully oversaw thousands of projects that supported the company’s retail locations, promotions and overall advertising initiatives in print and traditional media, including the production and design management of all of the versions of the company’s weekly ads.
  • She directed all advertising and project management support for all of Coborn’s grocery divisions, managing signage, store décor projects, direct mail and more, as well as having budget oversight of advertising, promotion and agency.
  • In her local Minnesota community, Asp is a volunteer at the St. Cloud Kiwanis Club, as well as taking part in the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce’s leadership program.
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Diana Barr 

Director of Digital and Loyalty Marketing, Coborn’s Inc.

  • Barr and her team remained relentlessly focused on growing the business by building their most loyal customer base through a variety of effective marketing campaigns, and her loyalty program, MORE, has grown steadily and is now recognized as a leading innovative initiative among U.S. grocers.
  • She exceeded her 2021 goals of growing primary customers, increasing primary-segment customers by 10%, converting 14% of secondary customers to primary and reducing lapsed customers by 7%. 
  • Also devoting some of her time to local communities, Barr is an active media center volunteer at Highlands Elementary School in Minneapolis.
     
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Jada Azbill 

E-Commerce Account Executive, The Coca-Cola Co.

  • Azbill served as the account lead for Walmart’s pilot and expansion into market fulfillment centers, enabling the retailer’s primary growth driver to boost efficiency through order pickup and delivery.
  • In the past year, she developed a sustainable process for the team playbook to launch core innovation and limited-time-offer products online, in advance of their store launch, and gained recognition at Walmart’s Annual Supplier Growth Forum.
  • Azbill is also highly invested in such organizations as the Walton Arts Center Corporate Leadership Council on behalf of The Coca-Cola Co., and is a northwest Arkansas chapter member of NextUp.
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Markia Crawford 

Director of Sales, Warehouse Beverage, The Coca-Cola Co.

  • Crawford exceeded her sales budget while navigating a challenging allocation environment, and partnered with the HQ supply team to ensure clear visibility into Walmart’s inventory needs, which allowed for collaborative demand-driving activity with the customer.
  • She consistently found opportunities to create joint value for her customer, which increased partnership and built trust, returning the company approximately $4 million; then she embarked on executing the corporate initiative to update payment terms with her customer.
  • Crawford is part of NextUp as a northwest Arkansas ambassador, working on advancement-of-women programming.
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Liza Etu 

Senior Customer Marketing Manager, Albertsons, The Coca-Cola Co.

  • In July 2021, Etu executed Albertsons’ United For Gold Olympics-themed campaign, driving $2.8 million in revenue, a 6.9% dollar share increase and a higher number of units per basket, with 52.4% of all baskets containing more than two participating items. 
  • She piloted a breakfast campaign to test the viability of including the Simply and Fairlife brands together; this effort drove $485,521 in incremental sales for the featured items and led to a 9.1% incremental lift in penetration of new households for both brands.
  • Etu has been a NextUp member for years, including as Coca-Cola lead in the organization’s Northern California chapter. 
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Julie Reilman 

Group Director-Customer Solutions and Supply Chain (Walmart/Sam’s Club), The Coca-Cola Co.

  • Reilman collaborated with Walmart and Coca-Cola bottlers to deliver 15 points of in-stock improvement on Walmart’s sparkling beverage business, which enabled double-digit sales growth.
  • Despite significant supply and labor headwinds, she also led Coca-Cola on-time in-full results for Walmart and Sam’s Club that were consistently at the top of all large-supplier performance for these customers; her team consistently delivered transparent, forward-looking solutions.
  • Reilman serves the Northwest Arkansas Court-Appointed Special Advocates organization as a Coca-Cola sponsor and volunteer, and co-wrote an industry paper on sustainable retailing.
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Melissa Soto

Director, Customer Management, Coca-Cola Consolidated

  • Executing the Consolidated/Kroger beverage plan across 114 stores in the Columbus division, Soto aligned key partners and fostered strong relationships with strategic counterparts to deliver product and supply shortage information consistently, giving Kroger leadership early visibility into upcoming supply constraints.
  •  She worked on a large single-serve cooler bank program in which Coca-Cola installed and serviced 175 additional coolers in 2021, driving 20-ounce carbonated soft-drink sales up 21% versus the prior year.
  • Soto implemented a community engagement program in which Kroger and Coca-Cola Consolidated worked together on a Backpack Buddy Program.
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Jacquelyn Davis

Manager, Insights and Analytics, CROSSMARK

  • Davis’ team developed insights to facilitate sales/brand awareness; last year, she helped the company’s largest client achieve more than 21% growth.
  • When her superior stepped down, Davis assumed his role on the accelerator training team, where she helped develop an analytics platform, trained a team of 300, created a training team library, and began to host monthly training sessions; the new role has helped her develop both personally and professionally, enabling her to overcome her fear of public speaking.
  • Davis belongs to Women of the Moose, which supports the MooseHeart Children’s Home; in 2021, she raised 15% of all funds through a Super Bowl VIP Table auction and raffles at her lodge.
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Nancy Drinkwater

Senior Director of Customer Development, Product Connections, CROSSMARK

  • Drinkwater was responsible for PromoWorks engagement sampling across Raley’s and all of Ahold Delhaize USA’s banners; despite vacillating pandemic protocols, she built and relaunched sampling programs, outlined safe sampling practices, and delivered more than $780,000 in revenue for 2021-22.
  • She played a key role in winning the Ahold Delhaize USA request for proposal; this resulted in PromoWorks remaining the agency of record for Food Lion and Hannaford and winning the Ahold legacy brands business.
  • Following the death of her mother from COVID-19, Drinkwater joined Lasagna Mama, whose members make lasagna for people affected by the virus.
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Beth Faught

Director of HQ Sales and Marketing, CROSSMARK

  • Recently promoted to manage a portfolio of 65-plus clients in the dairy, deli and frozen food categories, Faught led the Kimberly-Clark team for most of 2021, focusing largely on digital enhancements.
  • Facing supply chain challenges, she shifted focus from top-line to bottom-line growth on the client’s behalf; using a more profitable business model, she overdelivered on margin versus budget by 20%.
  • During the fourth quarter, Faught successfully completed the rigorous eight-week Digital Marketing Strategies: Data, Automation, AI & Analytics course offered by Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
     
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Constance Heienickle

Director of Retail Operations, CROSSMARK

  • With Heienickle serving as team lead for Readerlink Distribution Services, CROSSMARK-serviced stores achieved 14% annual sales growth in 2021; her contributions included a strong Halloween promotion that was expanded to 2,000-plus stores for the 2021 holiday.
  • She provided innovative insights for Walmart suppliers, including General Mills, Bolthouse Farms and Kimberly-Clark.
  • Heienickle helped implement internal dashboards to track new-hire optimization, people management, demand planning and communication, creating time management efficiencies and identifying opportunities requiring immediate action.
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Patti Lewis

Director of Customer Development, CROSSMARK

  • Lewis managed client business at Rite Aid through promotion planning, new distribution and shelf management; from April 2021 to February 2022, total Crossmark Rite Aid client POS sales grew more than 14.9%, and during that time, two of the largest Rite Aid clients’ market share increased by 8.8% combined.
  • After monitoring first-year sales of General Mills’ Blue Buffalo, she found that the pet food brand was far outperforming the competitive own brand in dollars per store; Lewis then persuaded Rite Aid to cut the own-brand store count in half and double that of Blue Buffalo.
  • Lewis is a member of CROSSMARK’s Network of Women. 
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Kallie Millar

Director of HQ Sales and Marketing, CROSSMARK

  • Millar led sales and marketing initiatives for manufacturer clients, managing a portfolio of more than $350 million; in 2021, she coined the rally cry “Ask for it” on behalf of Duracell, reminding her team to voice and contemplate all ideas, and consequently exceeded her net revenue goals by 24%. 
  • She launched a new-item contest in support of new products that had been struggling to gain retail acceptance; eight sales team members achieved exemplary results, driving distribution gains above 2020’s numbers.
  • In 2021, Millar’s team exceeded the shipment goal for Duracell’s Lithium Coin SKUs by 48% and improved year over year in total shipments by 73%.
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Jennifer Pattillo

Director of Retail Operations, CROSSMARK

  • As leader of the Southeastern Grocers/CROSSMARK Single Source Retail Team, Pattillo built the partnership program from the ground up; this involved close collaboration with senior leadership and ongoing close alignment of both organizations’ visions, strategies and performance metrics.
  • Throughout the COVID-19 epidemic, she worked with senior executives to spearhead efficiencies affecting payroll and travel and expense. 
  • Pattillo’s team completed 50 store remodels, including two new stores, replaced all of the frozen food cases in more than 10 locations, and installed new security technologies in 30 of the retailer’s dollar stores.
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Amy Pleasant

Director Customer Development, Walgreens, CROSSMARK

  • Pleasant’s engagement with Walgreens and her client, Clorox, resulted in an early exclusive launch of Clorox’s clinical germicidal line at Walgreens; omnichannel marketing support included multiple in-store placements, item tags, cooler screen videos, and email distribution to loyalty members.
  • She also secured 75,000 distribution points for Clorox cleaning and laundry products across 9,000 Walgreens locations; this resulted in sales growth of 29.4% and sales unit growth of 34.1%.
  • In October, she was recognized by Progressive Grocer sister publication Drug Store News as a Top Woman in Health, Wellness and Beauty for Business Excellence.
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Melanie Short

Client Engagement Manager, CROSSMARK

  • Short played a significant part in growing client partnerships and their investments with CROSSMARK at Walmart, drafting comprehensive proposals supported by data, and she worked closely with CROSSMARK’s business insights team to create executive overview dashboards that immediately showed trends and return on investment.
  • Her work persuaded a client to accept a labor price increase after three years at the same rate; another client received approval from Walmart for a price increase on several items.
  • Short’s attention to detail and over delivery on service for a 52-store project prompted a third client to launch an additional initiative involving 2,300 stores.
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Melissa Thomas

Business Account Manager/Director HQ Sales and Marketing, CROSSMARK

  • Thomas led HBC client/customer relationships at Meijer and SpartanNarsh for seven clients; despite planogram size restrictions, she helped increase dollar growth of Clorox’s vitamin and mineral supplements at SpartanNash by 40% over 26 weeks and aligned the CPG brand with Meijer’s Total Wellness initiative, achieving four-week end cap placement — a spot generally occupied by higher-turning, lower-priced labels. 
  • She grew Meijer’s Dickinson toner business by 48% in dollars, making it the chain’s No. 3 toner brand and outpacing growth of the top two competitors.
  • Thomas is an active member of CROSSMARK’s Network of Women.
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Ann Weinhardt

Director Customer Development, CROSSMARK

  • Weinhardt led strategy and execution for clients supplying Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG) and SpartanNash; following implementation of key performance indicator scorecarding and an improved planning process for wholesalers and their retailers, her team exceeded planned profit contributions and drove positive results.
  • Her Sales Agency Curriculum provided AWG interns with real-life exposure to agency work for the first time; in the next few years, this successful initiative will be expanded.
  • Weinhardt also finds the time to volunteer at St. Mary’s Food Kitchen, in Kansas City, Mo., and coach high school basketball.
     
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Meralie Ervin

Supervisory Commissary Management Specialist, Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA)

  • After Ervin became manager of Zone 4, overseeing 11 Florida and Georgia stores, she implemented Ervin’s Backroom Optimization, which guarantees shelf-stocking optimization through backroom organization; the initiative was later adopted by the entire Central Area.
  • Her Super Hero/Heroine program let employees choose a superhero avatar, communicating the idea that everyone contributes to the success of their store and the agency as a whole.
  • Ervin found solutions to problems associated with the new Contract Stocking Performance Work Statement and Contract for the entire Central Area.
     
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Lourdes  Mayosh Barton

Global Sourcing Principal, Encore Associates

  • Despite myriad global supply chain challenges, Barton led a complex global team that negotiated more than 1,000 new private label products at competitive costs over a 12-month period; her retail customers received 99.8% of orders on time and complete.
  • Her top three retailers saw double-digit sales growth, largely due to her ability to develop and negotiate their private labels and to leverage her supply chain network of logistics partners, international factories and domestic suppliers.
  • Beyond work, Barton leads volunteers for youth sports teams and lends time to Tahitian culture and Dance Halau.
     
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Sara Acomb

Sales Director, Kroger, Ferrara Candy Co.

  • Acomb’s strong relationship with Kroger’s management consistently created opportunities like first-to-market distribution and the Candy Store, a permanent, in-store display; these initiatives helped Ferrara outpace the category and channel.
  • She conceptualized a display pallet that drove shopper excitement with more than 14 Ferrara brands, and she and her team launched a full-360 plan that resulted in new distribution in fruit snacks and grew Ferrara’s Kroger business 44% over the previous year.
  • Acomb’s potential prompted the executive leadership team to select her to participate in Ferrara’s Emerging Leaders program.
     
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Sandi Santa Ana

Director, Category Management, Ferrara Candy Co.

  • Santa Ana collaborated with various retailers to optimize nonchocolate and cookie planograms — one was so successful that the concept was expanded chain-wide; she also created a workshop on personal branding.
  • Named co-chair of UNIDOS!, Ferrara’s Latino business resource group, she also spearheaded the move to sponsor two employees in the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement’s (HACE) Emerging Latino Leaders Program, and her contributions were recognized by HACE’s Top 40 Under 40 ranking.
  • The National Confectioners Association selected Santa Ana to participate in its Future Leaders program.
     
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Molly Austin

Front End Operations Special Projects Manager, Food City/K-VA-T Food Stores

  • Austin piloted an in-house training course on cash recycler operations that will save around $100,000 annually, and she’s currently rolling out the three-store pilot program to 20-plus additional stores.
  • The in-house Alcohol Training Program that she helped develop resulted in an increase of 0.37% in the customer satisfaction goal and earned her a letter of recognition from the state governor for her efforts to educate consumers on preventing alcohol-related incidents.
  • Austin is a founding member of the company’s EMPOWER Program, which supports female associates through education, mentorship and fellowship.
     
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April Riegler

Senior Director, PR, Shopper and Event Marketing, FoodStory Brands LLC

  • As the driving force behind the Fresh Cravings hummus launch campaign for Walmart, Riegler achieved immediate success, exceeded target benchmarks and contributed to record company sales.
  • She led the transformation of FoodStory Brands’ shopper marketing strategies, establishing a playbook of proven tactics to engage with consumers at all stages of the shopping journey.
  • Riegler led Fresh Cravings’ End of Summer Salsabration event in partnership with Kroger and St. Vincent de Paul; the event included several unique activations, including a “Chopped”-style cooking competition featuring local chefs.
     
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Paula Stop

Director of Total Rewards, The Fresh Market

  • Stop coordinated efforts with a company task force to support vaccinations for all team members, resulting in a 40% increase in vaccinations and a more than 96% vaccination rate at the corporate office.
  • She improved financial wellness offerings to team members, including immediate access to pay through a new provider, and financial planning tools for all team members, and then added communications channels to educate associates on benefits.
  • Stop led a team that redesigned the company’s corporate pay plans, bonus structure and plan design to align incentives to the market.
     
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Jen Bejin

Manager, Supplier Diversity, Giant Eagle Inc.

  • Bejin implemented a plan to integrate supplier diversity in Giant Eagle’s daily operations by engaging with the right organizations, hosting matchmaking events, developing current and future reporting, and hosting several sessions for internal education.
  • She played an integral role in achieving the Standing Up Against Racism goal of doubling Black-owned suppliers and is well on her way to achieving this objective again for the current year.
  • Bejin is a member of the company’s B.L.A.C.C. Business Resource Group and the Women’s Business Resource Group, and represents Giant Eagle on the Pittsburgh Minority Business Accelerator.
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Cara Mercil

Director of Sustainability, Giant Eagle Inc.

  • Mercil’s leadership resulted in Giant Eagle achieving the No. 1 position in the supermarket plastic reduction rating from Greenpeace, moving from 16th place to the top spot in one year, and she drove policy changes and programming to receive the No. 1 rating on the bee-friendly retailer scorecard.
  • She developed and implemented the company’s first Supplier Code of Conduct and Human Rights and Animal Welfare Statements, which were adopted by suppliers, and she created a sustainable packaging playbook for employees and partner vendors.
  • Mercil wrote grant proposals that led to unscheduled funding for the company to support sustainability initiatives.
     
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Geeta Vykuntam

Senior Manager IT Quality Engineering, Giant Eagle Inc.

  • As one of the first employees hired at the company’s ​​Global Capabilities Center, Vykuntam took on the role of administrative leader, conducting employee engagement events, providing knowledge-sharing opportunities and working on the planning team for the center’s inauguration.
  • Under her direction, the IT quality engineering team developed an automation framework — the first time the testing process was automated; this move streamlined the process, reducing the testing time by 90%.
  • Outside of work, Vykuntam volunteered at a local orphanage and nursing home during the pandemic, and invited the residents to family celebrations.
     
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Crystal Fitzgerald

Manager, IS Projects, Harris Teeter

  • Along with her project management duties — a more than 40-hour-a-week job — Fitzgerald led the highest-priority project for Harris Teeter, an ongoing multiyear endeavor with contributions from teams across the enterprise.
  • Under her leadership, the digital team completed improvements to selector productivity, enabling stores to meet customer demand; online sales soared from $4 million to $10 million in one month, and they’ve remained at a steady $8 million per month since then.
  • Based on her commitment to Harris Teeter, Fitzgerald was hand-selected as one of just 40 participants in the year-long Emerging Leaders Program.
     
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Susan Gibbons

Senior Manager of Associate Relations, Harris Teeter

  • Gibbons took on the management of strategic initiatives associated with preparing the company for a potential COVID-19 emergency temporary standard, ensuring that every aspect was analyzed for compliance, and that impacts to the business were communicated.
  • She embraced a lead role in handling COVID-19 processing not only for her direct area, but also as an advisor for the entire company, to ensure that all requirements were met and associates taken care of.
  • A founding member of the Women’s Empowerment Group at Harris Teeter and an influential contributor, Gibbons also works on a subcommittee focused on the sustainability of the resource group.
     
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Christine Hubbard

Senior Director of Operations, Harris Teeter

  • Hubbard’s team implemented a new process improvement change for ordering equipment and supplies, which led to savings of more than $100,000.
  • She helped transition fuel centers from merchandising to operations and had all stores reset, opening five new fuel centers for a total of 63, with gallons sold up 32.4% and profit up 15.9%.
  • Hubbard is a board member of the FJM (Fred J. Morganthall) Foundation, which provides financial assistance to qualifying Harris Teeter associates experiencing extreme financial hardship; co-chair of Harris Teeter’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee; and a member of The Women’s Empowerment Group at the company.
     
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Kathleen George

Customer Sales Executive, The Hershey Co.

  • To replace in-person trade shows shut down by COVID-19, George developed customer-specific sales programs, including Reese’s Stacks and Family Movie Night, that resulted in store activations producing sales lifts of 198%.
  • She established a joint business plan with Hy-Vee centered on strategic initiatives that not only delivered in the short term, but also set the stage for long-term sustainable growth.
  • George emerged as an outspoken leader who helped shape team strategy, assisted in the onboarding of team members, and challenged the Hershey organization to find new ways to connect with employees working remotely during the pandemic.
     
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Gaynell Homan

Senior Sales Analyst, The Hershey Co.

  • As Hershey’s only sales analyst, with responsibility for its No. 2 customer, The Kroger Co., Homan identified approximately $7 million in invalid post-audit deductions that warranted repayment, and she also played a pivotal role in processing inevitable cost increases this past year.
  • In the area of cross-functional support, she began assisting in the planning elements of shopper marketing, not only furthering the breadth of her business acumen, but also receiving praise from Kroger for her overall accuracy and communication.
  • An active member of NextUp, Homan serves as the point person relaying communications from NextUp Cincinnati to the Hershey Kroger team.
     
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Bethany Kucharik

Customer Sales Executive, The Hershey Co.

  • Kucharik collaborated with Stop & Shop to deliver growth on top of the double-digit growth that occurred during 2020, increasing seasonal sales and sell-through by focusing on driving consumer demand.
  • She leaned into Hershey’s partnership with the NCAA to deliver 112% growth on the Reese’s brand at Stop & Shop with the March Madness program.
  • Kucharik turned consumer insights into actions by recognizing the shift in consumer behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic to key in on the increased screentime occasion, and built a Twizzlers program that aligned with consumer usage to grow Twizzlers sales by a staggering 237% across the brand.
     
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Erin Bailey

Assistant VP, Retail Marketing, Hy-Vee Inc.

  • Bailey headed the marketing and launch of Hy-Vee Scan & Go, a free mobile payment application allowing customers to scan and bag their items as they shop; the solution is now available at a growing number of stores.
  • Digitally, she led the charge to promote the new technology to both customers and associates, understanding that employees are often the gateway to customer adoption of new services and technologies.
  • Away from work, Bailey has been a board member for several Iowa organizations focused on children and families, among them Amanda the Panda Family Grief Center, March of Dimes, and EveryStep Home Care & Visiting Nurse Services.
     
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Andrea Leaman

Director, IT-Health & Wellness, Hy-Vee Inc.

  • Leaman led the development of Hy-Vee’s award-winning online COVID-19 vaccination scheduler and landing page, which were essential during the early vaccine rollout days, when vaccine supply was scarce.
  • Realizing that there was also a need for a vaccine event management system for both public and private events, her team launched such a system within weeks, leading to hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccinations administered through private clinics for employers, nonprofits, churches and schools.
  • Leaman spearheaded the effort to make Hy-Vee’s digital health properties more accessible to patients of all ages and abilities.
     
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Daniela Castano

Director, Human Resources, Hy-Vee/D&D Foods

  • Fluent in both Spanish and English, Castano interpreted and communicated important messages to a largely Hispanic workforce with ease and accuracy, creating an inclusive, informed and engaged workforce; this skill was previously missing from the human resources department.
  • She played an instrumental role in enhancing the company’s safety practices by introducing training courses in multiple languages to meet the needs of a diverse workforce.
  • Castano received the Spirit of Hy-Vee award, a recognition given to individuals who demonstrate positive brand image in their actions and are spokespeople for the company’s fundamental values.
     
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Latrice Coleman

Senior Manager of Partner Operations, Instacart

  • Coleman played an integral role in scaling and operationalizing Instacart’s Partner Pick program as part of its larger pickup business, helping retailers leverage the company’s technology to build the most effective pickup offering for their own businesses.
  • She helped grow Instacart’s partner store operations team by more than 60% in 2021, and redesigned the team’s structure by creating new roles and a new hiring and onboarding process to support team members.
  • Coleman is the social chair for Management Leadership for Tomorrow’s alumni board; the nonprofit organization ensures that talented underrepresented minorities get on and stay on the path to senior leadership.
     
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Alice Luong

Director, Market Strategy and Planning, Instacart

  • Luong was highly involved in the development of Instacart’s new enterprise strategy and approach with the launch of Instacart Platform, a suite of enterprise-grade technology products and services for retailers; among other things, she created the strategy, approach and go-to-market vision for the enterprise product architecture.
  • She incubated, built and led Instacart’s enterprise customer success team, growing it by 30% by the end of 2021.
  • In the spirit of ensuring that Instacart is designing products that are accessible to everyone, regardless of economic status, Luong identified an opportunity to use the company’s technology to serve populations experiencing food insecurity.
     
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Michelle McRae

Director, Access to Food and Nutrition, Instacart

  • For Instacart’s innovative suite of display advertising products, McRae built the first business case, pricing models and go-to-market strategy with the sales team, and then helped to launch this offering.
  • She was applauded by company leadership for guiding the advertising sales capability and strategy teams while helping to grow the number of advertisers on the platform fivefold in the past year; during this time, she also onboarded more than 170 new team members.
  • As one of the co-leads for Instacart’s [email protected] employee resource group, McRae helped to onboard a new cohort of pillar leads to help execute programming and grow membership significantly.
     
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Erin Kennedy

Solution Architect, IRI

  • An essential link between retailers and the IRI team, ensuring that operations run smoothly regardless of differing data nuances and custom reporting needs per client, Kennedy helped deploy multiple loyalty programs that have already led to 15% year-over-year growth for IRI.
  • She identified a new methodology to enhance the value of IRI’s largest loyalty implementations, which provided substantial value for the company, its retail partners and the supplier community.
  • Kennedy’s volunteer work includes using thought expertise and experience to mentor her more junior colleagues across global IRI teams, as well as being a member of the Twin Cities chapter of NextUp.
     
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Hayley Berkshire

Senior Director, Sales, Kellogg Co.

  • Responsible for leading the U.S. business at Walmart for crackers and snacks on the go, Berkshire delivered 70 basis points of share growth in a highly competitive category, driving 2% more point-of-sale growth than the category overall while also helping the customer to drive share growth in the balance of the market.
  • Despite having to execute multiple cost increases, she significantly overdelivered on her net sales budget for the year, achieving a double-digit increase versus the prior year.
  • Berkshire sits on the board of the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter and serves as a corporate advisor for the University of Arkansas’ advisory board.
     
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Joelle Halle

Senior Manager of Product Design: In-Store CX, The Kroger Co.

  • Based on Halle’s research and design patterns, the native in-store experience team saw an 18% increase in unique visitors, a 20% increase in household engagement and an 18% increase in total sales through the store mode experience, while the in-store mapping experience has grown more than 240% in usage since its start. 
  • Thanks to her customer experience enhancements, there was also growth in order-ahead and the innovation lab products that she supports.
  • Halle was picked as a Kroger Federator to deliver a world-class application experience while ensuring accessibility, continuity across the app and that others understand design patterns.
     
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Kate Cullen

Director, Product Management, Ad Technology, The Kroger Co./84.51°

  • Cullen led a team to reconsider Kroger Precision Marketing’s (KPM) traditional approach to advertising; this included assessing where code base needed to be revived for long-term scalable growth, how existing advertising should be optimized based on evolving customer experiences, and innovating experiences like display ads and sponsored search. 
  • She spearheaded a refreshed vision for the monetization team to be an inspiration within the customer experience, while also supporting the Family Resource Group for Navy SEAL teams.
  • By changing the narrative of advertising within Kroger, Cullen directly contributed to KPM’s revenue.
     
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Christa Criswell

Deli/Bakery Merchandiser, The Kroger Co./Columbus Division

  • Criswell grew division deli/bakery sales for the second straight year at a rate of 11.46%, more than doubling the prior year’s growth of 5.4%, and was No. 4 in the enterprise for identical-store sales growth for the past two years.
  • She implemented a communication strategy that included a weekly call for all department leaders and direct reports during which she communicated actionable items and results from previous asks, and weekly store visits for one-on-one conversations with associates.
  • Criswell’s department was the top seller in Kroger’s Cake Challenge and Pumpkin Roll Challenge, both created to determine which division had the most effective bakery sales strategy.
     
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Megan Liu

Senior Manager, Product Integrity and Regulatory Compliance, The Kroger Co./Ethics & Compliance

  • Liu led her team in developing a system that manages product integrity testing reports and integrated it with a product lifecycle management system, resulting in more accurate risk assessments, increased efficiency, the automation of across-function collaboration, and higher engagement throughout the supply chain. 
  • She worked to become a Certified Product Safety Professional — as of 2022, only 18 individuals have received this designation from the Society of Product Safety Professionals.
  • Liu serves as a mentor to college students via the International Consumer Product Safety and Health Organization.
     
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Sandra Martinez

Safety Manager, The Kroger Co./Food 4 Less

  • In addition to achieving a 7% reduction in new-hire injuries, Martinez’s leadership helped reduce general liability claims by 6.8%, and reduced slips, trips and falls by 18.8%. 
  • She was instrumental in developing COVID best practices to ensure that associates and customers remained safe during the height of the pandemic.
  • As well as being her division’s Cultural Council chair, an EDGE associate resource group committee lead, education champion for Food 4 Less/Foods Co. and the divisional Our Promise team lead, Martinez is a member of the CGA Advisory Board Committee, the Clearpath Federal Credit Union Supervisory Committee and the Food Industry Risk Management Association board.
     
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Debra Breidt

Division Customer Experience and Financial Products Manager, The Kroger Co./Fred Meyer

  • Breidt worked collaboratively to create and execute a plan to improve Our Promise Shop metrics, as well as customers’ shopping experience.
  • She helped improve Fred Meyer’s Front End Friendly metric by 15%, making it No. 1 in the Kroger enterprise, and the Self-Checkout Welcoming by 21% — a tie for first place — with Fred Meyer the only division to achieve all Our Promise Shop goals every period. 
  • Breidt led Fred Meyer in having the top overall total Kroger Personal Finance contribution in the Kroger enterprise, and also led the division in the money services and telecom business, achieving top sales in the Kroger enterprise. 
     
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Kimberly Smith

Pharmacy Practice Coordinator, The Kroger Co./Fry’s Food Stores

  • Smith created and implemented COVID-19 vaccine training across the division, ensuring that all Fry’s Pharmacy locations were equipped with the necessary tools and resources for safely administering the vaccine. 
  • In addition to her training duties, she assisted in developing and managing a vaccine clinic scheduling system for 20,000 Phoenix high school students, faculty and staff until the company scheduler was available. 
  • Not content to rest on her laurels, Smith played a critical role in achieving budget and sales goals for her area, working with her pharmacy teams to develop tactics to increase prescription and vaccine counts to help raise sales and profits. 
     
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Samantha Bock

Shared Services Administration Senior Manager, The Kroger Co./General Office

  • Bock added five contact center locations, including ones outside of the United States, to allow Kroger to adjust to pandemic surges that hit different areas of the world while using this global delivery model to segregate work to provide lowest-cost options.
  • Thanks to her efforts, Kroger still met its two-minute-time-to-answer service-level agreement during COVID surges, never having to put up a “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, expect long wait times” message.
  • Bock and her team designed an operating and evaluation model to create an exceptional customer experience that led to a 700-basis-point increase in customer satisfaction scores.
     
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Meggen Brown

Health & Wellness (The Little Clinic) Director, The Kroger Co./Kroger Health

  • Brown executed mass drive-thru sites for COVID-19 testing in 19 states, while also securing tests for clinics she oversaw and setting up operations and safety measures for mass vaccine clinics.
  • When it was unheard of in retail health settings to treat chronic conditions and support mental health and wellness, she continued to push through the barriers to allow providers to work using evidence-based practice — thereby allowing patients to receive quality health care at an affordable price. 
  • Brown led the initiative to increase telehealth, going from two locations in one state to providing the service in 219 locations across 48 states.
     
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Maggie Dussex

Division E-Commerce Manager, The Kroger Co./King Soopers 

  • Dussex designed and implemented bimonthly training for store leadership and e-commerce teams to understand how to better reduce wait time, increase fulfillment and remain profitable by controlling labor. 
  • Under her leadership, King Soopers’ e-commerce sales in pickup exceeded $409 million, delivery services supassed $200 million, fulfillment rates improved by 5%, pickup and delivery fulfillment rates rose by 5%, and department turnover rates fell by 46% from the previous year.
  • Despite obstacles related to antiquated liquor laws in Colorado, Dussex implemented a method for the division to sell alcohol online at 122 locations.
     
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Courtney Baxter

Finance Manager, The Kroger Co./Louisville Division

  • Leading the accounting and financials for 116 stores, Baxter recently replaced outdated systems with cloud-based platforms and used the new financials to provide strategic direction on sales plan executions, which led to her division’s No. 1 ranking within the enterprise.
  • She developed a department leader training program that includes a “Krogeropoly” activity emphasizing the importance of cost control. 
  • Recently chosen to represent Kroger at FMI’s Future Leaders eXperience, Baxter belongs to the Louisville division Women’s EDGE group and is co-chair of the office Our Promise team, which focuses on creating an uplifting work environment. 
     
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Tamara Grant-Morain

Division E-Commerce Manager, The Kroger Co./Mid-Atlantic Division

  • Grant-Morain implemented and sustained divisional e-commerce activities through partnerships with the corporate e-commerce teams, developing plans to support a rapid growth model.  
  • She began guided store walks for e-commerce field specialists to ensure consistency in messaging and feedback to stores and to help implement best practices, and she worked closely with human resources to identify and retain team members who ultimately boosted the department’s Net Promoter Score by an average of 10 points. 
  • Although she only joined Kroger in 2021, Grant-Morain is already active in the Women’s EDGE and African-American associate resource groups.
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Lauren Lyles

End to End Produce Sustainment Coordinator, The Kroger Co./Mid-Atlantic Division

  • Lyles coordinated the rollout of end-to-end produce in 62 stores and coached teams on how to deliver on key performance indicators in the produce department.
  • Before moving to her current role, she was an associate relations manager, in which capacity she played an important role in the human resources transition to a new design and structure; then, in the produce department, she helped redefine leadership roles. 
  • Lyles was Mid-Atlantic Associate of the Period for her work in creating a morale-boosting campaign that promoted positivity and friendliness among associates; she also led a steering committee in the Women’s EDGE associate resource group.
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Kristen Thompson

Senior Director, Specialty Cheese, The Kroger Co./Murray’s Cheese

  • As the proverbial “big cheese,” Thompson oversaw 997 Murray’s Cheese Shop locations and 1,200 specialty cheese shops across the enterprise. 
  • 2021 marked the second year of record-breaking sales of Murray’s cheeses within Kroger;  building on that momentum, she converted 250 cheese shops into Murray’s Cheese Shops, including 22 new Murray’s at Kroger’s Harris Teeter banner, and she and her team launched a pilot for fresh-sliced charcuterie. 
  • Thompson took the lead as project manager for Kroger’s new Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator, guiding small and minority vendors on a clear path to doing business with Kroger.
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Myrna Rexing

Senior Brand Manager, The Kroger Co./Our Brands

  • Overseeing marketing, strategy and go-to-market operations for Kroger’s Our Brands portfolio, a $27 billion business, Rexing led the evolution of the Our Brands strategy, reintroducing opening price-point brands, repositioning the Kroger brand and focusing on ways to address shoppers’ new buying habits.
  • She helped introduce the first line of Our Brands soft drinks appealing to a Hispanic target audience, and led the conversion of Our Brands products to 100% recyclable flex packaging.
  • Rexing received the “Long Neck” award from the Our Brands division for her work in promoting and delivering new ideas with excellence. 
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Devon Cresse

Meat and Seafood Field Specialist, The Kroger Co./QFC 

  • With oversight of two QFC division districts generating $90 million in annual meat and seafood sales, Cresse strove to create consistency in QFC branding.
  • Ensuring that stores maximized sales while minimizing shrink, she kept teams staffed and motivated and promoted eight associates, despite the recent labor crunch and a lingering pandemic.
  • A frequent winner of company sales contests, Cresse volunteered with a local food bank and founded a tolerance, awareness and alliance club to support the LGBTQ community; as part of that outreach effort, she created a program that was rolled out to the local school district.
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Mary Brophy

District Manager, The Kroger Co./Ralphs

  • Brophy was recently promoted to another district, where she took on the management of operations at 20 high-
  • volume stores.
  • While at her previous district, she led 19 stores to a combined shrink of 2.48% — the second best in the division — and successfully rolled out a new curbside pickup service with a five-minute-or-less wait time; she also took pride in promoting eight new Ralphs store leaders in that district. 
  • A graduate of the Food Industry Executive Program at the University of Southern California in 2021, Brophy donates her time and talent to combat hunger through donation drives.
     
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Zuley Ramos

Division Floral Field Specialist, The Kroger Co./Ralphs

  • Promoted to her current position in August 2021, Ramos supervised 184 floral departments, driving sales with her team and through partnerships with Kroger’s general office staff.
  • She successfully guided her group through some ordering transitions and led sales in the third quarter of 2021 to reach $19.9 million, up from $15.1 million on a two-year basis; she also set a record for Valentine’s Day and International Women’s Day floral sales in 2022.
  • Recognized by Ralphs during Hispanic Heritage Month, Ramos is an active member of the division’s multicultural associate resource group.
     
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Emilie Williamson

Corporate Affairs Manager, The Kroger Co./Roundy’s

  • Charged with leading internal and external communications for Roundy’s in Wisconsin, Williamson was also responsible for the resolution of all charitable requests.
  • She played an important role in expressing company support and solace following a shooting at a Roundy’s distribution center; she also spearheaded support efforts after the tragedy at the Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., and teamed with Feeding America on a campaign that generated $3 million-plus in food donations. 
  • Williamson is a member of the nutrition policy steering group at Feeding America and serves on the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library board.
     
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Peggy Tura

Senior Advanced Software Engineering Manager, The Kroger. Co./Technology and Digital

  • Within the customer technology organization, Tura developed customer-facing health-and-wellness applications with partners at Kroger Health and other offices.
  • Demonstrating leadership during a high-pressure time, she was instrumental in making the COVID-19 vaccine available at the company’s pharmacies and led the creation of the industry-leading vaccine scheduler; she also managed changes that allowed health-and-wellness experiences to be well positioned for scalability. 
  • Recognized by company leaders for her efforts, Tura is also actively involved in her church and community. 
     
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Maria Curtis

Director, Business Development, Meijer

  • Guiding product development, executing strategies for self-manufacturing expansion and leading the business capability team to identify and roll out IT infrastructure strategies that support growth, Curtis presided over the launch of 129 new own-brand SKUs that delivered $2.2 million in retail sales growth and achieved 5% growth in co-manufacturing.
  • She guided the relocation of a sandwich production line, resulting in a 24% sales improvement.
  • Curtis headed up Meijer’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and co-led the multicultural Mosaic employee resource group; additionally, on her own time, she co-founded a candle and gift company.
     
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Kavy Lenon

Supplier Diversity Manager, Meijer

  • Lenon diligently worked to create innovative ways to help raise internal and external awareness of diversity and connect diverse-owned businesses with buyers, corporate partners and business partners.
  • She led the Collection of Voices project, seeking local artists to partner on a culturally inspired product collection inspired by Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month and Hispanic Heritage Month.
  • Lenon is active outside of work with Construction Allies in Action, the Grand Rapids Asian Pacific Foundation, the Veteran Owned Business Roundtable, Project4Purpose, the Lao Lahanam Association of Holland and the Grand Rapids Asian Pacific Festival.
     
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Amy Messing

Senior Specialist, Organizational Development, Meijer

  • Messing created a 30-60-90-day plan to support the transition of seven executive leaders and facilitated bimonthly connections with the newly promoted leaders to provide a consistent, equitable and sustainable development experience.
  • She earned her certification to debrief Leadership Potential Solution assessments, which measure an individual’s potential to successfully advance into significantly higher leadership roles.
  • Known as a mentor at her company, Messing volunteers with the Women at Meijer employee resource group and the Grand Rapids Kids Food Basket; she’s also an athletic booster and parent volunteer who helps organize student activities.
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Renée Vought

Director, Marketing Creative and Campaign Strategy, Meijer

  • Vought led the brand marketing strategy, campaign planning, customer communication and creative development to bring the best experiences to customers across 300 Meijer stores in 10 states.
  • She developed not only the company’s first brand program to communicate community giving to shoppers, but also the vision to connect community investments to stores while telling their stories to customers.
  • Vought developed the Moms at Meijer team member resource group to support the success of moms through education, environment and connection, and is also an executive board member of Women at Meijer.
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Julia Cannon

Area Manager III, Milo’s Tea Co. Inc.

  • Cannon helped Milo’s become the No. 1 refrigerated tea in her market area, and she continues to grow the brand by constantly seeking new ways to introduce products to customers in her market area, including a state-wide radiothon.
  • She coordinated Milo’s participation in retailer food shows for her retailers and was able to gain distribution of new items by working with major retailer groups and buyers.
  • Cannon is a board member of the Itawamba Community College Wesley Foundation, as well as of Fulton’s Hands of Hope, and also serves as chaplain for the Itawamba County Republican Women club.
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Maggie White

Senior Director, National Grocers Association Foundation

  • White oversaw the programs, initiatives and fundraising for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit arm of the National Grocers Association, including scholarships, the career center and educational content and resources that further the foundation’s mission to recruit, train and retain employees for independent grocers.
  • She spearheaded the successful and safe return to in-person events with the 2021 Executive Leadership Development Program, increased awareness of the foundation and its resources, and grew sponsorships and contributions by more than 25%.
  • White also ran the Women Grocers of America program and the Student Case Study Competition.
     
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Jordan Mikeska

Director of Shopper Marketing, Nature Nate’s Honey Co.

  • Over the past 12 months, Mikeska transformed Nature Nate’s product display pages for Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kroger, Target and H-E-B, bringing her company’s scorecard rating for online presence at retail from a 70 to a 100.
  • She drove an incremental $7 million in sales with a 4:1 return on investment, secured more than 125 million impressions in-store and online, and delivered the company’s best results in January.
  • Mikeska was a champion for Nature Nate’s corporate giving initiative, Honey Gives Hope, helping facilitate product donations to local charities such as Samaritan Inn and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
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Jennifer Lepore

Senior Account Manager-Giant Eagle, PBNA North Division, PepsiCo

  • This past year, Lepore managed the feature calendar, drove several effective local marketing programs, accelerated meal solution offers and executed best-in-class innovation with Giant Eagle.
  • She and PepsiCo have helped Giant Eagle grow by 6.9% over the past year, and she also led the Pepsi Energy category strategy, resulting in the grocer’s energy category growing by 30.2% and Pepsi energy by a massive 80.2%.
  • Lepore led a program on Hair Peace Charities for supporting people with cancer, and localized programs for the Giant Eagle Team Member Care Fund, and she was an integral part of supporting the Educational Partnership for Giant Eagle.
     
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Ceida Polezel

Senior Sales Strategy Manager, Gatorade and Propel, PepsiCo

  • Leading sales strategy and planning for the club and e-commerce channels, Polezel improved club performance through pack assortment changes, collaborating with customer teams, supply chain, demand planning and finance.
  • She headed the strategy execution of the allocation process across the club channel, improved communication flow between cross-functional teams and developed the 2022 re-pack capacity strategy that resulted in planned double-digit growth.
  • A member of PepsiCo’s Mosaic program, Polezel led the Black History Month professional development workshop, and contributed to the Global Female Design Thinking Sprint.
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Tina Spink 

Director of Insights and Strategy, Walmart Front End Transformation and Macrospace, PepsiCo

  • Having recently moved into a director role focused on front end transformation for Walmart, Spink partnered with the retailer to craft growth strategies and build PepsiCo’s macrospace strategy and capability.
  • As lead of the PepsiCo Foods North America commercial insights team for Walmart, she inspired members to identify $700 million-plus in category opportunities, including multiple white spaces in adjacent categories.
  • Spink won the Illuminator Award 2021 and the PepsiCo Way Award, and also took part in Walmart’s spirit committee to boost employee morale and leadership development.
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Courtney Miller

Director of Space and Floor Planning, P.L. Marketing

  • Supporting The Kroger Co.’s category management and store execution by developing analytics-based planograms and floor plans for more than 2,500 locations, Miller successfully devised a process designed to eliminate out-of-stocks and worked on improvements to enhance digital growth.
  • She collaborated with other team members to employ new technology and tools to support automation and improve reporting capabilities, and in the past year alone, she hired and trained more than 50 new employees. 
  • Miller is an active supporter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in Cincinnati and a member of Kroger’s mentor leadership group.
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Beth Beischel

Account Customer Expert, Kroger Team, Procter & Gamble (P&G)

  • As the account and customer expert on the Kroger feminine care business, Beischel was the predominant point of contact for the display group; she had a strong customer relationship and owned communication with P&G’s Kroger administrator.
  • She was the mastermind behind a low-value digital coupon strategy and helped reinvent the display strategy to accelerate top- and bottom-line productivity.
  • Despite her incredibly busy work schedule, Beischel serves as a key member of the culture lead team and a lead tester on all corporate initiatives; she has additionally done work in support of P&G disaster relief efforts, as well as all Kroger/P&G philanthropic events.
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Kelli Montgomery

Director, P&G East Region Customer Service Center, Procter & Gamble (P&G)

  • Montgomery and her team maneuvered through and managed the pandemic by providing clear, timely and transparent information to customers, and she also implemented daily hyper-care calls as well as unearthing direct lift-and-shift opportunities.
  • Her team’s region overdelivered on sales, grew share and reached defined targets, with three categories exceeding sales targets and the majority of categories growing share.
  • Montgomery co-created the Northeast Cross Affinity Network and the equity and inclusion pillar for the Northeast House; helped educate, celebrate and mentor fellow team members; and tutored and mentored students.
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Donna Huska 

Director of Talent Management and Diversity, Publix Super Markets Inc.

  • Huska led efforts to streamline the hiring process in stores and enhance the candidate experience, including a realistic preview of what it’s like to work in Publix stores through a highly interactive and engaging series of on-the-job scenarios and questions.
  • She also played a vital role in enhancing succession-planning programs, specifically in leading her team in developing new talent review processes to identify top candidates more quickly, and to assess and address potential gaps in the talent pipeline.
  • A member of various professional organizations, Huska has served as a volunteer for Junior Achievement, St. Stephen Catholic School and Church, Jesuit High School, and A Kid’s Place.
     
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Linda Bennick  

Supply Chain Planner, Save A Lot

  • Bennick was able to successfully add more than $200,000 in sales to Save A Lot’s bottom line, and maintained a service level of 99% on 3,000-plus items across distribution centers.
  • She also oversaw the conversion of several warehouse operations during 2021 and collaborated closely with vendors, distribution center managers and local retail partners to merchandise new tortilla items far earlier than was originally expected.
  • Bennick’s leadership and deep knowledge of Save A Lot’s supply chain kept items stocked on store shelves throughout the entire country, and she received certification on the silver level in the area of advanced warehouse replenishment.
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Cassie Bianculli 

Supply Chain System Administrator, Save A Lot

  • When faced with supply chain disruptions, Bianculli identified an opportunity to incorporate coding and additional pull levers to streamline Save A Lot’s supply chain network.
  • She spearheaded the implementation of a new wholesale freight and fuel program that overhauled store transportation, led to the reduction of more than 260 assets, and increased overall asset use, saving more than $6 million.
  • Bianculli acted as a project manager during Save A Lot’s conversion of 300 corporate-owned stores to retail partner ownership, providing essential insight from a transportation and distribution perspective.
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Amy Black 

Supply Chain Planner, Save A Lot

  • Black’s strong negotiating skills enabled her to initiate vendor return for credit on various short-dated products, which is difficult to achieve in her area, and resulted in savings of $10,000-plus for Save A Lot.
  • Amid widespread supply chain disruptions, she negotiated a deal in which Save A Lot was temporarily exempt from a price increase, making it possible to purchase enough cleaning products to stay well stocked, and saving the brand and customers a significant amount of money.
  • During 2021, Black supported the training of three new supply chain planners and volunteered to cover for a colleague who missed a significant amount of work following surgery.
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Alicia Cook 

Category Manager, Save A Lot

  • Despite COVID-related issues that affected production, Cook introduced 12 new private label snack items and nine new private label candy items to Save A Lot stores.
  • She developed a brand-new private label chocolate assortment, from conception to shelves, in just three months; grew total candy purchases by 5%; and increased seasonal and special-buy candy purchases by 15.8% year over year, with Valentine’s Day candy survey results up by 121% year over year.
  • In 2021, Cook was recognized by peers and leadership as the winner of Save A Lot’s Living Our Values award.
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Jadwiga Graham  

Senior IT Delivery Manager, Technology Delivery, Save A Lot

  • Graham expertly led teams through two customer-facing store initiatives that improved user experience and provided data-based pricing guidelines for local operating groups while focusing on simplifying item pricing across multiple stores. 
  • She personally led several individual disengagement efforts, including space-planning disengagement, which enabled the delivery of store plans that were targeted and customized to the needs of store consumers.
  • Graham eagerly led a successful $20 million technology project affecting the merchandising, supply chain, retail operations and financial systems.
     
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Sarah Griffin 

Director of Public Relations and Community Engagement, Save A Lot

  • Under Griffin’s leadership, her team elevated Save A Lot’s visibility in 2021 through a variety of media channels in local and trade media, resulting in more than 13,133 articles with a reach of more than 2,075,850,000.
  • In partnership with three agencies, her team also garnered significant coverage in regard to the company’s new brand campaign, Like, A Lot A Lot.
  • Griffin works with such nonprofits as No Kid Hungry and Feeding America, and is currently developing a meaningful corporate social responsibility strategy that will have a positive impact on the company, its local retail partners and its customers.
     
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Christen Heinsohn 

Director of Retail Operations, Save A Lot

  • In her capacity as the project lead of a cross-functional team, Heinsohn facilitated the conversion of nearly 300 corporate stores to local ownership, navigating the team through 34 individual transactions with retail partners.
  • She also developed a standardized playbook to streamline the conversion process, ensuring a seamless ownership transition that resulted in minimal business interruptions for converting stores.
  • Heinsohn partnered with the field operations team to streamline the remodel process to update 200 Save A Lot stores, and also led the deployment of Save A Lot’s e-commerce efforts, rolling out the Instacart platform to 519 participating locations.
     
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Alina Malina 

Human Resources Business Partner, Save A Lot

  • Armed with data and insights based on a survey asking remote workers what was working well and what wasn’t, Malina received full executive leadership support on a hybrid work policy that increased team member engagement.
  • She leveraged her relationships with leaders and individual contributors at Save A Lot to coach them on how to bring the new hybrid work policy to life in their respective teams, including in-person training to upskill leaders on how to effectively manage remote teams.
  • The new hybrid model that Malina created at Save A Lot allowed the company to retain team members while attracting new ones and remaining competitive in the marketplace.
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Sandy Tiller 

Supply Chain Planner, Save A Lot

  • Tiller identified and executed forward-buy opportunities that ultimately added $214,000-plus to Save A Lot’s bottom line.
  • Following the loss of the company’s private label canned-soda vendor, she worked overtime to onboard a new regional soda vendor, got stores back in stock in record time, and coordinated directly with the shipping department and transportation team to transport the order to distribution centers.
  • When a water supplier experienced a major equipment malfunction, Tiller organized a solution that allowed the supplier to produce its bottled water at a separate facility, and then created a transportation schedule to deliver it directly to stores.
     
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Monica Wang 

Senior Software Engineer, Save A Lot

  • Wang was extremely useful in building out the Kuebix near-term loading system, which is set to save the company about $1.5 million and represents a major upgrade of its transportation system.
  • She served as a lead developer enabling a new Save A Lot human resources system and assisted in a chargeback/lumping project that helped eliminate merchant errors and could possibly save the company about $750,000.
  • Wang also played a lead role in the company’s tobacco system implementation by helping to build and maintain some of the merchandising systems that determine financials related to tobacco products.
     
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Catherine Arnett 

Senior Human Resources Business Partner, The Save Mart Cos.

  • Arnett facilitated talent calibration sessions and produced individual development plans for field operators and human resources teams to implement growth in their careers during the pandemic.
  • When select stores were temporarily closed, she acted as a support system for employees, communicated critical information, and backed the hiring of temporary team members until quarantined employees returned.
  • Among her other community outreach efforts, Arnett volunteers in support of Courage Rock, an organization that offers equine therapy for veterans and active military.
     
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Marie Lim Cabornay 

Senior Manager, Application Development/IT, The Save Mart Cos.

  • Cabornay led Save Mart’s IT applications development in implementing strategic initiatives to improve the customer experience and store operations by creating a mobile application that provided stores with real-time metrics on in-store sales, operator performance and promotion redemptions.
  • She partnered with a third-party vendor to create and roll out new Save Mart, Lucky California and Food Maxx mobile apps to improve customer engagement and loyalty program enrollment.
  • Cabornay also created a web application to service customer account requests, resulting in a decrease in customer support-related IT tickets by 90%.
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Victoria Castro

Senior Manager, Public Affairs and Government Affairs, The Save Mart Cos.

  • Castro embarked on activities that resulted in 1.2 billion-plus gross media impressions, equaling $13.8 million in media value.
  • She repositioned the FoodMaxx banner among consumer and trade press with the grand opening of Store #447, the private label Craven launch and a new mobile app; events such as an opening ceremony, an influencer campaign and holiday food drives helped boost media coverage by 75% over 2020.
  • Lucky California’s brand awareness increased after Castro orchestrated grand-opening activities for store #744, including press releases, media alerts, a ceremony, consumer activities, an influencer campaign and charitable donations.
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Jessica Daniel

Director, Learning and Engagement, The Save Mart Cos.

  • Formerly a retail store leader who now devises solutions that best support team members, Daniel created Developing Level Up, a leadership training initiative for 200 store managers.
  • She leveraged her human resources, change management and organizational development experience when the retailer embarked on a company-wide reorganization project; in tandem with HR, executive leadership and other departments, her efforts generated $5 million in annual savings.
  • Customers and peers frequently acknowledged Daniel’s commitment, and this year, Hal Levitt, Save Mart’s SVP, operations, recognized her for “going the extra mile.” 
     
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Alecia Lerma

Talent Acquisition Specialist, The Save Mart Cos.

  • Managing recruiting for 147 Save Mart and Lucky California stores and overseeing the hiring of pharmacy personnel, Lerma hired 131 team members and maintained an 11% turnover rate, despite the pandemic.
  • She partnered with the compensation team to update offer letter templates and other human resources materials, and worked with pharmacy directors to provide educational courses to help employees obtain pharmacy tech licenses and national pharmacy tech certification.
  • To facilitate recruiting efforts, Lerma built strong partnerships with California’s Employment Development Department, veterans affairs offices, local colleges and other organizations.
     
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Catie Mercado

Director, Store Operations, The Save Mart Cos.

  • Overseeing employee productivity and customer experience initiatives for seven Save Mart locations in California’s Central Valley, Mercado led her stores to outpace the banner average in sales with a 28% year-over-year increase.
  • By motivating teams to continually increase store standards and guest experience levels, she enabled stores’ basket profitability to rise by 30%, and she also encouraged employees to maintain pre-pandemic labor efficiencies, allowing locations to beat their target by 139 basis points. 
  • Mercado co-designed, introduced and serves as lead of a diversity program focused on training, awareness, celebration of diversity, and culture building.
     
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Brandy Sawyer

Senior Analyst, Financial Systems, The Save Mart Cos.

  • Sawyer played a key role in upgrading more than 200 reporting templates to a new back-end code base that supports an upgraded query add-on and is supported on current versions of Excel; she also expanded reporting within the margin study process, providing greater visibility into key product drivers of margin changes to merchandising VPs.
  • Last year, she implemented a tool to improve ordering accuracy of Christmas trees and poinsettias; this tool is capable of boosting sales performance and reducing shrink by as much as 8%.
  • Sawyer was invited by Save Mart’s leadership to serve on the innovation steering committee.
     
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Betty Tomao

Fresh Buyer, Produce, The Save Mart Cos.

  • Serving as the produce buyer for stores under three Save Mart banners, Tomao worked with the director of supply chain to develop and train produce buyers on an updated Excel spreadsheet/ordering template for key seasonal and high-velocity items. 
  • Under her guidance, net sales grew by an average of 14.79% across nine key produce categories, while unit volume increased by an average of 9.53%. 
  • Tomao reduced inventory days of supply by 21.5% for like items in the third and fourth quarters, exceeding the 20% goal, and delivered a combined net revenue of $828,000 back to stores on a cost-to-serve/cost-per-case basis, against a goal of $800,000.
     
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Fiona Williams

Director, Risk Management and Compliance, The Save Mart Cos.

  • When claims management status was affecting company financials, Williams made some staff changes and implemented best practices, which put things back on track.
  • The number of open litigated liability claims fell from 120 to 51 in six months, eliminating the ultimate exposure of claim development; her implementation of an internal triage process improved claim reporting, with 50% fewer incidents reported to the third-party administrator.
  • Williams established new guidelines for workers’ compensation handling, including medical provider management, causing total claim inventory to drop by 8%. 
     
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Adrian Moore

Senior Director, Merchandising Enablement and Supplier Diversity, Schnuck Markets Inc.

  • Despite product shortages and inflation, Moore was able to procure goods at appropriate prices.
  • She grew Schnucks’ supplier diversity program from the ground up, helping category managers add more than 25 diverse vendors and more than 700 UPCs across the company’s various store banners; she also implemented software that tracks diverse suppliers, and served on Schnucks’ diversity, equity and inclusion taskforce.
  • Moore helps procure school supplies for underprivileged children, and she also coordinates Schnucks’ involvement in the United Way’s 100 Neediest Families Drive.
     
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Olivia Storvik

Associate Director of Fresh Insights/BDM, Schraad Sales & Marketing

  • Adept at analyzing and interpreting market trends, Storvik was instrumental during her first 10 months with the company in launching its business with H-E-B’s deli and seafood departments, which Schraad had been trying to penetrate for 15 years.
  • She conceptualized a unique joint promotion involving several clients; designed to introduce incremental products to new households, it led to record levels of redemption.
  • In October 2021, Storvik was inducted into the Denison University Swimming Hall of Champions; she also volunteers at a San Antonio women’s shelter and belongs to several professional organizations.
     
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Jessica Longshore

Senior Director of Field Sales Strategy, Schwan’s Consumer Brands Inc.

  • Responsible for Schwan’s direct store delivery business, Longshore helped generate year-over-year sales growth through strategic planning and sales execution; in particular, retail frozen Asian food experienced unprecedented growth due to her leadership, while display execution showed triple-digit improvement.
  • Working with cross-functional leaders, she sought to fully understand production, forecasting and distribution models to ensure product availability amid supply chain challenges.
  • For its efforts, Longshore’s team received the CJCJ Award, which honors exemplary practitioners of Schwan’s CJ Management Philosophy. 
     
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Katherine Hansmann

Northern Region Administrator, Smart & Final Stores

  • Focusing on shrink, Hansmann contributed to a decrease of 30 basis points based on her analysis, and she developed a process by which managers can identify misses and address them; by reviewing and following up on shrink-related reports, she recovered $55,000 in overpayments.
  • She helped develop a mobile phone app that allows executives to access sales and execution data and keep track of store visits, helping them better understand each store’s daily performance.
  • Hansmann created customer service reports that emphasize opportunities and engage managers for feedback based on customer satisfaction scores. 
     
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Milvia Lopez

Assistant District Manager, Smart & Final Stores

  • After leading a store with the highest customer satisfaction scores, Lopez became an assistant district manager; through action planning, training and follow-up, she helped her district’s stores’ perishable departments go from missing shrink objectives to beating the plan.
  • She ensured that all stores’ perishable sections had appropriate staffing levels; this included identifying and training future perishables associates.
  • As a store manager, Lopez was one of the retailer’s top charitable program contributors; in her new role, she applied this expertise to her district, which went from being a lesser contributor during charitable drives to one of the top three per event. 
     
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Maria Romero

Product Manager, Smart & Final Stores

  • Managing more than 80 private label deli and frozen food vendors that supply 1,000-plus items, Romero sourced products locally and globally to maintain in-stock levels during the pandemic.
  • Adept at myriad aspects of new product development, including pricing, shelf location, design, packaging and quality, she passionately engaged with new and existing vendors to create better items at better costs.
  • Romero successfully completed Smart & Final’s Manager Development Program, and from a large pool of rising stars, she was one of just two selected to attend the USC Food Industry Management Program; she’s also on the board of the Dairy, Deli & Bakery Council. 
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Michelle Cartrette

Inventory Control Director, SpartanNash

  • Due to her inventory control expertise and team leadership, Cartrette was promoted from manager to inventory control director in 2021.
  • She helped decrease pallet abandon rates from 21% to 6% through such efforts as root cause analysis, building strong relationships with operations, and hands-on visits to distribution centers to train key personnel on best practices.
  • Cartrette’s work with inventory control and operations teams reduced the number of pallets that go through sorting from 3,600 weekly to under 1,600, yielding higher weekly sales and higher customer fill rates; her efficiency improvements made $1.4 million in inventory available for sale.
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Pauli Gustafson

Human Resources Business Partner II, SpartanNash

  • With a focus on associate recruiting and retention, Gustafson promoted best practices and identified innovative solutions; she worked closely with store teams to understand staffing needs and priorities, and worked with district managers to brainstorm creative ways to show associate appreciation.
  • As a key trainer for the launch of a cloud-based technology database process, she helped associates learn to use the system to best maximize productivity and results.
  • Gustafson was recruited by the Selective Service System as a local volunteer board member to prepare for and support the U.S. government in the event that a draft is reinstated.
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Beth Melvin

Manager, Data Integrity, SpartanNash

  • Melvin proactively learned SpartanNash’s new Master Data Management (MDM) system to train her team and ensured that all new processes were working accurately through testing.
  • The data maintenance transition to the MDM system application involved the transition of more than 5,000 shipping, 5,000 vendor and 300,000 item records; she led her team to identify any data issues and clean up the data, and then match data between the two systems and train employees on its use.
  • Quick to identify and resolve issues, Melvin worked with the Defense Commissary Agency to correct a 6,000-case discrepancy at one location. 
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Dina Nicodemus

Senior Manager, Networks and Telecommunications, SpartanNash

  • After Martin’s Supermarket was integrated into SpartanNash, Nicodemus played a key role in transitioning Martin’s systems to the SpartanNash standard; her team completed more than 30 retail store network refreshes, resulting in a solid network infrastructure. 
  • She took the initiative to help organize a partnership between key players from the network and user experience teams to better serve the organization and improve employee production.
  • Passionate about her team’s professional development, Nicodemus aided in employee retention and fostered a positive work culture where team members felt supported, valued and inspired to do their best work.
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Krista Wendt

Director, Marketing, SpartanNash/Martin’s Supermarket

  • Wendt worked with the IT team to launch a new loyalty program; her expertise and insights helped develop the best possible program to meet customer needs and support retail functionality.
  • She was instrumental in transitioning from an old point-of-sale system, ensuring that continuity programs would be supported and guaranteeing a superior customer experience throughout the transition.
  • Wendt played a pivotal role in developing a streamlined set of operational guidelines for company scanning departments; by focusing on user function and quality signage, she managed the smooth transition from store-created signs and tags to a simpler kit program.
     
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Katherine Collins

Head of Client Engagement, Symphony RetailAI

  • Collins grew key client relationships, delivering 118% of her annual budget through expanded renewals and more features that her CPG partners can use in retailer engagement; her team renewed 20-plus long-term agreements, demonstrating significant return on investment for her clients. 
  • Through the retailer collaboration program and her leadership, her clients uncovered more than $60 million in identified opportunities for growth for their brands at retail.
  • Collins connected key users with product leadership to ensure that just-in-time feedback was delivered to the team responsible for user experience and key product enhancements.
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Diana Garfold-Barr

Director, Customer Insights, Symphony RetailAI

  • Garfold-Barr’s team worked on 40 collaborative CPG projects that used consumer trend and shopper data to recommend changes that delivered significant incremental sales to retail partners across various categories.
  • She received Symphony RetailAI’s Team Brilliance Award for co-leading a training and development initiative targeted to more than 50 offshore analysts to teach them about the U.S. grocery industry and its unique dynamics.
  • As an active member of United Way’s Women United, Garfold-Barr helped provide high-impact programs to address the challenges faced by women and girls in her community.
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Jenny Applegate

Director, Integrated Marketing Solutions, Topco Associates LLC

  • Applegate built new marketing partnerships that brought national exposure to Topco members, brands and shoppers by creating key promotional opportunities in television, movies and radio.
  • She drove a new platform solution build-out and ensured that internal and member key stakeholders were brought along on the journey. 
  • In addition to those accomplishments, Applegate developed strategic content for members to use with their shoppers across the store, in aisles for specific products, and in home to drive repeat purchase intent and build a more relational connection with shoppers.
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Kim Cyze

Senior Director, Talent and Development and Corporate Communications, Topco Associates LLC

  • Cyze evolved and advanced Topco’s Leading from Every Seat program, designed for high-potential associates who excel in their performance, and extended the program to partner with Loyola University.
  • She established goals for the corporate communications team that pivoted thinking about mass communications, key stakeholders and member-facing strategic messages.
  • Cyze helped evolve Topco’s Talent Philosophy and built programs and tracks that are driving the organization to become a high-performing culture that includes change management as an integral part of all continuous-improvement projects.
     
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Natalie Fisher

Manager, Risk and Safety, Tops Markets

  • Fisher revamped and enhanced the company’s light-duty program for active workers’ compensation employees that aims to provide injured associates with a path to return to work.
  • As co-chair of the company’s corporate crisis committee, she expertly coordinated the implementation of COVID-19 mandates, which continually changed; Tops Markets had only one case of COVID-19 that led to a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Fisher was part of a retail safety initiative with an insurance partner to help develop and roll out a plan to foster a safer and healthier work environment for several thousand retail management employees.
     
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Juliana Wright

Social Media Coordinator, Tops Markets

  • Wright developed strategies to keep the company relevant in consumer feeds, including a strategic set of hashtags for each type of content; a dynamic schedule of varying content that included trending memes, unique item carousels; and in-store reels to engage current followers and gain new ones.
  • As she continued to elevate Tops’ presence on Instagram, local influencers began organically connecting and sharing the company’s content, which led to strong business relationships. 
  • This added exposure also led to a supplier’s request to promote its partnership with a podcast, for which Wright created a viral reel prior to a big Buffalo Bills playoff game.
     
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Mari Herbert

Director Blue Marble Brands Sales, UNFI

  • Herbert’s solid analytical background lent itself well to identifying and closing sales, which led to an 8% increase in business while bottom-line profit grew by 17%.
  • She successfully ran the business alone for the first few months of the year before onboarding and training two new direct reports, initiating best-in-class training with a special session at headquarters to ensure their success.
  • Responsible for about $150 million in sales while managing and overseeing around $20 million in promotional spending, Herbert played a critical role in the company’s consumer marketing investments and execution.
     
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Becca Hester

Manager Regional Merchandising, UNFI

  • Hester co-founded and launched the company’s Women’s Integrated Network, a now 500-member belonging and innovation group that unites all genders to advance female leaders.
  • She developed, launched and oversaw a national service program for a customer that included coordinating regional managers and more than 30 merchandisers, setting up new procedures and creating data capture forms to improve the process and ensure strong customer support.
  • Hester received the UNFI thankU acknowledgement for her work on a new store; her attention to detail contributed to the location’s strong sales.
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Lynn Laforest

Senior Manager Branding, UNFI

  • Laforest designed new content plans to help better facilitate growth of the company’s Uconnect platform, which led to doubled participation within a year.
  • She launched a white-glove strategy program to help teach warehouse leadership teams how to be better communicators and provided best practices for engaging teams. 
  • Laforest rolled out UNFI’s Fuel the Future strategy, a multiyear initiative including employee videos, a leadership engagement toolkit, meetings to answer employee questions and generate discussion about the strategy, and follow-up materials to ensure that every associate understood Fuel the Future’s mission, vision and goals.
     
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Doris Rawlings

Yard Coordinator, UNFI

  • Rawlings was selected to partner with the company’s learning and development and diversity and inclusion teams to amplify the voices of professional truck drivers in the food industry.
  • She mentored youth through her church and local youth centers like the YMCA, sharing her knowledge and life experience to help young people with their confidence and leadership skills while encouraging individuals to obtain their commercial driver’s licenses.
  • Acting on her long-held belief that mentorship matters, Rawlings is a co-founder of the Trucking Industry Recruiter and Support at CDL Depot, which provides guidance to drivers across the industry.
     
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Kiley Mann

Category Manager, UNFI

  • Mann spearheaded the review and reorganization of a new training program and materials for new category managers and specialists, work that was especially critical during a year with turnover of one-third of the total staff.
  • She partnered with a fellow category manager to create a new monthly merchandising guide for retailers that included a variety of programs and opportunities throughout the departments relative to activities — holidays, events, trends, seasonal changes — occurring during the month. 
  • Sullivan participated in the Central region’s first mentorship program, and has been recognized by her peers with the GEM (Going the Extra Mile) Award.
     
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Elizabeth Travers

Manager, Sales Ops, UNFI

  • Travers managed the company’s biggest annual marketing event and created a rollout plan with field sales tools that absorbed and tracked customer orders; these enhanced tools drove the program to its most successful year.
  • She trained the national sales team on the new trade promotion management system, which allowed the company to drive efficiency into the $20 million annual trade budget.
  • Travers added enhancements to the digital coupon planning process that resulted in reducing inefficient coupon submissions that didn’t achieve proper return on investment, allowing the company to onboard more than 50 new retailer partners.
     
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Monica Brands

District Manager, Pharmacy, UNFI/Cub Foods

  • Brands exceeded this year’s budget and last year’s numbers in all critical key performance indicators, among them exceeding last year’s sales by more than 10%, increasing flu vaccines by 31% and growing prescription volume by 4% (excluding the incremental COVID vaccines), and providing more than 130,000 COVID vaccines.
  • Her work resulted in a $1.5 million decrease in the fees that insurance companies charge pharmacies at the time that prescriptions are sold to patients.
  • Brands’ contributions to the company during the pandemic led to Cub Pharmacy receiving the Peter J. Larkin Community Service Award, presented at the 2022 NGA Show.
     
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Nietra Jaquette

Director, Human Resources, UNFI/Cub Foods

  • Jaquette led the project to convert an antiquated learning platform to a system that provides daily reinforcement training using business intelligence technology to better equip teammates and franchise partners with the knowledge and tools to perform their roles most effectively.
  • She was selected to be one of eight members on the retail diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) core team to provide leadership, strategy and governance over company practices and follow-through in support of DEI.
  • Jaquette led the transition from recruiter and education facilitator roles to a combined role of onboarding specialist, providing a better candidate experience and a single point of contact.
     
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Katie Rieder

Manager, Customer Care Center, UNFI/Cub Foods

  • With extensive customer service knowledge but no call center experience, Rieder was tapped to run Cub Foods’ new call center when it was brought in-house, and she more than rose to the occasion.
  • She and her team of eight — half the staff of the previous third-party vendor — handled 700-800 calls per week, and their familiarity with the market significantly reduced operating costs for customer service.
  • Reider deftly managed escalation issues, efficiently dealing with customer interactions by seeking advice from legal counsel, public relations and loss prevention teams to minimize risk and turn situations around with a positive outcome.
     
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Jacqueline Skinner

Category Manager, Home, Health and Beauty/General Merchandise, UNFI/Shoppers Food

  • Skinner developed an easy-to-understand and -execute merchandising plan that drove additional sales, increased gross margins and made practical sense to the retail stores.
  • Her hard work was rewarded with a promotion to category manager, in which role she has identified key areas of improvement and executed plans to improve the department’s overall contribution to the company’s bottom line, leading to greatly improved shrink compared with last year’s budget.
  • Outside of work, Skinner helped coordinate with the VFW Ravens Roast Charity, which provides Thanksgiving dinners to needy families; she also worked with a local homeless shelter.

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