TWIG 2023 Hero Article

2023 Top Women in Grocery: Rising Stars

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

Progressive Grocer’s 2023 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 17th 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)

Below are the Rising Stars honored in this year’s Top Women in Grocery awards. You’re sure to find them, as the late, great Tina Turner — like many of our honorees, no stranger to reinvention — so memorably sang, “simply the best.”

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McKenna Sosnovik

Director, Sales

Acosta, an Acosta Group Agency

  • Sosnovik took the lead in defining to vendor partners the “size of the prize” for which to strive: a collective $10 billion market, and in turn, opportunity, by setting new standards. 
  • Through this, she spearheaded vendor/customer leadership meetings where the team saw the results of new business, expanded business, and, most important, better relationships at both the leadership and category manager level.
  • Sosnovik also worked on how best to engage with different demographics and trends in the market to improve assortments, opportunities and overall better business practices for partners.
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Stacey Carew

Team Leader Category Management

Advantage Solutions/Advantage Intelligence

  • Carew was invited on various occasions to provide hands-on assistance in set planning, offer validation, or lead assortment changes and shelf flow. 
  • Her skills helped build category dollars for retailers while keeping shoppers’ needs in mind. 
  • Carew’s unerring ability to unite retailer and manufacturer objectives for the betterment of a category, and ultimately consumers, led to her being a frequent guest speaker at the Boise State University Marketing 424: Principles of Category Management class.
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Connie Germoso

Retail Operations Manager

Advantage Solutions/Advantage Sales

  • Germoso worked with the Unilever and Wakefern business teams on a store-level selling program with ShopRite group owners that led to a successful on-shelf availability average of 96.4% for the year, as well more than $4.4 million in revenue.
  • She helped the Unilever direct retail team in its fundraising efforts for Feeding America; the team as a whole has raised more than $5,000 toward the cause. 
  • Germoso participated in the Northeast Unilever Future Leaders Program, which enables young associates to engage with direct retail team sales reps. 
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Melinda Wilson

Retail Operations Director

Advantage Solutions/Advantage Sales

  • Wilson established monthly, midyear and annual review calls providing client insight and analysis of successes and opportunities for each of the departments servicing stores on behalf of the client. 
  • Under her direction, Power BI (business intelligence) reports were introduced and updated to include detail-oriented data to meet the needs of the client, reducing the need for time spent creating manual midcycle scorecards. 
  • Wilson launched a new SharePoint site allowing mutual sharing of files, eliminating the previous use of drive sharing. 
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Megan Morgan

Senior Business Manager

Advantage Solutions/Daymon 

  • Morgan led a major tier-one marketing launch in a company’s stainless steel coffee pod business, and created new tools and templates that are helping teams deliver customer success and increased revenue. 
  • In her category management efforts, she led the team in own-brand sales and revenue growth year over year in 2022 and has several new programs launching in 2023 to help further drive sales and private-brand penetration. 
  • Morgan was recently selected to attend Cornell’s food executive program this summer, due to her upward potential in the company and industry. 
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Megan Shumaker

Senior Manager, Category Solutions

Advantage Solutions/Daymon 

  • Shumaker developed a category management process with a major retailer that streamlined the completion of 35 category reviews, resulting in the development of 135 new private-brand items. 
  • She also developed thought leadership perspectives, including a guide on navigating the next recession with private brands. 
  • Shumaker led the launch of Daymon’s proprietary Innovation Pillars, which link innovation trends to actionable product development plans, creating a comprehensive strategy for how private brands can accelerate innovation.
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Nicole Spaulding

Director, Sourcing

Advantage Solutions/Daymon

  • Spaulding launched Daymon’s proprietary Supplier Portal, which has revolutionized the way that manufacturers, importers and exporters interact with customers. 
  • She was also at the forefront of tackling supply chain challenges, implementing a proactive sourcing approach to combat shortages and inflation. 
  • Spaulding worked with Daymon’s client services, thought leadership and category insights teams on customized solutions to retailer and supplier partners, influencing product and category recommendations, buying decisions, and sourcing strategies.
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Lindsay Thomas

Marketing Manager

Advantage Solutions/Daymon

  • Thomas organized and drove the initiatives for execution of a client’s low-price program, which incorporated 200-plus items. 
  • She was also instrumental in leading the expansion of a natural and organic campaign geared toward the success of health-and-wellness products with shoppers. 
  • Live Naturally grew sales versus last year and captured the Millennial shopper; Thomas led this program with monthly digital flysheets and store bib tags, building a period-long program to kick off 2023 and resulting in strong sales growth of natural and organic items. 
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Anita Baldwinson

Marketing Director

Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services 

  • Baldwinson launched a complete brand refresh and built out a brand book and toolbox of assets to create a coherent, consistent brand message for outward- and inward-facing presentations and communications. 
  • She contributed to several successful request-for-proposal projects; one led to the attainment of a $175 million account. 
  • Baldwinson launched a Leadership Summit for high-potential business leaders and customers as part of a top-down cultural change initiative.
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Jolie Bourque

Director of Technology

Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services 

  • Despite the combination of two systems as a result of a merger, Bourque and her team created a tech environment with zero downtime; still, she always reviewed business processes to make them simpler and reduce the impact on 9,000 employees. 
  • She was awarded the SAS Above and Beyond — MVP Award for 2022. 
  • Bourque is a mentor and co-captain of the Innovate—Strategic Work Action Group (SWAG), an employee resource group focused on innovation at SAS.
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Nicole Burns

Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition

Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services 

  • Under Burns’ guidance, her team went from hiring one to two people per month to 16 to 20 per month, resulting in 1,573 hires last year. 
  • She also worked hard on retention initiatives by coordinating with operations for a successful handoff; this led to the rollout of several initiatives that helped new hires feel more comfortable. 
  • All of these extraordinary efforts have taken staffing from the original level of 62% staffed to the current level of 95% staffed; this change occurred within a mere six months.
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Shawna Collins

Director of Operations Central Division/Walmart

Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services 

  • Collins worked closely with her regional managers, helping them learn retail and remote territory management to increase return on investment for every client.
  • Recognizing that Walmart category managers have multiple categories, she developed a highly specific game plan to negotiate space. 
  • Collins also partnered very closely with the training department to ensure that everyone is aligned with how the work is completed, and put guard rails in place to operate within. 
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Rachel Dippel

Director of Retail Operations/Walmart Syndicated

Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services

  • By strategizing and implementing new improvements, Dippel helped increase the team’s service level from 82% to 98% within four months of implementation, resulting in a $1 million monthly improvement in revenue for the business. 
  • She created a new platform for paid-time-off data insights that provides current and future staffing visibility for region managers and supervisors. 
  • Dippel collaborated with the training development division to incorporate a Development Day platform that has increased new-hire engagement by 11%.
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Angela Hopkinson

Director of Retail Operations

Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services

  • Hopkinson, through the support of a nationally based Zelus and SAS Retail field operations team, led the Costco LOVESAC National Roadshow to an on-time execution rate of 100%. 
  • She was instrumental in supporting the operations team with the onboarding of a large continuity team that SAS acquired, and she helped lead in-store execution results to 91% on average. 
  • Hopkinson was invited by the Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services leadership team to complete online Advantage Enterprise Certification training.
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Karen Hunstiger

Senior Director of Training

Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services

  • Hunstiger found opportunities to enhance the orientation process and improve the new-hire experience.
  • Thanks to her partnership with IT, the hiring process was automated and a live dashboard was created; the company hosted 650 live new-hire orientation sessions and onboarded 20,000-plus new associates. 
  • New-hire orientation also contributed to a 10% decrease in part-time turnover from the first half to the second half of 2022; based on the average amount to hire a new associate, her team helped save nearly $2 million dollars in talent acquisition costs. 
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Theresa Hutchison

Director of Talent Acquisition

Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services

  • Hutchison worked tirelessly to help relaunch a new talent platform; her team’s efforts led the complete adoption of this new platform, and the company promoted her to the director level. 
  • She was a co-leader of both the ATTRACT CONNECT and Strategic Work Action Group (SWAG) teams, internal company-sponsored groups of volunteers that are driving positive change in the organization. 
  • Hutchison was instrumental in the Launch of CODA (Celebrating Our Diverse Associates) and the SAS Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council. 
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Kandayce M. Lee

Director of Talent Development

Advantage Solutions/SAS Retail Services

  • Lee and her team helped improve the orientation completion rate from 49% to 76%.
  • The team has also developed a professional orientation for all associates who have been promoted into leadership positions; more than 400 attendees gave it a nearly five-star ranking, increasing retention to 91%.
  • Lee hosted the “Welcome to ADV” enterprise onboarding calls as well as the employee resource group open-house call, which was extended to all new hires across the total enterprise of 65,000-plus associates.
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Susan Strzok

Retail Operations Manager

Advantage Solutions/Unilever Direct Retail Team 

  • Strzok developed a team playbook to streamline communication between clients and Advantage direct retail team leadership, outlining national focus programs for all accounts throughout the year. 
  • She was the liaison for the Unilever Future Leaders Program, which gives new Unilever associates exposure to the Advantage Solutions retail experience.
  • Strzok organized the upcoming National Leadership Conference, where team and client leadership will come together to learn, participate in team-building activities and strategize. 
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Laura Cosgrove 

Associate Industry Director/Walmart Consumables

Advantage Solutions/Walmart Retailtainment

  • For Walmart Baby Days Category Events, Cosgrove led the Advantage sales team in recruiting competitive brands to participate, bringing in $2.9 million in revenue. 
  • She boosted a January online pickup and delivery sampling push for the household chemicals category to capitalize on Walmart’s New Year, New You campaign.  
  • Cosgrove supported charities in her community, including Saving Grace, The Little Free Pantry, Clothed With Compassion and Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.
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Julie Moore

Creative Director

Advantage Solutions/Waypoint

  • Moore helped launch Waypoint Sees, a texting platform to be company’s “eyes” in the field, and BrainChow, a biweekly short video communication offering small knowledge bites for sellers.
  • She and her team developed Waypoint SideKick, an internal-facing communication auto-sent to sellers and containing recent sales on featured clients, resulting in an increase in selling interactions.
  • Moore is part of the Waypoint Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee and volunteers for her local March of Dimes chapter.
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Nancy Aguilera

Receiving Operations Manager

ADUSA Distribution

  • Aguilera’s team hit an all-time high number in freezer capacity in 2022, delivering back-to-back months of 10 cases per hour above goal. 
  • Her team consistently led the distribution center in productivity, with most of her associates able to run at a 100% production rate within their first 13 weeks of employment. 
  • Aguilera was part of the team that developed the Associate Connections program, which helped establish Leadership Roundtable discussions that prompted improved retention rates and higher associate engagement scores. 
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Milagros Urena de Diaz

Distribution Operations Manager

ADUSA Distribution

  • Urena de Diaz helped execute an on-hold process improvement project, which saved the company $10 million related to dead and at-risk inventory across the supply chain network.
  • She also participated in a Force Adjustments Shrinks Research Project, which identified a system gap that was causing more than $5 million in force adjustment shrink.
  • Urena de Diaz collaborated with ADUSA Transportation’s leadership to decrease salvage escalations, provide a better customer experience and drive third-party labor accountability.
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Allison Krollman

Manager, Insights

ADUSA Procurement

  • Krollman played  a key part in a supply chain pod pilot model aimed at boosting service levels, associate engagement and productivity, as well as reducing cost.
  • She was the planning lead for the procurement track of a supply chain operating model reorganization project, designing the procurement track project structure, governance, forums and cadences, workstreams, overall plan, and milestones.
  • Krollman also identified, sourced and validated certified LGBTQ-owned suppliers to address a lack of organizational spend with this supplier class. 
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Colleen Kinniburgh

Manager Data Analytics

Ahold Delhaize USA

  • Kinniburgh led four consecutive quarters of environmental, social and governance-related reporting initiatives requiring considerable coordination and management of internal stakeholders and data to achieve the quarterly close process.
  • She helped navigate a new beverage algorithm change with category managers and private- brand teams that helped Ahold Delhaize review and consider new ways to view healthy sales.
  • Kinniburgh voluteered for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, the Greater Boston Food Bank, and the Salvation Army, among others. 
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Heather Applegarth

Instructional Design Specialist

Food Lion LLC

  • A self-taught animator, Applegarth created a new animated associate relations mentoring team, Hugo and Eve, to enable retail leaders to learn and understand important policies.
  • Contributing her creativity across the company, she was a major contributor to an HR project as part of a team dedicated to helping associates easily access benefits and programs.
  • Having earned a doctorate in educational leadership, Applegarth was a member of the National Association for Talent Development, for which she spoke at international conferences on the topics of education, accessibility, intercultural communications and digital literacy.
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Debbie Bowers

Director of Operations

Food Lion LLC

  • Responsible for the financial performance of 17 stores in six counties, Bowers used her strong communications skills to develop associates into high-performing leaders.
  • Thanks to her work, annual sales exceeded budget by more than 13%, customer count grew by more than 5% and her team exceeded budgeted profits by almost 8%.
  • Bowers’ region was the first to successfully roll out an online-based mobile solution providing advanced forecasting and brand expertise to develop production plans in fresh departments; her team also implemented GlobalWorx to optimize communication between stores and suppliers.
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Margarita Caraballo

Category Manager

Food Lion LLC

  • Caraballo leads the commercial bakery and While Supplies Last Program, which were experiencing low category sales and morale; encouraging her team and leading by example, she was able to restore profits and employees’ confidence.
  • Her team negotiated trade with key suppliers, growing private-brand sales by more than 30%, while units grew 15%; it increased competitive market share by 64 basis points and unit share by 50 basis points.
  • Caraballo was recently appointed co-chair of Food Lion’s Hispanic resource group and is also a member of the African American and women’s business resource groups.
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Christy “Cricket” Goforth

Director of Operations

Food Lion LLC

  • Goforth began overseeing 22 Central division locations, the largest number of stores within any region, employing 1,500 associates and spanning diverse urban, rural and suburban communities.
  • She developed new data tracking to better align her team and improved communications and engagement by installing in-store webcams; previously, associates could participate in team meetings only via telephone.
  • Her understanding of diverse shoppers’ needs helped her stores outpace the division in same-store sales growth, with all budgeted financial goals achieved: Top-line sales increased 11%.
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LaTonya King

Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Organizational Development and Talent Acquisition

Food Lion LLC

  • King advised executives on building a culture of inclusion and belonging and led talent acquisition efforts.
  • Food Lion is the official grocer of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CCIA), which encompasses 12 historically black colleges and universities; King’s team recruited heavily at CCIA for Food Lion’s Retail Management Trainee program.
  • During the past year, she drafted common language and definitions for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); launched DEI Conversation Café podcasts in which she discussed this topic with colleagues company-wide; and led DEI leadership workshops. 
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Bruna Maraccini

Director of Operations

Food Lion LLC

  • The 22 stores overseen by Maraccini in North Carolina’s Chapel Hill-Sanford region saw sales increases exceeding 11% — the highest sales growth within the 240-store division.
  • In 2022, she was instrumental in developing a specialized recruiting team to address global labor challenges, which was critical to Food Lion for appropriately staffing stores and was adopted banner-wide; she also promoted two assistant managers to store managers.
  • Last year, Maraccini’s region opened a new store that exceeded all financial targets, while another of her locations received a company award for the amount of food it saved from landfills and donated to food-insecure neighbors.
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Cristin Berry

Manager, Asset Protection

The Giant Co.

  • Berry’s territory is the chain’s largest region; her hands-on approach helped it experience record-breaking performances in sales, shrink and underlying operating income in 2022. 
  • Every month, she, a manager from a top-performing store and the regional coordinator would walk the six lowest-performing stores, speaking to teams and addressing issues and concerns; a beneficiary of this process was the Phoenixville, Pa., store, whose net promoter score climbed from the low 30s to 67 within three months.
  • Berry implemented several new technologies to assist stores with shrink; she recently noticed a gap in front end leadership communication and began working on a project to rectify this.
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April Mock

Director, Communications and Chief of Staff

The Giant Co.

  • Published inaugural Impact Report showcasing the important work Mock’s team leads resulted in 11 media placements and 440,000 potential media impressions.
  • Her team members accrued more than 49,000 voluntary hours, up from 28,000 in 2021, and raised more than $720,000 via the 2022 annual team giving campaign; additionally, Giant, its suppliers and customers donated more than $16 million in money and products for hunger relief efforts and raised almost $1.7 million to fund environmental organizations. 
  • Mock supported company growth through three new store openings and 37 remodels, and also advised Giant’s women’s LINC group.
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Julianne Sarcone Vonderheide

Manager, Circular Distribution and Production

The Giant Co.

  • Vonderheide led her team through ZIP code optimization, partnering with data analysts to scrutinize sales by ZIP code and eliminate printed circulars in ineffective areas, thereby saving Giant more than seven figures in distribution costs.
  • At the billing level, she identified overpayments for invoicing and billing to distribution partners; in 2022, she changed partners.
  • Vonderheide was an active member of LINC, an internal group focused on individual growth; she also volunteered at SNORT, a rescue organization for short-nosed dog breeds, and taught dance classes for adults and children. 
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Kristin Apperson

Manager III Category

Giant Food

  • Responsible for the financial health of Giant Food’s Rewards program and commercial bakery for 165 stores, Apperson led her team to achieve year-over-year increases and exceed budget, despite supply chain challenges.
  • She grew omnichannel sales by implementing value prices and large packages for rewards as well as delivery, increased holiday bakery sales through better processes for defining shoppers’ best-in-class assortment and timely store-specific allocations, and grew local ownership of vendor commitments.
  • Every month, Apperson volunteered with Giant’s Coke partners, stuffing backpacks for underprivileged kids.
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Brandi Petway

HR Facility Lead

Giant Food

  • Handling HR processes across 19 locations, Petway promoted 50 associates to department manager or lead positions and six to assistant store manager or store manager; her team hired more than 1,250 new union associates, with a best-in-class turnover of 58%.
  • Her support of onboarding and associate engagement helped increase the district engagement score by 1% to 89%, the highest result at Giant.
  • Petway completed the McKinsey Accelerator Management Program, received the COVID Response Team award for her work ensuring HR support throughout the pandemic and co-chaired the THRIVE people of color business resource group.
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Sharisa Shorts

HR Business Partner

Giant Food

  • With responsibility for HR functions at 18 stores in Maryland and Washington, D.C., Shorts promoted 94 associates to department manager or lead positions and 15 people to assistant store manager or store manager; she also moved 80 clerks into full-time positions.
  • Her team hired more than 2,000 new union associates, with a best-in-class turnover rate of 58%, and her support of onboarding and associate engagement helped the district achieve an engagement score of 82%, above the brand average.
  • A champion of diversity, Shorts took a lead role on the THRIVE people of color and Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) business resource groups.
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Cassie Harmer

Director, Compensation

Retail Business Services (RBS)

  • Harmer supported compensation programs and processes for all Ahold Delhaize USA (ADUSA) companies, supporting more than 240,000 associates. 
  • Having steered the department through multiple company reorganizations, she led all comp-cycle work related to merit programs, with nearly 100% accuracy, and effectively managed short- and long-term incentive plans; she also helped build an online knowledge center dedicated to compensation documents.
  • A member of World at Work and the Society for Human Resources Management, Harmer was chosen to attend an executive development program at the University of North Carolina’s business school.
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Deanna Rush

Director, IT Business Relationship Management

Retail Business Services (RBS)

  • Rush oversaw IT services for Food Lion and recently added more responsibilities as part of the RBS Evolve IT Program, an initiative to create a user-centric, product-based organization that will modernize technology, infrastructure and ways of working. 
  • Under her direction, the learning and development team created a “boot camp” training week focusing on Agile foundations and skill building; she also collaborated with Food Lion to launch and execute a Retail Immersion Program, a hands-on technology walk-through of an entire store.
  • A member of NextUp, Rush became a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Program Consultant in 2021.
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Shelly Roias

Assistant Category Manager

Stop & Shop

  • Collaborating with merchandising services and vendor partners, Roias reflowed the cereal and wholesome planogram sets for the Stop & Shop brand, creating a best-in-class experience.
  • She developed a process for supply train tracking on promotional inventory for her portfolio team, training members on mainframe management, rules, and triggers on in-stock and replenishment to enhance reporting capabilities; by collaborating with supply chain and operations partners, she significantly improved service levels.
  • Along with key vendor partners, Roias collaborated with a local organization to obtain multiple pallets of cereal and kids’ snacks; these donations helped local schools provide breakfasts.
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Gianna Davis

Director — Asset Protection

Albertsons Cos./Corporate

  • Davis launched such large-scale projects as camera initiatives using technology to reduce the risk to customers and employees, and a training program for tracking, investigating and properly communicating incidents involving workplace violence.
  • Her biggest successes included pharmacy investigations: identifying areas to improve upon collaboration, reporting, communication and partnerships to drive results and dramatically improve standards and performance. 
  • Davis’ participation and leadership with key partners resulted in fewer fraud transactions and improved retail sales as she identified the abuse of fraud tactics by repeat offenders and implemented mitigation and new company policies to avoid loss.
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Mandee Day

Director of Communications

Albertsons Cos./Corporate

  • Day helped expand the Women’s Inspiration and Inclusion Network (WIIN) associate resource group from five chapters across a few divisions to 15 chapters across all divisions and backstage locations, and also led the Men that WIIN event.
  • She managed the redesign and launch of Albertsons’ new external website to include improved functionality, transparency to all facets of the business, investor relations and connection to company banners. 
  • In addition to holding leadership roles at Albertsons’ Pride Alliance and diverseABILIITIES associate resource groups, Day sits on the board of directors for Faces of Hope, assisting survivors of interpersonal violence. 
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Jeannie Freis

Senior Manager — Strategic Partnerships

Albertsons Cos./Corporate

  • Freis led the evaluation, development and launch of SNAP/EBT payment options on Albertsons storefronts on the Instacart marketplace and added customizable hot and prepared foods to the Instacart catalog, enabling customers to purchase made-to-order sandwiches and meals.
  • She implemented marketplace facilitator tax compliance across all applicable states and piloted a QR code technology to streamline tax suppression for front end operations teams, saving time and reducing lines at checkout.
  • Freis volunteered at the Innovation Center, in Longmont, Colo., to help high school entrepreneurship students with their business plans.
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Caitlin Malone

Director — Pharmacy Procurement

Albertsons Cos./Corporate

  • As manager of the specialty pharmacy category, Malone brought in more than 20 new contracts with pharmaceutical manufacturers.
  • Her current role gave her oversight of a multibillion-dollar wholesaler agreement, and she also assumed responsibility for tens of millions of dollars in cost savings productivity measures in pharmacy each year; her expertise meant that she was often sought out by her peers to provide feedback on projects and brainstorm new initiatives.
  • Additionally, Malone was a board member of the Pharmacy Women’s Inspiration (WIIN) and Inclusion Network and led the group’s communications committee for pharmacy.
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Neha Sharma

Senior Manager — Tech and Engineering

Albertsons Cos./Corporate

  • Sharma had budget oversight for close to $10 million, with nine employees on her team and direct responsibility for the business-facing product management function in Albertsons’ new human capital management (HCM) platform.
  • She successfully led her team in transitioning to a product management type of organization and in kicking off a new onboarding workstream, along with mentoring and coaching her analysts and managing their deliverables.
  • Outside of work, Sharma volunteered with HandsOn Phoenix and was involved with its veteran assistance program, and also helped out the morning kitchen crew at a local church.
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Heather Halpape

Public Affairs Manager

Albertsons Cos./Denver Division

  • Halpape established the Denver Division Retail Blast, which is a collection of company updates sent to more than 8,000 associates daily.
  • She spearheaded a holiday fundraising program with the Albertson Cos. Foundation and its national gift card partner to distribute more than $1.8 million in gift cards to families in need.
  • Halpape was a committee member of the Women’s Inspiration and Inclusion Network (WIIN) associate resource group and We Care, Albertsons’ internal associate assistance program; she also volunteered for the Denver Rescue Mission, Volunteers of America and Special Olympics Colorado.
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Carol McCleary

Bakery Operations Specialist

Albertsons Cos./Seattle Division

  • Overseeing 18 bakery retail locations in eastern Washington state, McCleary helped her stores achieve the top sales growth in the Seattle division; her gross profitability was the best in the area and ahead of the division average.
  • She helped spearhead her division’s food safety culture, and for the past two quarters her bakeries have been green in food safety and sanitation, logging only three infractions in 36 visits.
  • McCleary is a two-time division champion in Albertsons’ cookie contests, and recently represented the company at local bridal expos in both Spokane and Yakima, Wash., in an effort to aid business growth. 
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Melissa DesRochers

Bakery Operations Specialist

Albertsons Cos./Southern Division

  • DesRochers rose above the challenges of the company’s hiring needs and at the same time rolled out innovations in the bakery department, helping to exceed in sales, gross and bottom-line performance for her district.
  • She helped to elevate all of the new managers in her division to the next level, imparting her wisdom on how to be self-sustained in their stores.
  • In addition to mentoring other women to help them advance their professional careers, DesRochers volunteers at a local school, working with special needs children, and also helps out at a women’s shelter in her community.
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Maha Eldabaja

Center Store Operations Specialist

Albertsons Cos./Southern Division

  • Eldabaja helped attain No. 1 status in out-of-stocks for the entire division for 56 consecutive weeks, and also enabled the division to reach the No. 1 spot in back-room numbers.
  • She also achieved No. 1 status in shrink in the division and placed first in perpetual inventory adjustments. 
  • Dedicated to helping other women overcome any professional obstacles, Eldabaja serves on the diversity board for the Southern division and is a committee member for the Women’s Inspiration and Inclusion Network (WIIN) associate resource group while also supporting local food banks. 
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Summer Firsich

Deli Operations — District 3

Albertsons Companies/Southern Division

  • Firsich rose to the challenge of rolling out innovations in the deli department, such as ready meals.
  • Elevating execution levels, she was No. 1 in overall sales and averaged $300 more than any other district on average sales per store in the Kings Hawaiian Contest, and also finished the third quarter with all delis running positive identical sales — the only department in the district to achieve this.
  • In addition to finding inventive ways to support her team and creating a transparent atmosphere, she provided meals for families in need.
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Clarissa Hebert

District Manager

Albertsons Cos./Southern Division

  • Hebert began working for Albertsons as a bagger at the age of 15 and ultimately became a district manager overseeing 15 Randalls stores with approximately 1,500 associates in and around Houston.
  • With a district sales contribution of $85 million-$100 million quarterly, she took the district’s stores to new heights in terms of sales, gross, shrink, and overall profit and loss, but one of her most rewarding achievements was mentoring and developing talent for the company.
  • Heber began working toward her retail management certificate to show others that learning is an ongoing process.
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Christy Lara

Director — Public Relations

Albertsons/Southern Division

  • Lara facilitated register campaigns that raised more than $1 million in foundation grant work with community partners, and also launched the We Care personal-hardship grant program for associates. 
  • She helped implement the Fresh Rescue program in all stores throughout the division while serving on numerous boards for the Texas Retailers Association, the Louisiana Retailers Association Legislative Committee and the Tarrant Area Food Bank, among others. 
  • Lara is a board member for the North Texas chapter of the American Cancer Society.
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Courtney Carranza

Director of Communications and Public Affairs

Albertsons Cos./Southern California Division

  • Carranza helped create weekly video vignettes in which the division president discussed such topics as industry trends, company/division news, and personal and professional development.
  • She supported the Associate Engagement Survey through daily communications and recognition, increasing overall participation by 3%, and also helped grow Holiday Hunger bag donations by 45%.
  • Carranza is a board member of RSM Cares, a food pantry and hunger relief organization.
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Claudia Hernandez

Maintenance Manager

Albertsons Cos./Southern California Division

  • Hernandez effectively identified and removed vendors not providing “company honest” and ethical billing. 
  • She drove substantial savings on building and equipment repairs on division profit and loss through vendor assessment, realignment and contract reviews, resulting in substantial savings. 
  • Hernandez helped launch four associate retail groups in the last 18 months as executive administrator on the SoCal Diversity and Inclusion Council and serves as a key member of the SoCal division’s Hispanic Leadership network, where she frequently donates her time giving back to the community.
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Sara King

Director of Food Safety

Albertsons Cos./Southern California Division

  • King spearheaded the development and pilot study of the Deli Chub Tracker Program, resulting in a 2.6% reduction in deli meat/cheese out-of-codes, a decrease in health violations and a company-wide rollout of the program as a One Best Method.
  • She helped her team highlight an associate who demonstrated exemplary food safety and sanitation behaviors in the monthly Food Safety Choice newsletter, promoting the work and behaviors she wanted associates to emulate.
  • A subject-matter expert, King was a member of the National Environmental Health Association and the California Environmental Health Association.
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Brenda Tegge

Liquor Operations Specialist

Albertsons Cos./Southern California Division

  • Tegge was responsible for liquor operations, program execution and people development in 87 stores across four districts, working with leadership in each store to maximize sales and profits.
  • Through her management of four wholesaler leads who assist with merchandising, resets and remodels, she had a significant impact on maximizing flow-through on incremental sales and improving the liquor average gross profit. 
  • Tegge partnered with local wineries in the Temecula Valley, Calif., area to build a one-stop destination within her district’s stores while also partnering with area breweries and establishing further relationships.
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Nancy Keane

Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications

Albertsons Cos./Southwest Division

  • Keane formed educational campaigns to promote the importance of COVID vaccines/boosters and cancer screenings in conjunction with public television and radio.
  • She helped raise awareness and revenue in support of a nearly $3 million dollar holiday gift card program to support food bank/food pantry partners and other nonprofits, churches and schools that serve food-insecure individuals.
  • Keane received an award from the 645th ICTC Army Reserve Unit in Las Vegas for community support and served on the boards of directors for such organizations as the Teal It Up Ovarian Cancer Foundation and the Cooper State Fly-in.
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Amanda Hawkins

Plant Manager

Albertsons Cos./Supply Chain

  • In 2022, Hawkins led her team to crush all plant metrics, with Clackamas Milk beating its operating budget by $800,000.
  • She helped Clackamas Milk become the first plant to install distilled water capability in 2022 — providing Albertsons stores in the Pacific Northwest with gallons of distilled water after its provider pulled out of the market, leaving shelves bare.
  • In addition to being awarded the Dairy Manufacturing Rock Star award for her accomplishments in the Clackamas Milk plant, Hawkins was also  praised for identifying new market opportunities and partnering with LFI to maintain and land new business.
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Brittany Susnik

Director, Retail Sales    


  • Responsible for managing a team of sales, pricing and category managers for Meijer, Susnik has driven top-line growth, share of market growth and share of Anheuser-Busch (AB) total at the retailer; AB has also grown market share in all six of Meijer’s operations regions.
  • She has played a key role in category initiatives, including Meijer’s return to the AB Collaboration Center for a second year.
  • Susnik was elected to represent AB Region 3 in a Women in Beer spotlight event, and was active in furthering diversity and inclusion initiatives; she also spearheaded a custom program highlighting AB Women in Brewing for Meijer.
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Susan Flake

Director, Global Business Development

Avery Dennison

  • Flake drove next-generation digital solutions and growth strategies in the food space, with a focus on achieving item-level freshness, traceability, transparency, labor efficiency and food waste reduction for the grocery industry.
  • She led a major grocery chain to pilot intelligent labeling for item-level freshness and item-level, in-store inventory management, and helped unveil the causes of grocery overproduction and underproduction.
  • A contributing member to Avery Dennison’s employee resource group, Elevate, Flake strove for a diverse and inclusive work environment while advancing women at the company.
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April Carchietta

Director of Employee Experience and Organizational Development

Big Y Foods

  • Carchietta oversaw all functions of training and development for Big Y’s 10,500 employees, including budgeting, recognition platforms, internal communications and learning management systems.
  • Taking into account employee feedback that identified professional public speaking as an area of opportunity, she chartered the grocer’s first Toastmasters Club at the store support center.
  • Carchietta and her team oversaw the myBig Y Voice program to help employees throughout the company feel heard; the initiative increased employee engagement and helped reduce turnover by 10%.
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Amanda Russell

Marketing and Advertising Director-Reasor’s

Brookshire Grocery Co.

  • In her role leading all marketing and advertising efforts for the 17 Reasor’s stores in Tulsa and northeast Oklahoma, Russell has been an integral part of the integration process since the banner was acquired by Brookshire Grocery Co. in January 2022.
  • She also led a new single-store program that involved enhancing price perception by lowering prices on thousands of items at one location; this led to an 11% increase in year-over-year sales.
  • Russell was active in the community outside of work, serving in her church’s coffee shop and children’s area, and also as a member of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and in women’s leadership events.
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Denise Naeck

Manager, Customer Service

C&S Wholesale Grocers

  • Working with senior leaders across departments, Naeck improved processes and policies supporting growth initiatives and helped create and achieve key performance indicators for customer service.
  • She launched two automated processes that led to faster processing times for order adjustments and claims, helped implement a new workforce management tool, and overachieved on key performance indicators for call volume and quality to get the highest customer satisfaction score in the department’s history. 
  • Naeck participated in the C&S women’s employee resource group, the Adopt a Family program and the customer service events committee.
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Jayne Henerey

Retail Maintenance Manager

C&S Wholesale Services/Retail

  • Leading the retail refrigeration and store management group for Piggly Wiggly stores in the Southeastern region, Henerey, along with her team of 10 technicians, supported the integration of 14 stores in New York that were converted into C&S-owned locations.
  • Thanks to her leadership and work with vendor partnerships and training, stores were able to operate in a cost-effective way, especially those in small and rural communities.
  • Henery developed technicians for the South Carolina Ready to Work Program and trade schools and provided training to small retailer partners to assist them in safety and employee health-and-wellness efforts. 
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Niki Reznicek

Corporate Marketing Manager

C.A. Fortune

  • Reznicek managed the master brand for C.A. Fortune by leading creative, project management and strategic planning efforts ranging from social media content to corporate marketing projects to vendor and partner relationships. 
  • She launched the first company-wide SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and competitive analysis; executed 75 selling capabilities presentations for client opportunities; and developed the redefined company values, among other outstanding results. 
  • Reznicek co-founded the company social committee and volunteered for a workforce development program that helps human-trafficking victims thrive. 
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Helen Hu

Customer Sales Lead, Walmart

Campbell Soup Co.

  • Hu, who has one Campbell’s largest sales lead roles, developed and implemented joint business plans to drive volume and profit for the company within Walmart’s soup category. 
  • She fueled multimillion-dollar sales growth in her categories and spearheaded major shelving improvements at more than 2,000 stores, leading to a 5% bump in category sales; she also shepherded the acceptance of five new items after a five-year lull in co-created products. 
  • The winner of four elite sales awards at Campbell, Hu was honored for her dedication to living the company’s values; she was also active in NextUp and the Asian Network employee resource group.
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Lorena Hernandez

Marketing Director

Cardenas Markets LLC

  • Hernandez managed marketing strategies and oversaw budget stewardship, ominchannel marketing communications, event planning and other marketing initiatives that generate revenue.
  • She launched an annual marketing program called Loteria that resulted in 30% year-over-year growth for participating brands, and used an integrated approach to introduce new marketing campaigns that drove vendor participation and customer recognition/redemption rates of up to 20% of customer base participation. 
  • Hernandez played a key role in the annual Cardenas Foundation Golf Tournament by improving partner involvement and contributing to improvements. 
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Abigail Vaerten

E-Commerce Consultant


  • Vaerten oversaw U.S. commercial and product support for e-commerce and omnichannel measurement solution within the center store, protein and dairy/bakery areas, helping industry professionals measure and track the evolving e-commerce landscape to make informed decisions for growth.
  • She created a formal e-commerce market measurement certification program, started a Circana internal subject-matter expert program and delved into best practice training verticals.
  • Vaerten won Circana’s GPS Accelerator Award for internal and industry impacts; she was also nominated and took part in NextUp’s Rising Star Leadership Development program.   
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Katie DelSignore

Director, Ahold Delhaize

The Coca-Cola Co.

  • Leading marketing growth strategies for the $1.1 billion Ahold Delhaize customer team, DelSignore designed programs that organically engaged shoppers and drove revenue growth. 
  • Among other accomplishments, she achieved 98% selling-in of Coca-Cola Starlight at her customer to propel $1.4 million in sales and created a customer-first meals strategy with cross-category promotions to increase permanent spaces in multiple categories. 
  • DelSignore has received Coca-Cola’s Emerging Talent Award for the past six years and was active in other groups, including NextUp and the Greg Hill Foundation. 
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Lauren Manekshaw

Category Analytics and Insights Manager, Walmart HQ

The Coca-Cola Co.

  • Manekshaw was responsible for more than $3 billion worth of sales for the company’s largest customer, Walmart, and led consumer research and strategic storytelling while also influencing brand partners. 
  • She collaborated with multiple teams to lead Coca-Cola’s still sell-in story to increase distribution by 35% across several brands and partnered with Walmart to spearhead three category deep dives; additionally, she built out capabilities for the team across Walmart’s new Luminate platform. 
  • Manekshaw organized events for the team to help at a Dallas women’s shelter where she regularly volunteered. 
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Morgan Hamel

Director of Customer Development, E-Commerce

Coca-Cola Consolidated

  • Hamel was tasked with leading the e-commerce business for Target and all e-commerce customers for Coca-Cola Consolidated, the largest independent bottler in the United States. 
  • She closed year-end results at $84.2 million, up 16% over the prior year; was instrumental in a 50-store pilot at Target that bolstered case capacity by 22% and led to a 43% sales lift in three months; and launched a Consolidated-only new 6-pack at 50 Target stores.
  • Hamel was heavily involved with the company’s  Leadership Development Program, an active member of NextUp, and a homework tutor at UrbanPromise Charlotte, in North Carolina. 
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Cynthia Allen

Director, Global Business Services

CROSSMARK, A WIS International Company

  • As the liaison between CROSSMARK’s service delivery center, headquarters sales teams, clients and customers, Allen oversaw trade management deduction management, order processing, customer service and administrative functions.
  • She led efforts to address inefficiencies affecting the turnaround time for administrative requests, cutting it down from six to three days, and launched a tool that allows users to filter check request details by client, customer, invoice number or dollar amount. 
  • Allen was chosen to attend the NextUp Leadership Summit and volunteered with the nonprofit organization Love for Kids Inc. 
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Jen Anderson

Business and Customer Account Manager

CROSSMARK, A WIS International Company

  • Anderson used a comprehensive knowledge of retailer operations and merchandising strategies to drive client growth across Clorox’s charcoal, shelf-stable food and cat litter divisions for the Associated Wholesale Grocers wholesale team. 
  • She delivered three years of increased shipment indices for her client and helped create an approach to improve its business by 15.5%; thank to her efforts, a promotion for Show Me Beef and Kingsford won a 2022 NGA Creative Choice Award.  
  • A member of NextUp, Anderson served as a volunteer coordinator for a Gather and Grow dinner series benefiting the BoysGrow organization. 
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Becca Brewer

Senior Insights Analyst

CROSSMARK, A WIS International Company

  • Brewer supported Galderma in the grocery channel by providing insights that drove decisions about assortment, promotions, category trends and more; she also helped train employees on the company’s Accelerator tool.
  • Finding products that work best for both CPGs and retailers, she created a selection process that led to 78 more placements and an 8% sales lift; additionally, she guided customers through UPC transitions and was selected for a new insights pilot team.
  • Brewer received a SPIRIT award from CROSSMARK’s baby, beauty and household team and was involved with the University of Tennessee’s performance theater.
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Stephanie Clark

Director of Client Operations

CROSSMARK, A WIS International Company

  • Clark proved her mettle through her work managing the company’s field support call center and overseeing a $1.3 million budget.
  • She took a lead role in ensuring that client and retail teams received excellent customer service during the WIS merger, implementing new call center lines, creating a new virtual training program and successfully negotiating contract renewals that minimized cost impacts to the organization. 
  • As a volunteer on the NextUp Texas programming and development committee, she added revenue to the chapter through a successful silent auction that was shared with other chapters as an example. 
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Melissa Doriski

Senior Insights Analyst

CROSSMARK, A WIS International Company

  • Doriski supported the convenience and grocery business with Clif Bar & Co. across more than 71,000 store locations and communicated the state of convenience back to internal sales and business insights teams. 
  • Despite lingering pandemic and supply chain issues, she helped her client achieve 14% sales growth, secured nearly 13,000 points of distribution, exceeded client key performance indicators and shared best practice templates used to train new employees. 
  • An active member of NextUp, Doriski attended the group’s summit meeting and brought back ideas and innovations for improvements.
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Christine Halloran

Customer Business Manager

CROSSMARK, A WIS International Company

  • Halloran worked with customers such as Core-Mark, Burklund Distributors and Circle K Heartland across distribution, promotions, pricing, merchandising and financial management functions. 
  • Her combined sales for 2022 rose 20% from the prior year: She supported the combined Core-Mark business (previously Eby Brown) as it became one of the largest c-store distributors in North America, and she expanded participation in regional trade shows and vendor day meetings, leading to greater sell-in. 
  • Halloran was a board member at Magdalene House in Chicago, which helps women survivors of sex trafficking. 
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Desiree Jakubs

Business Account Manager

CROSSMARK, A WIS International Company

  • Jakubs created a template for trade planning to facilitate the accuracy and efficiency of data put into CROSSMARK’s customer relationship management system.
  • She also implemented a digital and e-commerce “bucket” of trade that was successfully piloted by a client across the food/drug/mass channel.
  • A sponsor and volunteer at Retrieve a Golden of the Midwest, a nonprofit dog rescue organization focused on golden retriever and golden retriever mixes, Jakubs additionally spent her time taking part in the local women’s leadership networking community through her membership in NextUp Twin Cities.
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Maureen Jander

Director of Customer Development

CROSSMARK, A WIS International Company

  • Jander led strategy, collaboration and execution for CROSSMARK’s clients supplying customers in the Southwest, driving a double-digit 2022 sales revenue increase across several top-tier vendors and generating extra commissions.
  • She managed an open sales territory from September through December 2022 and led negotiations that secured new business gains across the company’s client base, as well as selling an incremental display program to a key retailer that ordered 15 shippers per store to support a major promotional program.
  • Jander supports such charities as the American Red Cross and Border Collie Save and Rescue.
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Nikki Schriever

Director of HQ Sales and Marketing

CROSSMARK, A WIS International Company

  • Schriever provided smarter, faster and more efficient solutions, driving brand sales and delivering 102% to the revenue budget for such key clients as Chicken of the Sea, Signature Brands, Betty Crocker Dessert Decorating and Better Body Foods.
  • She helped facilitate the strategy, development and execution of CROSSMARK’s new Minnesota headquarters office, driving collaboration and streamlining efficiencies for growth.
  • As an active member of NextUp Twin Cities, Schriever advocated for the advancement of women in all areas of business, but particularly in the grocery industry.
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Ann Weinhardt

Director, Customer Development

CROSSMARK, A WIS International Company

  • Weinhardt developed and led a new third-party customer-specific strategic initiative to maximize customer growth and expand services; the resulting cross-functional team created a financial modeling tool and new recruitment and hiring practices, meeting the project timeline in just three months.
  • She strategically realigned 45% of the Associated Wholesale Grocers team to meet the evolving requirements of customers and clients, thereby building a truly sustainable team of experts.
  • In her spare time, Weinhardt was not only an engaged member of NextUp, which focuses on advancing all women in business, but she also served as a volunteer basketball coach.
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Jennifer Maynard

Business Development Manager

Product Connections, a WIS International Company

  • As a part of the Sam’s Club events team, Maynard worked closely with merchants and suppliers to schedule in-store club demos, and also helped train new business development managers.
  • She exceeded her demo budget by organizing and managing account budgets, providing exceptional customer service to suppliers and influencing suppliers to invest in demos with strong analytics.
  • The mother of a son with Prader-Willi syndrome, Maynard enrolled her family in studies designed to further advancements in knowledge and medicines regarding the genetic disorder.
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Sarah Gregg

Regional Director Inventory Operations

WIS International

  • In a struggling market, Gregg reduced hourly turnover by more than 150% by implementing a best practice for screening candidates, focusing on continuous development and coaching hourly associates on their skillsets.
  • By encouraging promotion from within and focusing on longevity and training, Gregg improved capacity in leadership roles from 40% to 100%; in the Texas market, she improved inventory revenue by nearly $500,000 by realigning districts’ territory to ensure the highest profitability, taking a strategic approach to scheduling, encouraging additional customers and focusing on in-store production.
  • Gregg regularly volunteered at local elementary schools.
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Navita Bahel

Team Lead, System Manager EDW/BO/COMS/e2E/DeCACOM

Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA)

  • Bahel’s efforts toward DeCA’s business intelligence rationalization contributed to optimized data collections, reliability and accuracy for the organization, as well as putting it on track to save approximately $62.5 million over the next five years.
  • Her enterprise data warehouse work allowed all offices within DeCA headquarters to access critical, reliable and vital data, which in turn enabled these offices to judge sales trends, accurately set prices and manage warehouse inventory, positioning the organization to better serve military and embassy families.
  • Bahel volunteered for numerous programs at her church.
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Kathryn Carfrey

Chief Business Financial Manager

Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA)

  • Exercising exemplary fiscal stewardship and leveraging her keen knowledge of fiduciary regulations and boundaries, Carfrey successfully executed nearly 100% of DeCA’s $160 million fiscal 2022 IT funding, enabling the generation of $4 billion-plus in annual sales.
  • Her work allowed DeCA to realize the full replacement and modernization of the point-of-sale hardware and software at all of the organization’s stores worldwide.
  • Carfrey tirelessly volunteered for local Special Olympics activities in a variety of capacities, from acting as an assistant coach and an athletic chaperone to providing support for fundraising efforts and campaigns.
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Paula Lewis

Supervisory Commissary Management Specialist, Zone 12

Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA)

  • Lewis’s development of zone training, mentoring, guiding, planning and holding senior leaders accountable have made a positive difference in the efficiency, productivity, output and quality of work being performed.
  • Her Alaska stores participated in numerous “drop advance” on-site sales to enable the ordering, sale and delivery of groceries at remote sites.
  • Lewis has completed Cornell University Food Industry Management Program correspondence courses and DeCA’s Commissary Management Course, as well as other agency leadership programs.
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Kelsey Collins

Senior Category Manager

Dom’s Kitchen & Market

  • By herself, Collins successfully built out the independent grocer’s first store on the nonperishable side, including product layouts, merchandising schemes, and promotional activities and events for about 10,000 SKUs, and her nonperishable categories always beat sales and margin objectives.
  • Promoted to her current role during this time, she led a team of three to open Dom’s second store, a much larger unit with double the space and offerings.
  • Collins was recognized in trade magazines and articles for her curated liquor department, while her grocery, dairy and frozen departments received acclaim in many periodicals.
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Nicole Harrison

Senior Account Executive


  • Harrison delivered 124% of her 2022 sales target by leveraging key cross-functional subject-matter experts to influence distribution and reopening closed negotiations or navigating fixed contracts to set the foundation for additional future distribution gains.
  • She also improved return on investment with regard to retail partnerships and integrated key cross-functional and leadership stakeholders into account conversations to elevate intimacy at key decision points.
  • Harrison is the co-founder of Faces of Faith, a philanthropic nonprofit that helps children in underdeveloped Chicago-area communities.
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Kelly Weaver

Senior Director, National Accounts


  • Weaver led two cross-functional teams, developing plans that secured a 23% increase in space within value-added dairy and a 50% SKU increase within ready-to-drink sports nutrition, as well as closing all remaining voids within Albertsons Cos.
  • She completed the year with record growth for the Core Power brand within Albertsons: It was up 76% in units and 85% in dollars versus the prior year, while display total distribution points grew 58%, share of visual inventory increased 25% and unit share of category rose 11 points.
  • For her successful efforts, Weaver and her team received the 2022 Q3 Fairlife Legend Award in the dairy category.

Shanme Dalton

Account Executive


  • In her first year with the company, Dalton elevated Ferrara’s relationship with Albertsons Cos., which has been upgraded to a strategic investment account with Ferrara leadership.
  • Thanks to her efforts, which included coordinating Ferrara’s very first top-to-top innovation summit with Albertsons, the account’s business grew an impressive 54%, with Ferrara on track to back that up with 40% growth this year.
  • Dalton was a member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion business resource group at Ferrara, and she and her team received a Ferrara Values Award as a best-in-class example of leadership through empowerment.

Rachel Cox

Senior Manager, Curbside Operations

Giant Eagle

  • Cox’s team successfully opened eight new pickup/delivery sites, generating more than $600,000 in additional sales, and also conducted eight remodels; efforts involved training dozens of team members, marketing and installing equipment.
  • She launched an opportunity store program, which entailed working with departments that were overspending on customer demand-based wages to create best practices, and working with field specialists on training; to date, these departments have saved $1 million on labor.
  • Cox was co-chair of the networking committee for Giant Eagle’s Women in Business resource group, and she volunteered with Bethlehem Haven.

Catherine Misour

Own Brands Innovation Manager

Giant Eagle

  • Misour developed a cost increase tracker to ensure that the retailer can secure better vendor pricing when markets soften; she also created a monthly commodity tracker that provides market condition updates for the merchandising team.
  • She developed 130 unique own-brand items totaling about $8.7 million in sales and $3.4 million in margin, and she also sourced, created and received line-of-business alignment on 16 new fall holiday items.
  • Misour executed a summer limited-time program from scratch; it totaled 21 SKUs with an estimated potential of $1.2 million in sales and $448,000 in margin.

Katie Pacanowski

Director, Transportation

Giant Eagle

  • Responsible for three transportation hubs and 430 employees, Pacanowski and her team delivered more than 55,000 loads with consistent on-time performance, despite driver shortages; since April, they’ve beaten budget by $3 million-plus and last year’s expenses by $1.5 million.
  • Faced with rising fuel costs, she improved connections between buildings and retail to maximize resources and reduce both loads and miles; she also helped minimize losses related to power outages and other emergencies.
  • Pacanowski was a chair of the women’s business resource group and a member of Pittsburgh Women in Supply Chain.
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Fatimah Pillow

Operations Manager

Giant Eagle

  • Overseeing 200 union and 26 non-union employees in Cleveland’s grocery and office services departments warehouse, Pillow led the slotting committee in identifying issues whose rectification could improve the selection process and the ability to build pallets for selectors.
  • She spearheaded changes in the warm room and in floral products to increase the efficiency of pick patterns throughout the perishable departments.
  • Since taking on the new role of operations manager over the grocery department, Pillow has already helped identify and address inefficiencies: Over the next few months, changes will increase proficiency and accountability.
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Lindsay Capozziello

Senior Manager Pharmacy

Harris Teeter LLC

  • Committed to improving customers’ health through preventive vaccinations, Capozziello led her team to administer 370,000 vaccines last year, which generated $900,000 in sales; she also supported the development and implementation of Harris Teeter’s Technician Vaccination Program and a Post Grad Year 1 Community Pharmacy Residency Program.
  • She helped refresh pharmacy training and supported investments in pharmacy automation and workflow simplification processes that allow pharmacists to spend more time on patient care.
  • Capozziello served on the policy and advocacy committee for the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists.
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Sara Coyle

District Manager

Harris Teeter LLC

  • In the Summerville, S.C., store she managed, Coyle achieved high profits, provided consistent world-class customer service, sustained a loyal customer base and helped associates grow professionally.
  • Promoted to district manager in South Carolina’s Charleston County, she focused on setup times, closing duties, improving controllable out-of-stocks and involving all stores in selling events, ultimately leading her district to place first in total store sales and total items trends and second in fresh food trends. 
  • Coyle volunteered with many different organizations, including the Low Country Food Bank, where she helped sort, pack and deliver groceries to families dealing with food insecurity. 
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Christian Emory

Director, Benefits and Compensation

Harris Teeter LLC

  • Emory implemented new associate health initiatives, including a diabetes prevention/adherence program in which participants lost an average of 10 pounds in four weeks; she also enhanced medical plans to include fertility coverage, transgender benefits and varicose veins coverage, and led training for senior store leadership on mental health emergencies. 
  • She guided medical and pharmacy pricing negotiations that saved more than $8 million and enhanced the 401(K)-employer match, with a net neutral impact to the overall budget.
  • An active member of the Women’s Empowerment Group at Harris Teeter, Emory also volunteered in her community.
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Stacey Simpson

Customer Sales Executive

The Hershey Co.

  • Simpson was awarded Vendor of the Year for her partnership with Albertsons, where she worked with 14 buyers and nine retail teams, as well as broker partners, to increase sales by 11% and boost lead share by 39 basis points.
  • Working on the Kroger team, she increased checklanes, gained space from competitors and led top-down discussions to correct mint fill rates, leading to a 40% increase and a 125% spike in year-to-date sales.
  • Recognized as a best-in-class partner by both Kroger and Hershey, Simpson was selected to lead the latter’s Sales Conference for Top Performers; she was also involved with NextUp and the Women’s Business Resource Group at Hershey.
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Wendy Weintraub

Team Leader

The Hershey Co.

  • Through strategic planning, customer collaboration and distribution gains, Weintraub drove Hershey baking category sales growth ahead 36% in 2022, outpacing the market and winning significant share; she drove taxonomy and shopability improvements, resulting in a 3% findability increase for Hershey.
  • She negotiated a more productive front end racking solution, repurposed nonworking capital of more than $1 million into working capital, and drove and enhanced ROI and greater sales and profitability for the customer and Hershey.
  • Weintraub volunteered at Yellow Brick Road Rescue and Lucky Lives Rescue, helping to save and rehab injured animals.
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Anne Roth

Senior Director, Government Relations


  • Roth was integral in helping pass a comprehensive pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reform bill in Iowa that creates a fairer playing field for pharmacies by prohibiting clawbacks, mandating that PBMs update their maximum allowable cost lists and creating the framework for the insurance commissioner to gather detailed data for future reform efforts.
  • On the federal level, she worked on direct and indirect remueration fee reform and interchange fee reform and helped engage members of Congress on these issues.
  • Roth worked with the Mind & Spirit Counseling Center to fund mental health counseling and education for uninsured or underinsured people.
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Laura Wassong

Director of Store and Front End Operations

Indiana Grocery Group LLC

  • As VP of the Associate Assistance Plan, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to associates in need in Indiana, Wassong raised more than $16,000 at her home location and $21,000-plus overall last year. 
  • She served on the Company Diversity Council, which provides resources and support to help implement policies, practices and programs that ensure that associates at every level reflect, welcome, celebrate and benefit from diversity.
  • As chair of the Women’s Council at Indiana Grocery Group, Wassong arranged for guest speakers and organized events to facilitate team and network building to empower women. 
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Kelsie Kapple

Marketing Manager


  • Kapple launched the fastest-growing value-added meat brand in the United States, guiding La Herencia Marinated Meats to $25 million in sales and a 50% repeat purchase rate in the brand’s first year on the market; she also led the launch of Just Bare Beef on Amazon Fresh, supporting $50 million in sales growth with Amazon Fresh. 
  • She sold in and managed marketing for JBS brand Aspen Ridge Natural Angus Beef in a partnership with Albertsons that delivered 40% growth in 2022. 
  • Kapple led two Women’s Meat Industry Network webinar events and was a key leader in support of JBS’ diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
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Misty Deskins

Director of Loyalty Marketing and E-Commerce

K-VA-T Food Stores Inc. d/b/a Food City

  • Deskins implemented several new loyalty campaigns, including associate rewards, curbside pickup, targeted emails, store-brand digital coupon campaigns and three transformational direct-mail strategies, that yielded more than $12 million in incremental sales for the company.
  • She introduced the innovative fuel program Ticket to Ride, which yielded a 289% increase in incremental sales for the brands that participated in the program.
  • Deskins’ team helped coordinate the annual Food City Charity Golf Tournament and Food City Invitational Tournament for Education to aid local organizations.
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Katie Penny

District Manager, Chattanooga Division

K-VA-T Food Stores Inc. d/b/a Food City

  • Penny’s oversight of a foodservice remodel for one location resulted in 20% sales growth and a 16% increase in gross profit for the store; another total store remodel that she supervised resulted in a 15% sales increase and and an 18% increase in income.
  • She played a key role in the company’s acquisition of six Fresh n’ Low/Cooke’s supermarkets/pharmacies and assisted with onboarding more than 200 new team members.
  • Penny received the 2022 Claude Varney Volunteerism Award and The Salvation Army Outstanding Corporate Philanthropy Award.
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Meigan Goodwin

Senior Director, Business Development

Kellogg Co.

  • Working across functions, Goodwin delivered a Made to Stock program on key displays, lifting in-stock to retailers from low 70s to high 90s on key brands; she led 20 teams whose scanning and shipment data research and recommendations for categories resulted in more in-and-out product and larger size offerings for the grocery channel in 2022.
  • She facilitated the rollout of the U.S. Regional Academy, skill training that enlists teammates to help others build their skills.
  • Goodwin volunteered at area animal shelters and regularly participated in Kellogg Better Days food bank volunteer activities. 
twig 23 rs

Emily Kelly

Senior National Account Executive

Kellogg Co.

  • Kelly drove the Kellogg Costco team’s performance to be one of the best in the U.S. business; her data-driven insights helped build selling stories and close on distribution gains for the Cheez-it and Pop-Tarts brands. 
  • She led a Costco data platform revamp with IRI that included updated reporting, educating the sales team and putting best practices in place to employ data; she also co-led a cereal re-engagement plan that grew share at the retailer. 
  • Kelly received St. Joseph University’s 2022 Food Industry Rising Star award for her career, community and university contributions; she also supported the company’s Lean on Me mental health program.
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Kelly LaVergne

Director, Business Development

Kellogg Co.

  • For a key customer, LaVergne led execution for Mission Tiger to fund athletic equipment for two junior high schools in the St. Louis metro area; she worked with Kellogg’s shopper marketing to build out custom, retailer-specific assets aimed at driving sustainability education and targeting multicultural households.
  • She founded and co-led the Kellogg African American resource group, served as moderator for a Women in Leadership Panel on which top Kellogg leaders shared career advice and spearheaded the Learn a Role speaker series for associates.
  • For her consistently excellent work, LaVergne was awarded Kellogg’s Golden K for Channels Salesperson of the Year.
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Felicia Parmer

Produce Merchandising/Floral Field Specialist

The Kroger Co./Cincinnati Division

  • When Parmer started in her role four and a half years ago, the floral department was down $4 million; today, thanks to her stellar efforts, the floral business turns a $3.5 million profit.
  • Parmer introduced the popular Pink Princess Philodendron to the enterprise, and over the course of four weeks, the division made more than $100,000 in sales; offering this rare plant in Kroger stores opened the enterprise up to a wider customer base of plant enthusiasts.
  • Among the organizations that Parmer supported was the Boys and Girls Club of Cincinnati, whose warehouse she organized and cleaned so it could better serve the community.
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Teagan Williams

Division Assistant HR Leader

The Kroger Co./Cincinnati Division

  • Williams led and executed a change in the time and attendance system that included training all 20,000 associates on system differences and the transition. 
  • This system change resulted in a simpler user experience for associates and offered them the opportunity to use the system on their personal devices or ones found within their stores. 
  • Williams also led and executed the complete system modernization of all HR systems, encompassing anything having to do with associate records and payroll; a major benefit of this new system is that the technology tracks all associate information throughout their career progression at Kroger. 
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Jenny Wickline

Division E-Commerce Manager

The Kroger Co./Columbus Division

  • In 2021, Wickline’s division was at max capacity for 25% of the available pickup timeslots; as a result of her changes, pickup in the division has grown by an average of 64 orders per day, exceeding the division goal.
  • At the end of fiscal year 2022, she decreased wait times to an average of four minutes and 28 seconds, shaving nearly a minute off the division’s 2021 wait time and making pickup time 32 seconds faster than the division goal time of five minutes. 
  • Wickline also worked with enterprise leadership to test innovative pickup programs; her team was one of the first to roll out ModFS, a new e-commerce software. 
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Tiffany Sanders

Corporate Affairs Manager

The Kroger Co./ Corporate Affairs

  • Sanders oversaw the distribution of more than $8 million in cash and in-kind donations to support local nonprofit organizations; through her charitable giving strategy, the company provided average donations of nearly $40,000 per store location. 
  • She achieved 100 earned-media stories with 10 million-plus impressions to enhance the company’s reputation and unique story, attracting new customers.
  • Sanders worked relentlessly to drive change and bring awareness to hunger and waste; her leadership resulted in 65% of Kroger’s waste diverted from landfills and the rescue of 6.5 million pounds of safe food that could no longer be sold in stores.
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Kristin Krueger

Controller of Sales Planning & Merchandising

The Kroger Co./Finance

  • Krueger led the support team that enabled the merchandising department to overachieve on 2022 sales and selling gross budget. 
  • She also played a key role as the financial business partner within the merchandising workstream; helped by her partnership, this workstream’s 2022 projects executed $865 million in sales, and she was a strategic partner supporting the team’s investment of millions in capital, generating a positive return on investment capital. 
  • A CPA in the state of Ohio, Krueger gave back to the community at the Free Store Food Bank while also sponsoring a family through United Way during the holiday season. 
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Lisa Duvall

Apparel Field Merchandiser

The Kroger Co./Fred Meyer Division

  • Duvall headed the Fred Meyer apparel division of 122 apparel managers and six field specialists, along with five Smith’s division apparel managers; she led the apparel team to more than $500 million in sales.
  • She also led a team to create and complete innovative merchandising for five Stores of the Future.
  • Enthusiastic about developing talent for her merchandising team and store teams, Duvall has onboarded three new field specialists over this past year and 40 apparel managers in four states; she has also teamed with local schools on Christmas for Kids, which invites needy children to shop at Fred Meyer for the holidays.
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Megan Houck

District Manager

The Kroger Co./Fry’s Division

  • Since taking on her role, Houck has led her district to finish second in year-to-date identical sales in the division, with a 5.6% increase; her district was the only one to achieve the stretch goal above 9.2% for identical sales in the fourth quarter.
  • She also promoted two new store leaders and exceeded her mystery shops’ customer experience goal — a year-to-date increase of 4.1% over last year. 
  • Houck volunteered at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank, serving meals to community members in need; as a store leader, she was a member of her store’s Promise Team, an internal group of associates dedicated to creating a positive workplace culture.
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Shayna Barrett

Deli/Bakery Merchandising Field Specialist

The Kroger Co./Houston Division

  • Overseeing 92 department heads and about 1,300 deli and bakery associates at 46 stores, in partnership with three district managers, Barrett successfully led her store teams through three remodels in fiscal 2022. 
  • She also developed 26 associates who were promoted within her three districts for fiscal 2022. 
  • As a team lead on the Young Professionals associate resource group for Kroger’s Houston division, Barrett oversaw the membership committee and contributed to identifying new members with her chair and co-chair, along with engaging in district manager and merchandiser collaboration. 
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Crystal Davison

Health and Wellness Pharmacy Practice Coordinator

The Kroger Co./Houston Division

  • Davison led an enterprise-wide pilot to enhance and maximize Kroger’s Auto Refill service; through her drive and input, the company quickly adapted to an improved platform, nearly doubling the number of enrollments.
  • She also launched the first Wellness associate resource group in the Houston division, which focuses on the pillars of mental, physical, nutritional and financial wellness. 
  • Davison was recognized as a Kroger Health Wellness 180 Ambassador award winner for focusing on her personal health as well as promoting healthy lifestyles for all.
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Kristin Cukauskas

HR Operations and Governance Leader

The Kroger Co./Human Resources 

  • Cukauskas directed a complicated organization design and change management deployment with the Shared Services Center, Corporate Affairs and Talent Development Center of Excellence. 
  • She developed a biweekly newsletter, People on the Move, for HR to showcase promotions and new members of the HR team, as well as to highlight open HR roles. 
  • Cukauskas also coordinated the development of a General Office executive administrative manual, which is a tool for new-to-role and existing administrative assistants, HR business partners, generalists, and associate HR representatives. 
TWIG rs 23

Amanda Trent

Talent Development Strategist

The Kroger Co./Human Resources 

  • Trent led the development and testing of service training in late 2022; during a six-week, 5,000-associate pilot, she achieved defined training outcomes, clearing the path to invest an incremental $15 million in service training in 2023. 
  • She partnered closely with retail operations to develop and scale training to support various total store, fresh and front end shrink initiatives that drove operational excellence across 2,700-plus locations and bottom-line improvement.
  • Trent was an active member of the Ronald McDonald House organization, where she volunteered regularly; she has also been a member of the Kroger Internship Mentor Program for the past two years.

Jessica Quintana

Division Floral Field Specialist

The Kroger Co./King Soopers Division

  • Quintana and her team placed first in all indoor floral sales, second in total floral sales and third in gross margin, with sales versus the previous year up 1.4% at King Soopers. 
  • She created an environment where associates felt valued and heard, while her focus on coaching proved to be an effective and compassionate way of addressing performance concerns and helping associates reach their full potential.
  • Quintana graduated from the Western Association of Food Chains Retail Management Certificate Program and was part of the Hispanic Heritage associate resource group, which strives to develop future leaders through mentorship. 

Tasha Turner

Division Assistant HR Leader

The Kroger Co./King Soopers Division

  • Turner elevated recruitment efforts by implementing a branded hiring van and a campus recruiting program that attracted 59% more applicants than previous events.
  • Her commitment to consistent onboard training helped to improve employee retention, with the division surpassing its assigned turnover goal of 58.8% by achieving a 54.6% rate during the first 12 periods of 2022.
  • Through her Sourcing Project, Turner hired two temporary workers to review the applicant pool and identify missed opportunities, which indeed uncovered a wealth of qualified candidates and revealed that the company simply needed to implement a consistent process for contacting and interviewing applicants. 
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Jane Dierkers

Community Affairs Manager

The Kroger Co./Kroger Health

  • Dierkers and her team ensured that the operations and execution were seamless for Kroger’s annual Wellness Festival, which brought more than 125,000 people to greater Cincinnati, and to make certain that the numerous CPG vendor partners were supported throughout the event. 
  • She coordinated Kroger’s Life is Why campaign to support the American Heart Association, allowing Kroger to educate 7.1 million customers on science-based content across multiple channels. 
  • In addition to being recognized by the American Heart Association as an outstanding volunteer and advocate for the organization, Dierkers was professionally involved with the American Cancer Society and Easter Seals on various levels.
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Hannah Reasor

Center Store Field Specialist

The Kroger Co./Louisville Division

  • Both of Reasor’s districts averaged a 10.31% gross margin increase due to her going after Kroger’s Our Brands with 100% execution, which contributed $9 million to the Louisville division in EBITDA.
  • She worked with Coca-Cola on revamping the overnight delivery process by spearheading the training for the division, creating a step-by-step training video that’s now used throughout the Kroger enterprise. 
  • Reasor also worked with each vendor to coordinate standards walks at stores to align the expectations for each store and help hold each vendor accountable for knowing the standards.
TWIG 23 rs

Meghan Barton

Category Manager

The Kroger Co./Merchandising

  • Barton navigated prolonged chicken supply challenges by working to secure any additional product and prioritize divisions based on inventory position, share need and supplier ability to move within the network. 
  • She maneuvered more than eight months of supply interruptions and major transitions across the Our Brands business and pivoted to offset declines on brand with the majority share of category by developing meaningful national-brand partnerships.
  • Barton partnered with Conagra Brands and Xavier University to play the role of a retailer in the Intro to Category Management college-level course.
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Amber Burkhart

Campaign Pricing Communication Manager

The Kroger Co./Merchandising

  • Burkhart developed a strategic enhancement for an existing third-party product that will reduce store labor expense and deliver $2 million in annual savings back to the business on printing costs. 
  • She identified several errors and inefficiencies in billing between Kroger and partner organizations that resulted in more than $2 million in marketing budget relief. 
  • Burkhart led the centralization of third-party invoices in a single system, which will create more accurate forecasts and reduce invoicing by more than 50%, and helped develop and deploy an electronic shelf-edge solution. 
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April Orrand

Category Manager

The Kroger Co./Merchandising

  • Orrand was instrumental in helping Kroger’s color cosmetics and nail care segments build positive gains for the future, thanks to her moving cosmetics to a direct store delivery (DSD) program that proactively solved the issue of increased out-of-stocks and tightened labor market issues; those divisions that moved to DSD achieved on average a 5% sales increase.
  • She implemented a new product-fixturing structure to help streamline products and create gains in sales. 
  • Orrand took part in Kroger’s EDGE associate resource group and served as a subject-matter expert. 
twig rs 23

Carrie Fenn

Division E-Commerce Manager

The Kroger Co./Mid-Atlantic Division

  • Fenn made great strides in a short period on improving maxed-out time slots in many stores by enhancing processes and workflows in e-commerce back rooms, resulting in more sale opportunities for customers to place orders.
  • She helped improve maxed-out time slots year over year by 65% during her first three quarters as division e-commerce manager and increased the in-stock metric year over year in those same three quarters by 5.6%.
  • Fenn was active in the division Women’s EDGE associate resource group and raised funds to fight breast cancer.
twig 23 rs

Karla Goings

Division Produce-Floral Merchandiser

The Kroger Co./Mid-Atlantic Division

  • Goings collaborated with General Office partners on ideas to support company initiatives within drug/general merchandise and was invited to participate in the multicultural ideation session.
  • She outpaced her budget on selling gross (up 1.59% year over year) and shrink (improved 92 basis points versus budget and 69 basis points versus last year), with sales up 1.27% from last year.
  • A member of NAACP Silver Life and the division Women’s EDGE associate resource group and co-chair for the division African American associate resource group, Goings also sits on the boards of several organizations.
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Stephanie Jordan

Division Asset Protection and Safety Manager

The Kroger Co./Nashville Division

  • Jordan guided the Nashville division to become No. 1 in the company in associate accident reduction, with an improvement rate of 20% versus 2021, and the division finished second in the Kroger enterprise in total accident reduction, with 16% improvement.
  • Under her guidance, Nashville was one of only two divisions to achieve its shrink budget for the fiscal year.
  • In addition to participating in the company’s Leadership Excellence Acceleration program, Jordan co-chairs Nashville’s African American associate resource group and serves as secretary at her local church.
TWIG rs 23

Michele Mabery

Deli/Bakery Field Specialist

The Kroger Co./QFC Division

  • Mabery helped her teams navigate the rollout of fresh production, planogram standup, Boar’s Head grab-and-go sandwiches and salads, and mobile order pay for Starbucks, and led the Retrain the Trainer Boar’s Head program for all of QFC.
  • She was involved in QFC’s Office Associate Survey Action Planning Committee, in which capacity she helped come up with solutions and focus areas.
  • Besides being integral to the creation of new schematics that have been crucial to driving Kroger sales, Mabery was part of the Cultural Council and QFC’s Women’s EDGE group, and volunteered at her local middle school.
twig 23 rs

Evelyn Alvarez

Regional Construction Manager

The Kroger Co./Real Estate Development

  • Alvarez helped division merchants identify the need for more diverse offerings in the Richmond, Va., market by hosting a tour that focused on Latin staples that have proved profitable in multiple market service areas within the division.  
  • She was a key contributor to a five-year strategic investment plan for her division and embraced a new technology to streamline collaborations among four regional offices.
  • Alvarez helped create the first Leadership Academy for Achieving My Purpose, a nonprofit organization focused on helping young women of color find and attain their goals. 
twig 23 rs

Nicole Fickau

Division HR Leader

The Kroger Co./Roundy’s

  • Fickau developed a strategic people plan for the division, which featured succession planning for key leadership roles, focused on elevating talent and provided associates with experience to further their careers. 
  • She relaunched associate resource groups, which play a valuable role at Roundy’s by providing perspective in discussions on important topics relating to associates, division operations and the industry.
  • In addition to guiding the HR team through the challenges of the MyInfo payroll, outside of work, Fickau adopted a family for Christmas in 2022 through a nonprofit organization called Next Door Milwaukee Foundation.
twig 23 rs

Jennifer Enoch

Director, Talent Acquisition

Lowes Foods LLC

  • Enoch created new ways to attract and identify talent that included finding new partners, reinventing job fairs as “hiring parties” and improving candidate experience — all of which helped cut the company’s time to apply in half. 
  • Through her unrelenting tenacity in finding new partners and new ways to attract candidates, she led the company to experience increases in applicant flow by more than 25% year over year. 
  • Enoch led a pilot to centralize recruiting for retail stores, leading to a reduction in hosts needed, an improvement in overall candidate quality and improved turnover performance (20% better compared with the control group).
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Jordan Aldrich

Corporate Human Resources Director


  • Aldrich’s passion for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) inspired her to lead thoughtful discussions on key DE&I topics, actively support team member resource groups and mentor diverse talent.
  • She led Meijer’s return-to-work program, and the company’s flexible new arrangement enabled it to compete for top talent while also achieving a 4% decrease in hybrid team member turnover and a 10% decrease in flex remote/remote voluntary team member turnover.
  • In 2022, Aldrich was appointed to Grand Valley State University’s HR Advisory Council to provide perspective on the institution’s HR curriculum, hiring trends and company needs.
twig rs 23

Becky Bronkema

Director of Merchandising, Dairy/Frozen


  • Through Bronkema’s initiative and ideation, Meijer became one of the few leading retailers offering discounts on produce and free delivery from for SNAP recipients; these offers allowed the retailer to improve access to food while also growing households and sales.
  • She helped drive significant private label growth, resulting in Meijer brands being the top growth drivers of the business, up more than 13% for the year.
  • Bronkema was part of the Moms at Meijer committee to help mentor associates, support events and advocate for mothers in the workplace. 
twig 23 rs

Kristin Brouwers

Manager, Marketing Campaigns


  • Brouwers was responsible for storytelling across Meijer’s brand portfolio, which includes more than 260 locations across six states, servicing more than 6 million customers.
  • Through her marketing and creative leadership, the Frederik’s by Meijer brand exceeded sales plans, bringing in incremental customers and quickly emerging as the No. 3 own brand at Meijer by sales volume.
  • As an active Meijer Campus Ambassador, Brouwers supported team member engagement, led tours, coordinated events and welcomed new team members at Snack Chat, a new meet-and-mingle event at which attendees can learn more about Meijer.
twig 23 rs

Jenny Coon

Plant Manager (Fresh Assembly)


  • Coon developed and successfully led a diverse workforce, and also found creative ways to ensure that associates are fully trained and stay connected with the team through ongoing communications; this helped her achieve full staffing percentages for the first time since the pandemic began.
  • She and her team developed and launched a new line of snack items containing seven finished products; she worked closely with the product development team to conceptualize items and conduct a plant trial.
  • Within the community, Coon is helped adult learners improve their reading skills and supported local animal shelters.
twig 23 rs

Kim Edsenga

Associate General Counsel


  • Edsenga’s job spanned legal and regulatory support for Meijer’s retail operations, retail and specialty pharmacies, and real estate and store design teams; she also managed Meijer’s centralized corporate compliance team.
  • She took the lead on work with the USDA to obtain a waiver of equal-treatment rules for SNAP recipients, which opened the door for many healthy food offerings specifically targeting this customer base.
  • In addition to being a member of the Michigan Retailers Association, Edsenga was appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the board of the Food Security Council for the State of Michigan, serving through 2022.
twig 23 rs

Jovana Garcia

Senior Recruiter


  • Garcia conducted a comprehensive analysis of the recruitment process, recommending the implementation of a centralized recruitment budget; the project is expected to save between $300,000 and $500,000 in annual hourly recruiting-related expenses.
  • She led a successful pilot program of a recruitment automation tool that resulted in a 69% reduction in the time it took to schedule an interview.
  • Garcia was a member of the Holland Museum’s Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion Committee, in Michiagan, and also active in Women of Color Give, which helps allocate funds to community agencies that support the BIPOC population.
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Emily Henao

Director, Customer Loyalty


  • Henao led the strategy and implementation of Meijer’s new mPerks loyalty program, pulling off a flawless transition with more than $11 million of customer value transferred from the old platform into the new platform, with no negative customer impact.
  • She and her team also rolled out a new customer insights tool that allows stores to monitor real-time customer feedback and net promoter score reporting to enable real-time customer outreach and experience optimization.
  • While currently pursuing her MBA at the University of Michigan, Henao was chosen to participate in a company talent development program.
twig 23 rs

Nicole Kidd

Market Director


  • Kidd led her South Indianapolis market of nine stores through the rollout of the Flashfood initiative, as well as self-checkout deployment, offering targeted training to leaders and self-checkout team members, coaching in the moment, and explaining the why behind the technology.
  • Kidd worked closely with community partners, including the Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Brothers United and Girls Club of Indianapolis.
  • Through her work on the executive board of the Women at Meijer resource group, she helped facilitate many events to drive awareness in regard to mental health, breast cancer and heart health.
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Irisi Tole

Manager, Information Technology


  • Tole developed and maintained a set of user experience design standards and guidelines for the Meijer organization, which moved the company from the 25th percentile to the 75th percentile in the dunnhumby Retail Index.
  • As the user experience leader of the new mPerks experience, she exceeded target audiences’ expectations, resulting in 88.6% of customers reporting high levels of satisfaction, and a 25% increase in loyal customer growth.
  • Tole played a leading role in the creation of a new resource subgroup for women in technology to help amplify their voices and offer greater support to women in this field.
twig 23 rs

Kalli Zielbauer

Internal Communications Manager


  • Zielbauer developed a communication process that enables her to support six centers of excellence and the chief human resources officer simultaneously; the process has been universally adopted by the team and shared with other teams as a model for communication support.
  • In addition to her HR work, she worked as a product owner for the company’s intranet, where she identified top priorities for the development team.
  • A two-time recipient of the company’s Exceeding Expectations award, Zielbauer was a member of the Women at Meijer and YoPro team member resource groups.
twig 23 rs

Annette Reitano

Director, Digital Marketing and E-Commerce    

Northeast Shared Services

  • Reitano was responsible for all digital marketing and e-commerce at Price Chopper/Market 32 and oversaw more than $150 million in annual e-commerce sales through 123 stores.
  • She led the conversion of e-commerce pickup orders from a third party to teammate shopping, which led to pickup nearly doubling as a percentage of overall e-commerce.
  • Reitano’s team implemented in-depth UTM tracking processes, establishing best-in-class qualification of all site visitors while driving up site traffic with the company’s other targeted tactics and reducing bounce rates to below 1%.
twig 23 rs

Rachel Tefft

Senior Manager, Community Food Systems    

PCC Community Markets

  • Through her stewardship of the Growing for Good program, Tefft advocated for hunger relief organizations and farmers to cultivate a future for Pacific Northwest food security.
  • She drove the statewide expansion of PCC’s nutrition security initiative, Friends of PCC, which helps facilitate sourcing opportunities for food bank partners to obtain organic products.
  • Tefft contributed to Sound Consumer, PCC’s newspaper dedicated to informing and inspiring the cooperative grocer’s community through a vision of advancing the health and well-being of people, their neighborhoods and the planet.
twig 23 rs

Elsie Cordero

Director, Shopper Strategy, PepsiCo Shopper Analytics and Insights

PepsiCo Inc.

  • Cordero’s unique approach to joint business planning in 2022 helped ensure that her company had a more equal seat at the table.
  • She created clear roles and responsibilities for her team to improve process efficiency, implemented process improvements, and updated documentation to help enable new team members to get up to speed quickly and effectively.
  • Cordero completed the Breakthrough Organizational Leadership Development Mastermind course, which helps to create a network of Black and Latino professionals who focus on career goals and strategies and develop additional leadership capabilities.
twig rs 23

Jodi Dame

Quaker Senior Foodservice Manager

PepsiCo Inc.

  • A PepsiCo veteran of more than 22 years in multiple sales positions, Dame supported national accounts and new business across the globe, aiding in the implementation of Quaker Foodservice’s strategy across some of PepsiCo’s largest customers.
  • She worked with the company’s top three customers to build strategic roadmaps for growth across the entire portfolio, and helped another partner convert more than $2 million in revenue away from its competition.
  • This past February, Dame was awarded the Chairman’s Ring of Honor, which is the highest achievement within the PepsiCo organization.
twig rs 23

Staceyann Dawson

Senior Director, Southeast Region, Frito-Lay

PepsiCo Inc.

  • Responsible for leading the customer sales team for the Southeast region, with $3.8 billion in business, Dawson ensured that the team had operating plans and initiatives designed to win share, deliver revenue and execute on profit plans.
  • She and her team sold in-line dip at Publix, which will result in more than 1.5 additional feet of space across all 1,300 Publix accounts; she also secured a customized Lay’s Local event, resulting in 300 incremental end caps and merchandising throughout the chain.
  • An FMI member, Dawson also played a key role in PepsiCo’s employee resource groups.
twig 23 rs

Jennifer Duffner

Senior Key Account Manager, PepsiCo Foods North America

PepsiCo Inc.

  • Duffner led all field communication and execution within Meijer on behalf of Frito-Lay; she also ensured that field teams had best-in-class playbooks and also led digital activation and penetration efforts.
  • She sold in all price increases and worked closely with Meijer to align on the biggest opportunities to drive share, as well as optimizing the calendar to lean into those share opportunity weeks; she also sold the first-ever stand-alone Doritos Dip display to support the launch. 
  • Duffner was the regional leader for the Adelante employee resource group with the North Central region of Frito-Lay North America.
twig 23 rs

Kristy Glykofridis

Target Team Lead, PepsiCo Foods

PepsiCo Inc.

  • Glykofridis was responsible for managing sales for the Frito-Lay portfolio, as well as customer strategy and building partnerships with all retail environments for the Frito-Lay West region.
  • She led pricing harmonization for West of Rockies and East of Rockies, which required cross-functional collaboration internally and the development of execution plans and customer communication implementation.
  • Additionally, Glykofridis was a mentor of the Stacy’s Rise Project; a Pinnacle Pod lead, in which capacity she mentored female leaders within PepsiCo; and the district executive sponsor for the Women of Color employee resource group.
TWIG 23 rs

Jenny Harvey-Hernandez

Senior Director

PepsiCo Inc.

  • Tasked with the overall performance of Pepsi Beverages North America’s portfolio for Costco U.S., Harvey-Hernandez was promoted to lead a $500 million business that included sales and strategies for brands like Pepsi, Gatorade, Muscle Milk, Rockstar and Pure Leaf.
  • She overdelivered on the net revenue plan for the year while managing industry headwinds; she also established a re-packer partnership with the customer and created a depot delivery to improve in-stock rates.
  • Harvey-Hernandez won a company Platinum Smiles Award in 2022 and was an executive lead for the Women’s Inclusion Network in her division.
twig 23 rs

Audrey Haston

Director, Shopper Strategy, Demand Accelerator

PepsiCo Inc.

  • Haston set the shopper strategy agenda across PepsiCo Foods North America (PFNA), which contributed $27 billion in retail sales in 2023, up 15% from the prior year; she worked with sales, strategy, category leadership, marketing and insights partners in all retail channels.
  • Even in a volatile year, she contributed to PFNA’s solid results, which included a 19.3% lift in Frito-Lay’s net revenue and a 15% gain net revenue for Quaker, and managed the Demand Accelerator mentorship program.
  • Haston was chosen to take part in PepsiCo’s Leadership Assessment and Development program in 2022.
twig 23 rs

Sara Ann Pogorely

Senior Manager, Demand Accelerator Space Capabilities

PepsiCo Inc.

  • Pogorely partnered with insights, brand and commercial teams to align on best-in-class space productivity principles and collected and disseminated best practice approaches among category leadership across the entire PepsiCo enterprise.
  • She commercialized new space capabilities, including new incrementality models with IRI assortment optimization, and pushed for improvement in many legacy digital space capabilities; she also shared these space capabilities across PepsiCo’s global teams.
  • Pogorely received the H2 2022 DX Accelerator Award for her support of space gains.
twig 23 rs

Julie Rubin

Director, Retail Media

PepsiCo Inc.

  • Collaborating with other performance marketing teams at PepsiCo, Rubin unlocked the potential of retail media networks, driving omnichannel media efficiencies and effectiveness. 
  • She delivered 25% improvement in retail media ROI, overhauled tools that spurred new efficiencies, enhanced retail media networks’ side-by-side scorecards, standardized reporting networks and launched a new ROI process for retail media. 
  • Rubin led PepsiCo’s team to second place in the 2022 International Marketing Data Strategy of the Year Echo Awards from the Association of National Advertisers. 
twig 23 rs

Barbara Schwartz

Frito-Lay Customer Management Director

PepsiCo Inc.

  • Leading the region’s small business for PepsiCo, Schwartz oversaw a team of 27 across 15 states to support chain, national and independent customers. 
  • Thanks to her efforts, independent business rose 13% and Dollar General’s business climbed 25%, and she was instrumental in the development of a relationship with Casey’s; Schwartz built her team to accelerate independent business transformations and created a strategy for chain and independent stores.
  • The executive sponsor of the Equal employee resource group, Schwartz led teams taking part in Pride parades.  
twig rs 23

Jessica Webb

Customer Management Director of Sales

PepsiCo Inc.

  • Webb’s responsibilities included leading the Frito-Lay core portfolio business at Kroger, a $1.6 billion business. 
  • Her leadership led to a 14.3% increase in core snack sales, outpacing total retailer growth by 3%; she spearheaded a project to add 10% of innovation in 2022 and 2023 into distribution with full marketing campaigns; and she played a pivotal part in the company’s diversity and inclusion mission, serving as the lead for PepsiCo Foods Women of Color employee resource group. 
  • Webb won the Quaker Foods Sales Team of the Year Award for her work with Kroger. 
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Sheryl Albert

Senior Growth Analyst, North America Market Operations, Corporate Sales

Procter & Gamble

  • Albert tackled the oral care category for P&G’s regional grocery sales group by leveraging data to identify opportunities for improvements.
  • Under her watch, the company’s oral care sales increased significantly and she sold in more than 40 incremental items; after she identified children’s products as a priority, those sales categories went up, too, and she also championed an effective new approach with wholesalers.
  • Albert received the P&G CEO Award last year, given to only 5% of global employees, and took part in a letter-writing campaign encouraging people to vote. 
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Sarah Beischel

Account/Client/Service Coordinator, North America Market Operations

Procter & Gamble

  • A grooming category expert serving the Kroger customer team, Beischel worked closely on new item and conversion submissions, promotion and display recommendations, contracts, performance verification, and more.
  • She helped turn around a challenged grooming business while also improving the company’s promotional and marketing spend efficiencies and widening its e-commerce availability. 
  • A two-time recipient of the P&G Kroger Team Expert of the Year Award, Beischel recently won the People First Award and the Accountable Award at P&G. 
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Laura Coupal

Senior Manager, North America Market Operations, Customer HQ Selling

Procter & Gamble

  • Responsible for a multimillion-dollar portfolio across multiple Northeast grocery customers, Coupal developed joint business plans, coordinated marketing events and served as the P&G baby care and feminine care leader. 
  • She overdelivered on category metrics across the Demoulas Market Basket and Price Chopper grocery store chains, achieving the first baby care reset at Demoulas in more than five years. 
  • Coupal was named the company’s first Ultimate Sales Battle Champion in 2022 and volunteered in her community. 
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Jordan Gray

Director, Customer Market Knowledge, Urban Innovation

Procter & Gamble

  • Focusing on urban innovation, Gray led analytics and insights for P&G regional grocery and corporate customers, focusing on partners and retailers in mainly urban areas, and working with all P&G categories.
  • She pioneered the design, development and execution of breakthrough integrated local consumer insights and analytics capabilities for the P&G Urban Innovation team, playing a key role in delivering that team’s bold vision of making P&G top in the market.
  • Gray was inducted to in the P&G Analytics and Insights Mastery Society in 2022; outside of work, she mentored children. 
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Brooke Opalach

North America Market Operations, Analyst

Procter & Gamble

  • Opalach handled P&G’s consumer marketing for the Harris Teeter customer team, where her duties included activating national and regional marketing initiatives, and fully customized initiatives. 
  • She was instrumental in launching P&G’s fully customized citizenship platform, Aisles for All, in partnership with Harris Teeter; year-long events led to the donation of more than $100,000 to community organizations, and the program delivered significant increases for both companies.
  • P&G awarded Opalach its prestigious CEO Award and the Equality and Inclusion Annual Award; she was also active in the company’s women’s network. 
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Caroline Sanchez

Director, Baby Care, Customer HQ Selling

Procter & Gamble

  • In addition to her role as a baby care leader, Sanchez guided the company’s Top Grocery management system, an internship program and various culture initiatives.
  • While overdelivering on metrics, she led a customer three-year joint business plan pilot, which has now been executed in other P&G categories, and developed the first Kroger and Pampers community event supporting Black maternal health equity in Cincinnati. 
  • A leader in P&G’s Hispanic network and owner of the manufacturer’s LBGTQ+ ally awareness initiatives, Sanchez also coached soccer and basketball. 
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Kim Becker

Senior Financial Analyst Tech

Save A Lot

  • In a recently expanded role in IT, Becker oversaw financials for the entire department and created effective business partnerships with the sourcing department to efficiently process new or renewed software. 
  • One example of her recent accomplishments was the development of process improvements to better manage expenses by product; additionally, her attention to detail helped generate more than $1 million of missed capital expense in 2022.
  • She volunteered at the St. Vincent De Paul Society, preparing monthly dinners for homeless shelters, and provided assistance to those in need through grocery gift cards, utility assistance and clothing donations.
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Diane Botonis

Director, IT Business Management

Save A Lot

  • In a newly created role, Botonis worked closely with the CIO and IT and business teams on operational efficiencies, work management, mentoring and budget alignment.
  • She identified nearly $1 million in operating expenses that should have been marked as capital expenses, a move that raised EBITDA results; guided the switch to system-driven budgets and expense management; and established management guidelines. 
  • She supported Brace for Impact, a group that builds and maintains a children’s home in Haiti, and was a member of the Greek Orthodox Philoptochos Society, which aids those in need.  
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Carrol Cheatwood

Area Business Consultant

Save A Lot

  • Supporting Save A Lot’s largest retail partner, with 89 stores in eight states, Cheatwood worked to increase retail partner profitability and wholesale purchases.
  • In 2022 and 2023, she helped coordinate resets and remodels for 35 stores and was slated to help with 18 more; her work helped her retail partner boost sales and profitability by 8.2% year over year.
  • Working with the Save A Lot marketing and sales teams, Cheatwood coordinated the grocer’s annual Bags for A Brighter Holiday charitable event, which sold nearly 50,000 bags in less than two months; in 2022, Save A Lot recognized her achievements by naming her a Q1 MVP for her region.
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Alicia Cook

Category Director

Save A Lot

  • Responsible for such categories as beverages, candy, snacks, coffee/tea, condiments, baking, spices, cookies, crackers, cereal and ethnic foods, Cook oversaw supplier relationships and managed promotional ad planning and pricing strategies; she was promoted in October 2022.
  • She grew same-store salty snack sales by 6.3% from April to August 2022, led a 17.9% gain in a private label potato chip program and spurred a 42% year-over-year gain in total seasonal candy purchases by Save A Lot retail partners.
  • A volunteer at Friends of Kids with Cancer, Cook will be inducted into the Private Label Industry Hall of Fame in the class of 2023.
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Nicole Crites

Director, Business Development Financial Planning and Analysis

Save A Lot

  • Crites created incentives to drive new growth in stores and improve their profitability; her duties ranged from providing business and financial models during the new store opening process to assisting stores through remodeling.
  • Instrumental in helping the company transition to a wholesale business, she helped introduce a price book that improved margins, and she launched a financial calculator tool for retail partners. 
  • Crites joined The Almira Circle executive committee, a women’s empowerment group, through her alma mater, Greenville University, and was on the selection committee of the school’s Women in Leadership scholarship committee.
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Kathy Lessmann

Senior IT Data Management Specialist, Data Insights 

Save A Lot

  • One of Lessmann’s notable achievements was decommissioning the Tableau reporting platform at Save A Lot; her work enabled this to be done with very little business disruption and saved the company $100,000 annually.
  • Identifying a need to improve a process in which financial estimates were gathered, she developed a system-oriented workflow using Microsoft Power Apps technology.
  • As a volunteer for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Lessmann met with low-income families in her area, helped facilitate payments of utilities, offered food and clothing assistance, and served as the coordinator of the holiday Adopt A Family program.
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Rosalind Campbell

Senior Manager, In-Store Environment

The Save Mart Cos.

  • Campbell established design standards for all stores, from department-level branding to shelf-level promotional content and messaging, and secured new relationships with external design partners, resulting in quicker execution timing and continuity.
  • She oversaw the successful implementation of a customer-centric environmental sign package that communicates and emphasizes the FoodMaxx “price as hero” strategy, teaming with store leadership and the banner’s VP of operations to monitor, evaluate and tailor the project.
  • Campbell is on a team developing a grocery store and café exhibit for the Modesto Children’s Museum, in California, the first institution of its kind in the region.
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Kelsey Carter

Transportation Director

The Save Mart Cos.

  • Carter developed and implemented the JJ Keller Driver Training Program at the Merced and Lathrop, Calif., transportation locations, ensuring that 14 new drivers passed the training course in six months and began driving for The Save Mart Cos.
  • Through her leadership, third-party reduction improved by more than 86% in the first quarter of 2022.
  • Carter has volunteered for Love Oakdale for the past three years, participated in the California Trucking Association’s San Joaquin chapter events, and supported Save Mart’s community outreach programs by coordinating truck deliveries to food banks and events like Farm to Fork and Chinese New Year throughout California and Nevada.
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Jessica Daniel

Human Resources Director, Talent Development

The Save Mart Cos.

  • As interim VP of human resources for several months, Daniel seamlessly stepped into a leadership role, directly overseeing all HR functions for 15,000-plus associates, 200 stores, and multiple corporate offices and distribution centers; during this time, she oversaw several critical initiatives.
  • She developed and delivered structured leadership development training to all 200 store managers to strengthen their people leadership, improve customer service and increase associate engagement.
  • Daniel volunteered regularly as a kindergarten teaching assistant in the classroom of her local elementary school and supported school fundraising efforts.
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Cori Nobriga

Senior Category Manager, Service Deli

The Save Mart Cos.

  • After 31 years in operations, Nobriga successfully made the move to merchandising, where her operational background has proved to be her most valuable asset, enabling her to improve inventory management, ordering and merchandising processes.
  • Through simplifying inventory processes, standardizing inventory validation and constant manager coaching, she achieved a more than 200-basis-point reduction in service deli shrink versus the prior year; she also focused on reducing overall costs through vendor negotiations and partnerships.
  • Nobriga was an active board member of the Save Mart Employee Association.
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Anupriya Agrawal, PhD

Principal Data Scientist

Schnuck Markets Inc.

  • Agrawal’s team created and deployed personalized omnichannel experiences, AI-based financial planning and forecasting, and data-driven operations and merchandising.
  • Her patent-pending work products generated 400 million-plus personalized omnichannel offers annually while enabling CPGs to target customers with the right product offers at the right time via the customer’s preferred engagement channel; this capability  alone gave Schnucks a strategic competitive advantage in the markets that it serves.
  • Agrawal participated in the LEAP program, which is geared toward high-potential Schnucks employees.
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Diane D’Angelo

Director of Club Channel Sales

Schwan’s Consumer Brands (A Subsidiary of Schwan’s Co.)

  • D’Angelo delivered significant sales growth in 2022 for the third consecutive year with her two club store accounts: One account saw total sales growth of 29.5%, while the other saw growth of 19.5%.
  • She played a critical role in the integration of the new CJ Foods sales team, training them on Schwan’s internal forecasting tools and sharing the company’s strategic approach to trade management and investment.
  • D’Angelo has provided retail insights on the club channel to Cleveland Research for the past several years; this has enabled the firm to issue publications on shopper dynamics and trends.
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Rachael Peot

Director of Category Management

  • Schwan’s Consumer Brands (A Subsidiary of Schwan’s Co.)

  • Peot’s category strategies and plans played an integral part in helping to drive the total business up by double digits versus the prior year across the portfolio.
  • She led a strategic project outside of her normal responsibility set to create an internal platform to share relevant need-to-know information regarding the consumer brands business; the platform now serves as the single source of truth for the consumer brands organization.
  • Peot helped organize the annual national sales meeting and had ownership over building category narratives, which were used to align category opportunities with internal strategies.
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Anamaria Rodriguez

Executive Office Manager

Sedano’s Supermarkets

  • Having joined the company at 15 as a cashier and steadily risen through the ranks, Rodriguez was promoted to her present role by the VP because of her exemplary performance.
  • Overseeing the day-to-day operations of all 33 Sedano’s stores and managing billing and communications with vendors, she was a champion of communication and an effective problem solver, as well as a mentor to her team.
  • Dedicated to keeping the company’s traditions alive, Rodriguez was involved in Sedano’s numerous relief efforts, which included sponsoring families, donating meals, and giving back to local causes and organizations.
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Elaine Williams

HR Specialist

ShopRite Supermarkets Inc.

  • Williams’ district leads the company in mitigating risk through compliance management, consistently exceeding 95% compliance — far outpacing other districts as well as company-wide compliance goals.
  • Despite a challenging recruiting environment, she ensured that 10 regional stores met all staffing needs, achieving this through such means as company-wide job fairs, virtual job fairs, in-store hiring events and on-the-spot interviews.
  • During the pandemic, Williams headed a program to provide meals for nurses at local hospitals, and her efforts have led her district to contribute generously to various company fundraising initiatives.
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Betsy Bianchi

Marketing Manager

Skogen's Festival Foods

  • Bianchi led all facets of marketing integration for Festival Foods' improved Gas Rewards program -- in-store, broadcast, digital, social and out-of-home -- as well as handling the coordinating logistics and marketing with fuel partner Kwik Trip. 
  • After marketing requested ownership of in-store decor as a guest-facing communication, she took on the responsibility of coordinating updated decor graphcis, store-specific deadlines and on-time installations for five location renovations and one new store opening. 
  • As a free-lance photographer, Bianchi provided free photo sessions for various nonprofit organizations in and around the Green Bay, Wis. area. 
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Crystal Seiler

Senior Director, Finance and Accounting

Skogen’s Festival Foods

  • Thanks to Seiler’s deft financial oversight, not only did EBITDA exceed the annual operating plan by 10.17%, but contribution to overhead also exceeded the plan by 4.3%.
  • As the finance owner and sponsor of a master data management project known as Project Symphony, she leveraged her experience from working on other projects of this magnitude to coach and guide the team on a design incorporating industry best practices and ensured that all business needs were accounted for in the midst of change.
  • In addition to her busy work schedule, Seiler served as a mentor to several of Festival Foods’ emerging female leaders.
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Jacklyn Avila

Director of Marketing, Media and Shopper Marketing

Smart & Final

  • In her role as Smart & Final’s shopper marketing lead, Avila launched a best-in-class retail media network to leverage the company’s owned assets and data to capture vendor co-op dollars; this has achieved 100% revenue growth since its inception in 2022.
  • She also introduced digital coupons, an enterprise-wide project in 2022, which drove a record amount of new customers to Smart & Final’s digital platforms, website and app.
  • In her free time, Avila regularly participated in March of Dimes walks in honor of her healthy daughter who was born prematurely, and volunteered for beach cleanups.
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Katrina Brooks

Manager, Talent Development and Engagement

Smart & Final

  • Brooks’ stellar efforts in relation to associate engagement led to a 4% increase in overall associate engagement and a 41% increase in the amount of recognition given among associates.
  • The development programs that she headed for more than 50 company leaders resulted in promotions for five of them in the same year; additionally, she led the performance management process to a remarkable 98% completion rate — the highest that Smart & Final has ever seen.
  • A GROW Coaching Certified Facilitator who guides people to unlock their potential, Brooks was also deeply involved in NextUp to aid the advancement of all women.
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Natalie Carmona

Talent Development Partner

Smart & Final

  • Promoted from assistant store manager, Carmona made numerous suggestions that led to cost-saving revisions of training programs, helping her district achieve a 3% improvement in turnover year over year and improve its shrink results by 15%.
  • Based on her performance, Carmona was selected for the company’s annual management development program, which admits only about 40 associates out of 11,000.
  • Carmona participated in events at the Sacramento, Calif., LGBT Center, donated clothing to the Sacramento Gender Health Center, and was a part of a small group, Queersactrash, that does community trash pickup days.
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Karen Layten

Business Analyst

Smart & Final

  • Layten’s major accomplishment was leading the demand and fulfill project for all 253 stores and approximately 15,000 SKUs — no small endeavor, as it was tried before and failed; her successful efforts positively affected the stores, the sales team and, ultimately, the company’s bottom line.
  • As well as finding and troubleshooting all issues within the program, she trained buyers in the new system and updated the senior leadership team on the progress of the rollout.
  • Layten regularly volunteered at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, in California, handing out free ice cream to the kids and participating in arts and crafts days.
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Cynthia Lopez

Construction Capital Manager

Smart & Final

  • Lopez single-handedly revamped Smart & Final’s entire purchasing and capital-tracking process for the store development and construction department, which helped the company better manage its $65 million in capital expenditures
  • She was promoted to the newly created role of construction capital manager, which reflected the importance of having tight integration among store design, construction, purchasing and maintenance, and of controlling the capital flowing through these departments.
  • Passionate about the battle to cure and treat cancer, Lopez was involved with company efforts in partnership with City of Hope.
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Tia M. Billups

Director of Business Development


  • Billups took a key role in successfully negotiating a four-year contract extension with SpartanNash and the Defense Commissary Agency.
  • She created innovative systems that resulted in reduced private label shrink, thereby preventing waste, freeing up front-line associates and saving the company more than $100,000.
  • When SpartanNash hosted its company-wide Helping Hands Day, Billups took a main role, curating a list of charitable organizations, working with charitable partners to coordinate the day, assisting individual leads at each site and bringing in a food truck at the closing event to show appreciation to associates.
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Kate Blauwkamp

Director of Benefits and Payroll


  • Blauwkamp played an integral role in reducing year-over-year spend in health benefits while increasing benefit levels, as well as in raising pay by an average of 7.4% for all entry-level roles in retail and supply chain, representing approximately 90% of associates.
  • She helped roll out a school leave program that enables associates who are pursuing degrees to continue their employment while they further their education.
  • Blauwkamp was on the board of directors of GATE, an after-school program that supports youth, and regularly volunteered with Hand 2 Hand, a local food ministry.
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Cynthia Collins

Warehouse Operations Supervisor


  • The Omaha, Neb., distribution center’s first Black supervisor, Collins took on the most complex role in the division; she ensured that everyone on her team was well trained, reduced turnover and made the workplace a happier environment.
  • Thanks to her organizational improvements, damage reduction was in the mid double digits, inventory adjustments improved by more 65%, selector productivity increased by more than 25%, and accuracy was up, resulting in dramatic increases in earnings and EBITDA.
  • Collins’ spot on the safety and damage committee enabled her to garner valuable information on warehouse improvements.
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Marti Hitchings

Marketing Operations Manager


  • In charge of marketing for 2,100 independent grocery customers, Hitchings beat the profitability budget by almost 40% in 2022 by appreciating each retailer’s unique position. 
  • She organized seminars for independents at the SpartanNash Food Expos and championed a Webinar Wednesday platform.
  • Hitchings created a refined digital marketing menu that prompted 50 additional stores to embrace marketing services, and she launched the Support Services Group, a tracking platform that lets SpartanNash assess program participation, detect voids and develop growth opportunities for 14 business platforms.
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Beth Murphy

Director, Promotional Programs


  • Murphy developed the Monthly Savings Book, a selling tool that communicates promotional plans tailored to each independent grocery customer; since the launch of the book, which includes key pre-sells and regional offers, sales have surpassed initial goals by more than 25%.
  • She led planning and execution of fall and summer vendor expos that showcased models of newly renovated stores and an array of own-brand merchandise, drawing more than 1,500 suppliers and independent grocers; as a result, grocery, frozen and dairy sales increased by double digits.
  • In her spare time, Murphy volunteered at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, in Michigan.
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Brandy Payne

Distribution Center Operations Manager


  • Payne seamlessly helped recruit about 25% of a 200-person workforce and was identified as a possible future distribution director, which would make her one of the only women in this role.
  • Involved in SpartanNash’s cross-dock program, she closely monitored details like temperature controls, helping to reduce damages by the mid double digits, improve inventory adjustments by more than 60% and increase productivity by almost 25%.
  • Through Payne’s reduction of receiving operations from six to five days, productivity, management coverage and associate retention increased.
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Billiejo Vanloon

Business Analyst IV


  • Filling a traditionally male-dominated role, Vanloon was a front-line exemplar in identifying IT solutions across 150 corporate stores, 2,100 independents and 17,500 employees; “Your dedicated support of the end user is beyond what most would commit to,” noted one team member.
  • Her resolution rate was 82%, while her response and resolution service levels were 99% and 96% respectively; she also contributed to an overall 15% reduction in calls to computer support.
  • Vanloon volunteered at Streams of Hope, a nonprofit fostering  healthier communities through food, medical assistance and developmental programs.
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Tracy Blazier

Senior Director, CPG Engagement

SymphonyAI Retail CPG

  • Blazier grew many key client relationships, which included the expansion of a program involving product assortment optimization; the net retention rate was 110%, with her team renewing almost 20 long-term agreements.
  • Through a tier-one retailer’s collaboration program and with her leadership and coaching, clients identified more than $10 million in opportunities for growth of their brands at retail.
  • Blazier helped develop the popular Brunch and Learn series, which gives CPG executive participants a crash course in understanding and leveraging complex data analytics to deliver better proposals.
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Elyse Sanneman

Senior Director, The Learning Center

SymphonyAI Retail CPG

  • Sanneman led the creation of training videos and expanded the use of Symphony’s digital adoption platform, WalkMe, to create Smart WalkThrus and new ActionBots to help users employ valuable features that were previously considered too complex.
  • She implemented a new training curriculum that generated a 47% increase in the number of participating existing clients and an 85% increase in the number of new participants; it also led to a 62% increase in the number of internal employees completing solution training courses.
  • A new series of Brunch and Learn topics that Sanneman developed attracted an average of 100 grocer and CPG users each.
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Chelsea Frank

Human Resources Manager

Tops Markets LLC

  • Handling HR functions for two districts encompassing 28 stores and employing almost 3,000 associates, Frank also oversaw the learning management system for the whole organization.
  • She faced an unimaginable challenge when, in May 2022, 10 people were killed and three injured in a racially motivated mass shooting at a store in Buffalo, N.Y.; her team worked with the community to create a safe place where associates could speak with counselors, comfort each other and try to heal, and a year later, she continued to be a source of associate support.
  • Frank championed education through fundraising efforts with Junior Achievement.
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Laura Gould

Promotions Manager

Tops Markets LLC

  • An expert at troubleshooting issues that prevent store-level promotions from functioning properly, Gould regularly informed stores of potential issues and their resolution.
  • She helped develop a testing process that will let category business managers more effectively predict promotional outcomes; this should improve forecasting sales and margin while helping Tops order appropriate inventory levels to support ads.
  • Gould built and managed the grocery display plan, and she developed a weekly display plan update process in which she reviewed all queue plans, identified potential inventory issues and determined relevant replacement items.
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Jamie Keller

Clinical Pharmacy Specialist

Tops Markets LLC

  • Leading vaccine efforts, Keller conducted more than 750 off-site clinics over the past several flu seasons; this tremendously increased Tops’ vaccine efforts in its communities.
  • Her contribution of clinical knowledge to pharmacists generated an 18% year-over-year increase in market-to-market revenue for the past two years, making Tops a leader among regional chains.
  • Keller constantly strove to push Tops’ medication management program, and her efforts brought in Tops’ highest net revenue for these programs, at $156,000; she also helped better position the grocery store chain by lowering the cost of goods through better use of its generic drug warehouse.
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Karen Miller

Manager, Pricing and Data Analytics

Tops Markets LLC

  • Miller’s team implemented price optimization for 150 out of 210 optimizable categories; sales in optimized categories increased 8.1%, equaling $68 million, and margin grew more than 5.4%, equaling more than $15 million compared with the same time last year. 
  • These categories continued to drive the company’s market share growth, contributing to an increase of more than a point in sales market share versus non-optimized categories; her team continued to work through remaining optimizable categories. 
  • Miller renegotiated competitive retail check contracts with Tops’ vendor for both Tops and Price Chopper/Market 32; this yielded savings of more than $40,000 combined for both companies.
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Kathy Sautter

Director, Corporate Communications and Public Relations

Tops Markets LLC

  • Sautter oversaw several major events, including Tops’ merger with Price Chopper/Market 32 and major snowstorms that temporarily shut down stores.
  • In May 2022, she handled media in the wake of a racially motivated mass shooting at Buffalo, N.Y., store, where 10 people died and three were injured; she worked to present updates in a sensitive, appropriate manner; went beyond her scope of duties to comfort grieving associates; and emceed the store’s reopening after months of closure.
  • Sautter graduated from Tops Leadership Academy, where high performers develop communications, conflict management, coaching and leadership skills.
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Margaret Lin

Associate General Counsel, Benefits Law


  • Lin moved quickly to assess the impact of the Dobbs decision on employee benefits: She gathered information on employee engagement and the cost to the company, and how states/regulators would address companies’ modifying benefit plans so that UNFI could expand its benefits plan to cover travel for care not available within an employee’s state of residence.
  • She successfully rebuilt UNFI’s fiduciary training for executives, while her work collaborating with treasury/benefits in de-risking UNFI’s pension plan added a huge bottom-line benefit to the company.
  • An LGBTQIA+ advocate, Lin showed her support both professionally and personally by participating in various events.
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Jennifer Lipes

Manager, Brand Engagement


  • Lipes worked to make UNFI’s new customer onboarding process more approachable and easier for retailers — a plus in securing new business; she also put her multilingual skills to work facilitating customer engagements with several Dutch-speaking retailers.
  • She oversaw the redesign of the Better For All (ESG) website to offer a digital experience that highlights the work that the company does to support the planet and communities; as a result, the site saw a significant uptick in traffic.
  • A leader in UNFI’s Women’s Belonging and Innovation Group, Lipes has built a reputation as a “culture maker,” based on the relationships she’s fostered and the impact she’s made.
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Kris Novitzki

Director of Shelf Management


  • Novitzki doubled customer count in the South region and beat her budget by 40%; she also established a strong partnership with UNFI’s largest retailer, which won her the business for four years running.
  • Her approach to a large integration at the company and her focus on ensuring that teams were poised for success helped her guide the company through the process seamlessly.
  • A recipient of UNFI’s Circle of Excellence award, Novitzki worked closely with UNFI’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) groups to promote a culture of inclusion, and she came in second in the company’s WIN (Women’s  Integrated Network) Big Innovation Challenge, sponsored by one of UNFI’s DE&I groups.
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Amanda Fischer

Marketing, Business Development and Outreach Manager

Village Super Market Inc.

  • Fischer drove growth with digital, social and in-store signage programs; her team’s A few of Our Favorite things, a holiday program highlighting exclusive items, generated sales of $268,000 and 48% growth, while the Citrus Fest program for specialty citrus drove sales by 143%.
  • She championed Next Fairway Find, an event focused on 50-plus artisanal food companies in New York City to promote unique/quality products in the early stages of building their business, helping to drive better-than-expected sales and customer satisfaction numbers for two Fairway locations. 
  • Fischer spearheaded a holiday meal bag event in stores to provide meals for families in need.
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Maria Guarriello

Benefits Director

Village Super Market Inc.

  • Guariello created partnerships with accounting, HR, IT and operations to break down silos between these areas, allowing for more collaboration and better communication among the groups.
  • She reduced payroll’s processing time of new hires by 70%; centralized the maintenance of the time clock function, saving weekly hours in each store location; automated pay progression rules previously manually maintained; and implemented a bookkeeping supervision team to enhance store bookkeeper training.
  • In her free time, Guariello was an enthusiastic volunteer at her local animal shelter and Humane Society chapter.
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Rachel Caruso

Manager Labor Relations

Wakefern Food Corp.

  • Caruso implemented new bilingual recruitment strategies specifically for affiliated warehouse job openings and partnered with logistics leadership to bolster retention of affiliated warehouse personnel, resulting in a 65% retention rate.
  • She organized and carried out COVID-19 booster clinics at all company locations for affiliated personnel, while also conducting more than 100 grievance hearings that caused no labor disruption; all matters were resolved without proceeding to arbitrations.
  • Caruso was the appointed trustee for a number of pension and welfare funds, and a member of FMI.
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Megan Kehrle

Senior Supervisor Fleet/Mobile

Wakefern Food Corp.

  • Kehrle developed a budget and stayed within its parameters despite challenging supply chain issues; she created best practices to manage routine activities efficiently and effectively, resulting in a 4.1% expense reduction; and she created a capital budget for replacement trailers, switchers and mobile equipment that averages approximately $8 million per year.
  • She developed new processes and procedures that allowed her team to track and monitor equipment price increases.
  • In a primarily male-dominated environment, Kehrle served as a role model for women in the organization and was a mentor to many.
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Amanda Bauman

Director of Marketing

Weis Markets

  • In collaboration with CPG vendors, Bauman worked to support programs and items through digital channels, including negotiating and implementing 34 digital sweepstakes to increase customer engagement.
  • She developed and oversaw the e-coupon program, which offered 250-300 coupons and generated a 50% increase in registered users over the past two years; the high-value and cost-effective incentives have expanded to include fresh departments.
  • Bauman’s team’s Dairy Month social media campaign, which used video, recipes, paid media and a vendor-supported sweepstakes, earned an NFRA Golden Penguin award.
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Alison Gregas

Director of Private Brands

Weis Markets

  • Gregas drove solid results for the private-brand program, achieving a third consecutive year of $1 billion in sales, an 8% increase over 2021; she oversaw the development and launch of 102 new private-brand products, which generated more than $4 million in sales.
  • Despite supply chain challenges, she excelled at finding new suppliers and quickly integrated their items into the company’s procurement system, helping to maintain store-level in-stock conditions.
  • Gregas received three International Salute to Excellence Awards at PLMA’s 2022 Annual Private Label Trade Show; she also served on FMI’s Private Brand Leadership Council.
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Amy Meusel

District Manager

Weis Markets

  • Meusel’s insights and close connection to store-level associates resulted in improvements that led to record sales and profits for 15 recently acquired stores; talent development improvements initiated by her insights resulted in more associate advancement, and her store management teams achieved some of the highest associate satisfaction scores in the company.
  • Under her leadership, sales increased 6% and net income increased 15% in the Harrisburg-Lancaster, Pa., district.
  • Meusel started a professional book-sharing group that has become assigned reading for her team, and her district raised $100,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
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