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2024 Top Women in Grocery: Senior-Level Executives

Progressive Grocer reveals this year's awards program winners in Senior-Level Execs category

Progressive Grocer’s 2024 Top Women in Grocery awards program recognizes the integral role women play across all segments of the North American food retail and grocery industries. 

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 Senior-Level Executives honored in this year’s Top Women in Grocery awards. 

Our profiles illustrate the many different paths that these women took to achieve their current levels of achievement in the realms of retail, CPGs, marketing, tech and more, but two things are true of all of the honorees: their absolute dedication to this business that we all revere, and their determination to make it even better. 

Senior-Level Executives

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Heather Lieder

VP, Client Development, Acosta Group

  • Driving impactful results in the retail landscape, Lieder increased Acosta’s profitability by 23 points with one client and 18 points with another in the space of one year and drove increased client engagement scores across all clients, including one double-digit increase of 19%. 
  • She broke down the c-store barrier with one of her clients, secured $120,000 in revenue and convinced the client to pre-pay 50%. 
  • Lieder broke down the omnichannel barrier with another client and secured $60,000 in revenue for content management and syndication; additionally, she secured a brand-new $50,000 bonus program with a third client. 

Kelli Hammersmith

Chief Communications Officer, Advantage Solutions

  • Hammersmith restructured the corporate communications team to include marketing communications; she also proactively developed a strategy for a wholesale corporate brand refresh.
  • Her efforts led to the creation of a new brand architecture, a unified go-to-market narrative, a cohesive trade show strategy and amplified thought leadership — resulting in lead generation sourced through multiple channels. 
  • Hammersmith is a member of Ella, an inclusive network unlocking women’s access to human, social and financial capital.
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Denise Garcia

SVP, CDS International, Advantage Solutions CDS

  • Garcia restructured and rebuilt six business units — this meant changing entire leadership teams and promoting internal talent; she also secured six rate increases to drive margin growth and invest in talent in the form of wages and recognition vehicles. 
  • In Canada, Garcia won a significant category expansion into the fresh food area and built an external social campaign in partnership with the client marketing team.
  • In addition to being an active member of the Advantage employee resource group PRISM, Garcia is an active mentor for HOLA, which coaches Latinx female future leaders to realize their potential and advance their careers.

Nancy Huynh 

VP Finance, ADUSA Distribution 

  • Huynh revamped a transportation optimization project, taking it from a multimillion-dollar deficit to a multimillion-dollar surplus in her first quarter, and optimized the financial close process for the organization, reducing the time on task by 60%. 
  • Not only did she push for detailed and accurate reporting of risks and mitigation that led to more than $100 million of annual expense savings, prioritizing the development of her associates also led to her team’s Annual Engagement Survey score climbing 300 basis points after only 10 months under her leadership.
  • Huynh is a founding member of her Buddhist temple, a foster cat mom, and a diversity, equity and inclusion advocate.

Peggy Krebs

VP, Procurement Governance, ADUSA Procurement

  • Adding inbound logistics to her role, Krebs delivered improvement of more than 2,400 basis points in on-time delivery performance across a network that receives more than 1 billion purchase orders annually.
  • Partnering with the procurement team, she designed a new operating model across 500-plus associate roles, realigned all teams to be category-centric, reset role accountability under new integrated performance measures and achieved more than 2,500 basis points in service-level improvement to Ahold Delhaize USA’s brands.
  • Krebs led an end-to-end initiative to implement advanced ship notifications for the entire network. 

Karen Fernald

SVP, Category, Merchandising and Pricing, Fresh, Food Lion

  • Fernald helped the fresh categories gain 2.5% in sales by spearheading merchandising and assortment shifts to ensure that the fresh assortment stayed relevant.
  • One of her biggest achievements was almost doubling the number of cut-fruit islands in stores, leading to a sales increase of nearly 30%; another was introducing more products that support customers’ health, such as reformulating the ingredients in some private-brand items to improve nutrient density.
  • Fernald worked with supplier partners on new approaches to reducing plastic packaging material in the meat department, such as replacing Styrofoam trays with a compostable solution.

Jan Fiske

VP Talent Management, Stop & Shop

  • Fiske was director of learning and talent before being promoted to VP in January 2024; in the former role, she prioritized leadership development and redesigned the four Stop & Shop Leadership Academies, providing more participant interaction and hands-on opportunities for learning and networking, and she also designed new tools to reinforce the learning after the training. 
  • Known for responding to employee concerns, she developed and co-facilitated a program, Gaining Confidence Presenting to Large Groups, to improve leaders’ skills in this area.
  • Fiske has volunteered for 11 years with the Wrentham & Plainville Girl Scouts as a troop leader and publicity coordinator, among other positions.

Teresa Abreu

VP Division Counsel, Albertsons Cos.

  • Abreu increased her responsibility by almost 50% in overseeing the NorCal division, where she successfully supported hundreds of locations that required her to work in a complex employment law and regulatory environment.
  • She managed to bring more than 50 agency cases to resolution with a 95% win rate, exceeding her goal, and participated in numerous fact findings/mediations.
  • Abreu still found time to maintain her strong commitment to pro bono work regarding the juvenile justice system — even traveling to Portugal to serve on an international panel — as well as spending weekends visiting juvenile correctional institutions all over the country.

Kristi Argyilan

SVP, Retail Media, Albertsons Cos.

  • Through partnerships with fellow retail media networks, clients and publishers, Argyilan led the creation of a white paper that outlined a standardization framework and garnered more than 40 press mentions, including in The Wall Street Journal. 
  • Working with such industry partners as Pinterest and Liveramp, she made strides toward creating a privacy-conscious third-party space for brands to better connect the dots between their first-party data and customer engagement through a clean-room prototype and incrementality measurement.
  • Argyilan was named to the AdWeek 50, an award that honors the top 50 “indispensable” leaders and executives.

Katie Ceclan

VP, Own Brands Marketing and Fresh Category Management, Albertsons Cos.

  • Ceclan oversaw the full rebranding of the entire Own Brands portfolio, including developing a brand architecture to define the distinct consumer segments, design target, brand essence and brand character of each brand, all leading to better activation at the shelf.
  • She led an initiative to add How To Recycle information to all Own Brands packaging; the project was expected to take three years, but Ceclan delivered it in just eight months, bringing in new packaging agencies to diversify workload and accelerate progress. 
  • Ceclan enhanced the company’s marketing capabilities, achieving a record 2 billion impressions.

Hala Corral

VP, Service Deli/Food Service Retail Support, Albertsons Cos.

  • Corral assisted divisions with the execution of merchandising priorities, displays and sales initiatives to reach their full potential in driving sales, performance and profits; she oversaw a multibillion-dollar deli/foodservice department. 
  • She launched a national sandwich program, building the category by 9.4% in sales; created an expanded snacker program, inclusive of other departments, that delivered more than 1,000% sales annually; and rolled out an on-trend catering program. 
  • Corral was inducted into the 2023 American Cheese Society, achieved Six Sigma Master Black Belt Certifications, and shared her time as a member of Albertsons’ Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network. 

Gineal Davidson

SVP, National Merchandising, Albertsons Cos.

  • Davidson directed total store merchandising, collaborating with division leadership and merchandising teams to implement national strategies and further growth; she led a team of 300 associates and also worked to inform Own Brands assortments and merchandising.
  • Her work was crucial as Albertsons moved from a decentralized merchandising model to one with a national scale, and she helped the retailer deliver a higher level of fresh products and spearheaded the re-engineering of space-planning tools and processes to bring products to customers in a more efficient way. 
  • Davidson shared her considerable expertise as a board member of the Western Association of Food Companies.

LaDonna Hale

VP, Sales and Business Development, Manufacturing, Albertsons Cos.    

  • Hale directed sales and revenue initiatives for the retailer’s manufacturing plants; her team delivered annual sales of more than $1.25 billion. 
  • Thanks to her strategic approach, Albertsons achieved a 53% reduction in liabilities and saved more than $2.4 million; she also rolled out a new pricing initiative to mitigate the impacts of inflationary increases and help divisions react more quickly to changing costs. 
  • Hale served on the MilkPEP board of directors; represented Lucerne Foods/Albertsons Cos. on the California Milk Processors Board; chaired the Boise, Idaho, chapter of the Albertsons Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network; and volunteered with community programs. 

Manjari Mehrotra

VP, Loyalty and Personalization Activation, Albertsons Cos.    

  • Mehrotra grew the grocer’s loyalty customer base by defining the personalization strategy and enhancing digital engagement. 
  • She led her team to launch several initiatives to improve the loyalty customer experience across the omnichannel, including enhanced access to rewards and a new deals hub that consolidates all customer offers in one place; her efforts led to 14% growth in enrollment, a 16% lift in loyalty engagement and a higher return on ad spend.
  • In addition to mentoring younger employees, Mehrotra shared her talent as a member of the Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network, the Asian Network, and the Women of Color Alliance associate resource groups.

Jill Pavlovich

SVP, Shopper Experience, Albertsons Cos.    

  • Leading a 184-person team, Pavlovich was responsible for the digital product strategy and management of Albertsons’ mobile app and website, with the goal of delivering a differentiated, fully connected end-to-end customer experience. 
  • She launched several new digital programs, such as subscription grocery capabilities, digital deli programs and shoppable recipes, and also spearheaded the organization’s transformational mindset shift to a “connected experience” strategy.
  • Pavlovich sat on the Women’s Inspiration & Inclusion Network board and the Fresh Strategy Steering Committee at Albertsons; she also volunteered at Boston Children’s Hospital. 

Michelle Steele

VP, Bakery, Albertsons Cos.

  • A 40-year Albertsons veteran, Steele headed up planning, strategic initiatives, P&L responsibilities, innovation, and operations for more than 2,470 bakeries.
  • She directed a major initiative in bakery redesign work, leading cross-functional teams to develop modern bakery fixtures and revitalizing merchandising displays, and her work resulted in a double-digit sales increase and easier functionality use for both associates and customers; moreover, bakery results have outpaced company results over the past two years. 
  • Steele developed the company’s Bakery Leadership Summit in 2023, served on the IDDBA board and was active with the Boise State Food Pantry.  

Marie Sylla-Dixon    

SVP Policy/Government and External Affairs, Albertsons Cos.

  • Sylla-Dixon oversaw such policy issues as organized retail crime, supply chain, competition, tax and trade, health care, labor and employment, food insecurity, and sustainability, with responsibility for all government affairs/merger relations.  
  • She held an industry landscape briefing with a bipartisan caucus, helped coordinate nearly 30 meetings with attorneys generals across the country, and coordinated several speaking engagements on the pending merger with The Kroger Co. 
  • Sylla-Dixon served on the Federal Communications Commission’s advisory committee and was a board member for City Year Washington, D.C.

June Zheng

VP Corporate Strategy, Albertsons Cos.

  • Zheng excelled this past year in leading strategic work in fresh departments across functional teams to improve fresh quality and value for customers shopping in store and online by spearheading a new internal process, workstreams and actions to drive fresh-focused work forward. 
  • These new workstreams delivered impact across product quality and financials, supporting Albertsons’ national work to improve customer experience with regard to freshness and value.
  • Zheng’s exemplary work to drive an improved value focus allowed the company’s teams to deliver millions of dollars in cost savings, which will subsequently be reinvested to provide growth in fresh.

Eureka McCrae

Area VP, Retail Operations, Albertsons Cos./Northern California Division

  • Before being promoted to her current role in May 2023, McCrae was a high-performing district manager for district 25 in Seattle; under her leadership, the district grew its number of female store directors from one to six.
  • Given oversight of seven districts throughout northern California, she led her operating area to exceed the EBITDA plan by 3.1%; meanwhile, she set an accelerated customer experience performance ranking at the top of the Albertsons enterprise.
  • A 2021 graduate of the University of Southern California’s Food Industry Management Program, McRae worked to earn her master’s degree shortly before her promotion last year.

Sheryl Salazar

SVP Sales and Merchandising, Albertsons Cos./Southern California Division

  • Salazar developed a “skip the restaurant” campaign to help educate shoppers on the value of making a meal at home, and she enhanced the program with QR codes in print ads and in-store signage to detail easy meal prep; the campaign resulted in increased customer basket size.
  • She developed a weekly Throwback Savings offer on highly consumable products: A 25-cent hamburger and hot dog bun promo led to increased basket size as consumers purchased products to accompany the buns.
  • Among other honors, Salazar was named Woman of the Year by Southern California’s Food Industries Sales Managers Club.

Rena Shiles

SVP Operations, Albertsons Cos./Southwest Division

  • Shiles shifted store director routines from a direct-and-inspect approach to a more effective “coach, teach, train and provide positive feedback” focus, a change that had a significant positive impact.
  • To focus more heavily on closing routines, she implemented bimonthly late nights to give district managers, ops, AVPs and the SVP the opportunity to visit stores and spend time with nighttime associates to coach, train and get to know team members.
  • Shiles regularly worked with a number of military organizations, among them the Wounded Warrior Project, the Military Mom Collective, the Department of Defense Safe Helpline and Veteran’s Canteen Service. 

Shannon Miller

EVP of Talent Management, Albertsons Cos./United Supermarkets

  • Miller enhanced the Internship /College Mentorship Program, which hosted 15 summer interns; she added a company orientation tailored to intern positions and instituted intern store and facilities visits and a community service day to give interns a more robust understanding of the company. 
  • She launched a multipronged text-messaging platform to communicate with front-line team members, which engaged more than 17,000 employees through recognition, celebrations, team perks and feedback.
  • Miller served on the University Medical Center Underwriting Committee, which raised funds for the Cancer Care Center.

Claire Peters

Worldwide VP of Amazon Fresh, Worldwide Grocery Stores

  • Peters led her team in finding ways to simplify the in-store experience, making it easier for customers to shop; the team’s suggestions resulted in the redesign of five Amazon Fresh stores in the greater Chicago and Los Angeles areas.
  • She made strides in increasing sustainability: The Amazon Fresh store in Seattle became the world’s first grocery store to achieve Zero Carbon Certification from the International Living Future Institute; Peters also expanded online grocery delivery.
  • Additionally, she tested new pilots to offer even greater convenience: Her team rolled out a pilot grocery subscription program exclusively for Prime members in three markets.

Krystyna Kostka

SVP, Retail Fuel and Operations, BJ’s Wholesale Club

  • Kostka implemented robotics solutions to increase efficiency and improve operations in stores and distribution centers; her efforts with robotics and other technologies put BJ’s on the cutting edge of innovation and played an instrumental role in overall strategy.
  • She led the transformation of BJ’s buy-online-pickup-in-store offering; by implementing robotics-driven pick path optimizations, her team dramatically cut fulfillment times, and data captured by these tech-enabled solutions powered BJ’s rapidly growing digital business.
  • Kostka was involved with BJ’s Women’s Forum, where she mentored colleagues, contributed to panel discussions and led support groups.

Cara Renfroe

SVP, Global Operations and Transformation, Blackhawk Network (BHN)

  • Renfroe was instrumental in Blackhawk’s efforts to use sustainable products and packaging: Blackhawk worked alongside Visa to transition its network branded, prepaid products (distributed by third-party retail networks) from plastic to paper-based materials.
  • Thanks to her work, Blackhawk became the first in the industry to gain broad approval from global networks and commit to a significant environmental program; the company aimed to lead the prepaid and gift card industry’s shift from plastic to more sustainable, responsibly sourced materials.
  • In her spare time, Renfroe served as an industry advocate, particularly for other women aspiring to leadership roles.

Laura Howell

Chief Data Officer, C.A. Fortune

  • Howell was instrumental in establishing processes and frameworks for generating actionable insights and providing support to various business functions; this has enabled team members to make data-driven decisions and effectively meet objectives.
  • She overachieved revenue goals by 360%, and she also facilitated the development and rollout of Salesforce, moving the company from spreadsheets to a CRM system; this entailed assessing and understanding the specific requirements and pain points that Salesforce could address.
  • Howell was an advisory board member of a nonprofit supporting the rehabilitation of trafficked and abused women.

Kelly O’Brien

VP Sales, Albertsons Team, C.A. Fortune

  • O’Brien identified and executed programs involving emerging trends and niche markets like organic, gluten-free or plant-based foods, and she negotiated and secured strategic partnerships with key players in the food industry to enhance the company’s market presence, drive sales and create competitive advantages.
  • She led the development of a new branch of C.A.’s ACI team, integrating multiple company partnerships and strategies; the move showcased strategic thinking, leadership and the ability to unite diverse elements, as well as adding more than $60 million in new sales.
  • O’Brien worked with clients to support City of Hope to raise funds for cancer research.

Michelle Bennett

EVP, Consumer and Shopper Insights, Circana

  • Under Bennett’s stewardship, Circana’s Consumer and Shopper Insights vertical witnessed unprecedented growth; her leadership also facilitated the seamless integration of innovative services, positioning Circana’s Consumer and Shopper Insights team as an industry trailblazer.
  • She took over beer, wine and spirits, with the goals of changing minds, removing old perceptions and growing the business; as a result of her efforts, Circana secured partnerships with one of the most influential players in the beer segment and opened doors at numerous others.
  • Within Circana, Bennett made notable contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Leslie Mall

VP of Sales, Kroger Team, The Coca-Cola Co.

  • Under Mall’s leadership, the Coca-Cola customer team catapulted to the No. 2 grocery vendor partner position at The Kroger Co., with $2.3 billion in sales, and Coca-Cola’s e-commerce business grew 21.3% to $22.4 million, twice the rate of Kroger’s total e-commerce rate; Mall’s team additionally delivered double-digit revenue growth (10.8%) and dead net gross profit (19.2%) versus the prior year for the system.
  • She led the sparkling soft-drink team in crafting a compelling story that helped increase Fanta facings at Kroger by 17%.
  • Mall did volunteer work for NextUp and has been a two-time recipient of Coca-Cola’s Women in Leadership Award.

Brigid McGovern

VP, Global Retail Sales, North American Operating Unit, The Coca-Cola Co.

  • Under McGovern’s Defense Commissary Agency annual business plan, warehouse volume increased 6.5% and year-over-year revenue grew 22.3%; in addition, fountain/dispensed beverages grew 3.9% in volume and 2.8% in revenue. 
  • Amid post-pandemic stock concerns, she created an In-Stock Scorecard that matched up planograms with deliveries to track customers’ stock internally in cases where the customer didn’t offer real-time inventory tracking; this let customer teams anticipate customers’ needs.
  • McGovern was involved with several professional organizations, including the National American Logistics Association.

Kallie Millar

General Manager, CROSSMARK

  • Six weeks after she moved into her current role last summer, a customer’s security breach slowed production and caused product shortages, so Millar established communications centered on facts, held town halls for the CROSSMARK and customer teams, and secured additional labor to support in-house teams while systems were reinstated off-site.
  • She launched an initiative to better plan and forecast retail work across multiple worksites; this allowed her team to adjust retail coverage more quickly to stay within budget across the various worksites.
  • A senior ambassador for NextUp, Millar also aimed to help further women’s careers at CROSSMARK.

Dr. Theon Danet

CIO/Executive Director of IT, Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA)

  • Danet became acting director/COO in April 2023 after the director and deputy director both resigned within one month of each other; thanks to her outstanding leadership and organizational skills in the midst of an unforeseen leadership transition, sales climbed from $3.8 billion to $4.2 billion, a 10% increase.
  • Her implementation of a more robust e-commerce platform yielded a 27% increase in delivery of “outpost services,” which is often the only way to supplement food availability for soldiers.
  • In 2023, Danet received the Department of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal; she also belonged to the Order of the Eastern Star.

Emily Taylor

EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer, Dollar General

  • Taylor reworked the DG Market format: Her Food First strategy provides healthier meal options, including fresh food like meat and produce, while the Beauty Reinvention strategy features layouts with additions such as beauty bars; these innovations contributed to a 2.4% increase in net sales between Q3 2022 and Q3 2023. 
  • She led an exciting first-to-market partnership between the DG Media Network and Meta that enabled advertisers to reach more than 90 million unique customer profiles.
  • In 2023, Taylor was named to The Top 50 Women Leaders in Consumer Products and Retail by the Women We Admire membership organization.

Gaylene Blake

Zone VP, West Zone, The Fresh Market

  • Through strong management of controllable lines, Blake led the West Zone to generate more than $75 million in bottom-line performance, exceeding the previous year by more than $4 million and expected performance by more than $5 million.
  • She ensured that the West Zone adhered to company merchandising initiatives while including items such as half-pies and cake slices that drove increased unit and revenue growth.
  • Currently the chair for the women’s business resource group, WAVE, Blake also served on The Fresh Market’s diversity, equity and inclusion board last year and has been recognized within the company for exceptional operational performance.

Elise Hackstall

Regional Manager of Operations, The Fresh Market

  • Hackstall guided her region to notable financial outcomes, among them ranking second in highest revenue comps across the chain, surpassing the chain rate by more than 1.2%, and attaining the top performance against the revenue plan in the chain, exceeding the chain rate by more than 3%.
  • Her vision for cultivating potential has led to the promotion of three assistant store managers to store managers and one store manager to regional manager of operations.
  • Hackstall organized volunteering events for store team members that not only serve the community, but also foster a spirit of teamwork and giving within her region.

Kathleen Smith

Director of Paid and Social Media, The Fresh Market

  • Smith directed a local search initiative that reversed a downward trend in chain-wide comp traffic, subsequently driving 583,000 incremental store visits; this strategy lifted the company’s year-over-year traffic comparison by 4%, achieving an estimated return on ad spend of 58 to one, based on a $40 average basket size.
  • She also oversaw a 62% year-over-year increase in paid media impressions — totaling more than 5.7 billion —while simultaneously reducing overall media spend by 4%.
  • Smith’s love of animals led her to support Colby’s Crew Rescue, as well as Skydog Sanctuary for wild mustangs and burros, and Collie Rescue of the Carolinas.

Liz Zolcak

President, Fresh Thyme Market

  • Zolcak built and launched Fresh Thyme Market’s e-commerce platform enabling customers to easily shop and take advantage of in-store prices online; the launch also introduced a pickup option and improved the customer experience with a focus on connection and loyalty.
  • She kept the company’s focus on local and community matters through the release of its first trends report, further securing Fresh Thyme’s reputation as a Midwest grocery thought leader.
  • Zolcak took pains to advance the grocer’s already robust philanthropic efforts by creating a dedicated volunteer program; personally volunteering time, along with the executive team, on a quarterly basis; and focusing on local food bank support.

Whitney Fortin

VP of Marketing, Happy Egg Co.

  • Fortin led the marketing team in the launch of the Choose Happy campaign, solidifying a brand direction that resonated with consumers; partnerships and paid integrations included the likes of Chrissy Teigen, Joe Rogan, MrBeast and TikTok influencers.
  • For first time in the company’s history, she spearheaded telling the heritage product story, working with prominent chefs as well as traveling overseas to capture the origin story of bird breeds to better educate consumers on where Happy Egg Co.’s eggs come from.
  • Fortin led NextUp Northwest Arkansas, partnering with such organizations as Dress for Success, Saving Grace and Girls on the Run. 

Christine Hubbard

VP of Operations Support, Harris Teeter

  • Under Hubbard’s leadership, Harris Teeter delivered incredible results in fuel: Total gallons sold were more than 159 million, an 8.7% increase from last year.
  • She developed a weekly metric dashboard for pickup and delivery that was the key driver in increasing sales by 9.6%, decreasing complaints by 44%, adding service to more stores, and lowering customer wait time by 1 minute and 20 seconds. 
  • Hubbard implemented operation and merchandising store visits on trips to certain stores to develop actionable tasks for each location, reviewed space allocation, and looked at product mix reduction plans; this resulted in a $2.8 million improvement in EBITDA versus last year.

Taryn Mecia

VP of Legal Compliance, Harris Teeter

  • Mecia helped roll out a food rescue program comprising perishable donations to Feeding America food bank partners and food waste diversion, keeping waste out of landfills and contributing to the company’s bottom line while also feeding families in need across the Harris Teeter footprint and creating renewable energy.
  • Her team worked to operationalize FDA requirements to achieve traceability throughout the food chain and enhance Harris Teeter’s audit program.
  • Mecia served on the board of directors and the executive board of the Charlotte Speech and Hearing Center, which is the only free-standing nonprofit speech and hearing center in the state of North Carolina.

Lianne Tombol

VP, Systems and Krack Product Solutions, Hussmann

  • Tombol helped launch new transcritical CO2 systems as well as a new, state-of-the-art engineering lab; she created and executed a sustainable refrigeration strategy to deliver a broad portfolio of solutions for retailers to help meet regulatory compliance and ESG goals. 
  • She additionally developed a rigorous low-global-warming-potential training curriculum for Hussman’s internal and external stakeholders.
  • Along with being an active member of the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council, Tombol was influential in engaging the local community by initiating connections to technical colleges to drive interest in refrigeration as a trade.  

Aimee O’Leary

VP of Store Design, Hy-Vee Inc.

  • O’Leary helped design “the largest Hy-Vee in the world” — a 135,000-square-foot store — plus its accompanying Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh location, representing the latest in both digital technology and customer experience.
  • She was at helm of incorporating data into the design decision-making process; for example, using customer journey data, she and her team discovered that the Hy-Vee HealthMarket department performed better when adjacent to the produce section, as opposed to the pharmacy. 
  • O’Leary gathered important design research to understand how a store’s floor plan and specific design elements affect employees’ quality of life and efficiency at work.

Anna Stoermer

EVP, Chief Marketing Officer, Hy-Vee

  • Stoermer was the mastermind behind Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend, one of Iowa’s largest community events; for the past two years, it has brought millions of dollars into central Iowa annually by attracting 85,000-plus race fans to the Iowa Speedway.
  • She led the launch of Hy-Vee’s 100 Million Meals Challenge in partnership with Feeding America and integrated this campaign into Hy-Vee’s sponsorship of the NTT INDYCAR Series and Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend to take it to a national level. 
  • Stoermer spearheaded the launch of Hy-Vee’s Perks loyalty program, which involved meticulous planning, coordination and execution to reach Hy-Vee’s millions of customers.

Ashley Page 

VP of Marketing and Public Affairs, IGA Inc.

  • Page initiated and led IGA’s partnership with state grower associations to better promote locally grown foods at independent grocery stores, which resulted in an average sales lift of 35% for promoted products and created a new avenue for IGA to help family-run American farms thrive.
  • She additionally headed up an initiative to provide professional assistance to independent grocers, aiming to reduce the number of food deserts in urban environments.
  • Page served on the board of directors of Ivory Coast Mothers and Children, a nonprofit dedicated to saving the lives of the mothers and children of Braffoueby, Cote d’Ivoire.

Kathy Hayden

SVP, Strategic Partnerships, MarTech, Inmar Intelligence

  • Hayden helped establish a career path model for associates that fostered career coaching and transparency on where to invest time for personal development; the model provided the right framework to improve recruiting processes.
  • She helped establish trust through newly established partnerships; these included Inmar’s being named Wakefern’s onsite media partner, shopper marketing agency of record for Publix, and loyalty partner with SpartanNash.
  • Hayden “pays it forward” through her church, contributing food, shoes and gifts for community members in need, as well as participating in Women of United Way events.

Pia Ostos

VP and General Manager, CPGs, MarTech, Inmar Intelligence 

  • Responsible for business, product, and commercial strategy, Ostos had P&L ownership for the MarTech CPG business unit that included incentives, loyalty and media solutions. 
  • She led strategy on key deals and renewal negotiations leading to bottom-line growth, received a patent for a loyalty solution, and worked with sales leaders on a successful sell-in, with 26 CPGs in the pipeline and 11 proposals at play.
  • Born and raised in Mexico, Ostos was a mentor at the Endeavor organization, whichhelped scale U.S. Latin and Mexican businesses, and served on the leadership sponsor committee for Inmar’s internal Woman Impact Network. 

Danelle Rydel    

VP, Member Success, Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA)

  • Rydel developed and execute dINFRA’s membership growth strategy, manage relations with distribution partners, and advocate for members when negotiating pricing and distribution agreements.
  • Under her guidance, membership grew from 315 to 348 members, marking INFRA’s third record growth year in a row; she also led the rollout of INFRA’s new everyday-low-price program, with an 84% member adoption rate, and brought the group to new markets in Colorado and Puerto Rico. 
  • Rydel was chair for a pay-what-you-can restaurant fighting food insecurity in South Minneapolis.

Ali Miller

VP of Ads Product, Instacart

  • Miller headed the team building and scaling of ad products for all Instacart advertisers.
  • Thanks in large part to her leadership, Instacart offered ad services for more than 5,500 brands that delivered, on average, more than a 15% incremental sales lift, and Instacart Ads growth was a key driver in helping the company go public in September 2023; she also led her team to add such features as optimized bidding, the AI-powered Ask Instacart search tool, and advertising on Instacart’s AI-powered Caper Carts.
  • Miller was an active participant in the Women@Instacart employee resource group and has performed as a violinist in the Oakland Symphony.

Valerie Ells

CFO, Kevin’s Natural Foods

  • Ells oversaw Kevin’s Natural Foods’ financial resources, including the company’s overall budget.
  • She played a crucial role in the successful merger and acquisition of Kevin’s Natural Foods by Mars Inc.’s Food and Nutrition division, a deal that allowed Kevin’s to achieve sustained double-digit growth; she also exceeded growth goals by 8% and revamped the budget framework. 
  • Ells served as treasurer for a nonprofit group focused on quality and affordable child care, created a middle school program educating students on the stock market and future careers, and coached a youth basketball team.  

Becky Eldredge

VP Commercial Loyalty and Incentives, The Kroger Co./84.51°

  • An 84.51° vet since 2004 and founder of the company’s consulting function, Eldredge drove accelerated growth for Kroger’s personalized commercial loyalty and incentives portfolio. 
  • Her teams delivered approximately 3 billion personalized offers, with a value of more than $2.5 billion, and she led a 10.3% increase in top-line revenue and an 18% boost in operating profit; she also helped create the Incentives Center of Excellence to optimize customer incentives for CPGs, Kroger and customers. 
  • Eldredge mentored aspiring executives through the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce’s development program for women of color. 

Christine Foster

VP, Product Strategy and Media Operations, The Kroger Co./84.51°

  • This longtime media industry leader joined Kroger Precision Marketing (KPM) to modernize tech and talent and elevate standards and outcomes for media buyers. 
  • She strengthened the media ops practice and enabled KPM to scale more effectively, executing 20% more managed service campaigns than budgeted for with the same headcount, and led a 72% increase in incremental return on ad spend in programmatic campaigns. 
  • Foster sat on the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s retail media committee, Meta’s retail media advisory board and the AdMonsters advisory board, as well as serving as a chair lead for 84.51°’s Women’s EDGE associate resource group. 

Elizabeth Ferrell

Financial and Reporting Systems Director, The Kroger Co./Finance

  • Ferrell held an important role in overseeing the company’s financial systems and reporting processes, and by managing significant change and leveraging cutting-edge technology, she ensured that senior executives had immediate access to critical data. 
  • She successfully spearheaded a two-year project that revolutionized Kroger’s reporting infrastructure by transitioning all reporting functions to the cloud, and also directed a project that removed two full days from Kroger’s period-close process.
  • Ferrell led a volunteer-based free tax preparation site in partnership with the Greater Cincinnati United Way, and she was recognized as a Cincinnati Game Changer in 2023.

Amber Kayse

Director, Health and Wellness Payor Contracting and Strategy, The Kroger Co./Kroger Health

  • Last year, Kayse led the charge to make prescriptions more affordable for customers by spearheading the launch of the revamped Kroger Health Savings Club, as well as increasing discount card usage by more than 13%.
  • In a short timeframe, she identified the need for a new staffing structure, and then secured the funding and executed a unique recruiting venture to quadruple her team’s size.
  • Additionally, Kayse redesigned Kroger Health’s strategic contracting approach, and by standardizing and streamlining terms, she successfully implemented an efficient contracting process that led to efficient workflow and successful outcomes.

Stephanie Spangler-Opdyke 

Director, HR Business Partner, The Kroger Co./Kroger Health 

  • Spangler-Opdyke led a team responsible for all HR activities and functions for more than 24,000 associates and leaders across the country, and brought a unique perspective to Kroger Health due to her extensive experience in supermarket and retail.
  • She championed a new development program for retail pharmacy teams, Project Passion, to support the future of patient care and address pain points for pharmacists.
  • In 2023, 1,544 pharmacy managers participated in the program, and the team planned to expand to an additional 4,200 pharmacists in 2024; Project Passion also won a Brandon Hall Group Excellence Gold Award.

Brandy Hanger

Director of Fresh Bakery, The Kroger Co./Merchandising

  • Hanger headed the fresh bakery category, where she and her team had top-to-bottom responsibility for strategy, merchandising, pricing and promotion, and execution for Kroger’s family of companies.
  • She led the company through nine category rebuilds, reshaping the assortment and operational workflow within Kroger’s stores; this included the launch of a signature assortment, which drove more customers into the store.
  • Additionally, Hanger finalized the Bakery of the Future merchandising design and assortment plan for execution in a four-store pilot, delivering double-digit sales growth and operational improvements for store associates.

Erica Gaier

Director, E-Commerce Operations, The Kroger Co./Retail Operations

  • Gaier led the e-commerce team to achieve 11% growth in pickup sales over the prior year, beating its budget; she did this by focusing on reducing lead time and opening new modalities, including the addition of more than 300 locations on Instacart Curbside.
  • As for the pickup customer experience, her team achieved a net promoter score that was 2.8% over the prior year, while wait time improved by 25 seconds; in-stocks were also at record post-pandemic levels.
  • Gaier participated in Kroger’s wellness associate resource group; she also mentored more than seven Kroger associates across three departments.

Teresa Tucker

Director of Asset Protection, The Kroger Co./Retail Operations

  • With oversight of overall asset protection and support for safety, security and shrink for all Kroger operating divisions and offices, Tucker led Kroger to achieve the lowest fresh shrink rate in the company’s history; she accomplished this impressive feat through strategic initiatives that reduced both shrink and waste, saving more than $50 million in loss in 2023.
  • She supported Kroger’s safety team in its efforts to deliver the company’s lowest injury rates ever.
  • Tucker was an executive sponsor for the Kroger Pride associate resource group, as well as for One-n-Ten and One Community in Phoenix.

Karen Langeland

VP of Merchandising, Hardlines, Meijer

  • Under Langeland’s leadership, Meijer’s hardlines business grew market share, exceeded plans and improved productivity during the key holiday period; the strength in toys and seasonal came from the team’s focus on the fundamentals.
  • New strategic projects that she oversaw included Reinventing the Electronics in-store experience, Game Day destination merchandising during January and February, a Lego brand shop, and a value shop at the front of the store.
  • Langeland and her team were awarded the Meijer Quarterly Merchandising Award in the fourth quarter of 2023 for launching innovative brand shops.

Jess Murray

VP of Store Experience, Meijer

  • Murray led the increase of customer self-checkout penetration by 3% year over year through front end optimization, improving customer checkout times and reducing friction at the front end, and she decreased override wait times, thanks to a new self-checkout training program.
  • She helped reduce Meijer pickup wait time as a company and increased the team member pick rate by more than 400 basis points, making  the company an industry leader for low customer service wait times. 
  • Murray introduced receipt reduction enhancements that led to more than $1.5 million in annual savings across supplies and reduced front end transaction times.

Tricia Wallwork

CEO and Chair, Milo’s Tea Co.

  • Under Wallwork’s leadership, the company posted double-digit percentage growth in units, revenue and earnings, and grew headcount more than 15% in 2023 to support sales growth.
  • She championed the installation of a solar array at Milo’s flagship facility in Bessemer, Ala., a move that’s projected to offset 5% of annual power consumption and 336 metric tons of carbon each year.
  • Wallwork led the company to be named the 2024 Dollar General Diverse Supplier of the Year; despite her busy schedule, she also found time to serve on the boards of the Consumer Brands Association, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Birmingham Business Alliance.

Holly Ashmore

VP of Operations, Munk Pack

  • Ashmore, who recently left Munk Pack, revamped the S&OP planning process, added locked sales forecast periods and more concise dashboards, and as a result, her team achieved several cost-of-goods-sold savings, including significant savings with the company’s lead contract manufacturer; through cost-saving initiatives, she helped improve gross margin by 4.3 percentage points year over year. 
  • She reduced inventory by 46% while the business’s top line was relatively flat, significantly improving the cash conversion cycle, and she also increased inventory turnover by 28%.
  • Ashmore helped switch to a new, higher-quality packaging supplier to improve the reliability of Munk Pack’s supply chain.

Tricia Greyshock

President/CEO, National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA)

  • Greyshock oversaw unprecedented year-over-year membership growth and led the NFRA Executive Conference and Convention to record attendance in 2023.
  • She spearheaded the development of NFRA’s first-ever joint January promotion, ReDiscover Dairy & Frozen, a landmark collaboration with another industry association that increased consumer awareness and purchase intent and strengthened partnerships between industry stakeholders, fostering long-term collaboration.
  • As a volunteer leader with Junior Achievement, Greyshock taught students financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurial skills.

Liz Buchanan

President, North America, NIQ

  • Buchanan spearheaded the rollout of NIQ’s global platform, Discover, deploying analytical tools across 80 countries and in 11 languages; this revolutionized how thousands of CPG organizations and users executed strategies and engaged with customers.
  • She seamlessly transitioned 96% of clients onto Discover with an extensive training program to help them become proficient in the new platform, and she also streamlined operations, achieving a 70% reduction in managed deliverables and a 60% decrease in legacy database setups.
  • Buchanan headed initiatives to foster diversity in STEM fields, including NIQ University, a data science and analytics program for minority-serving institutions.

Sharon Bonk

VP Human Resource Operations NSS, Northeast Grocery Inc., parent company of Northeast Shared Services, Tops Supermarkets and Price Chopper/Market 32 Supermarkets

  • Bonk was instrumental in the integration of Tops and Price Chopper/Market 32 Supermarkets, implementing several change management actions to support building a unified culture across the organizations.
  • She developed and implemented a new two-day program in which top execs shared best practices; the program garnered rave reviews from participants.
  • Bonk partnered with Employer Resource Network to initiate the Success Coach model to better serve and guide employees dealing with everyday challenges that might affect their well-being.

Emily Kiely

Head of eGrocery, PepsiCo

  • Kiely was instrumental in building PepsiCo’s e-commerce business over the past seven years from virtually nothing to a $4 billion net revenue business in the United States; in 2023 her business grew 24%, four times the company’s total revenue growth.
  • She created new digital capabilities to provide a seamless shopping experience online, pioneering a category advisory framework with Instacart using deep shopper insights to elevate the snack and beverage categories on the platform and unlock first-of-their-kind three-way partnerships with major retailers.
  • Kiely created an eCommerce Acceleration Academy program to upskill and develop team members’ leadership skills.

Julia Banducci

Customer Management Senior Director, Kroger, PepsiCo/Quaker Foods North America

  • Banducci grew category share by 12 basis points, retail sales by 5.6% and market share by 24 basis points; in addition, she increased e-commerce growth by 26%, which was a 50% contribution to total company growth, and increased online share by 30 basis points.
  • She developed and implemented a new “dual zone” strategy across breakfast, leading to a 10-point increase in households and dollar sales, and she increased linear feet by 34,000, an 11.0% expansion, and grew facings by 47,000, an 8.1% increase.
  • Professionally, Banducci was active in events that raised the bar on talent and diversity.

Katie Schiavone

Senior Director of Commercial Planning, Central Division, PepsiCo Beverages North America

  • Schiavone’s unwavering commitment to keeping the focus on the customer and the consumer was a driving force in PepsiCo’s success and growth.
  • She was nominated for PepsiCo’s Accelerated Leadership Development Program and was a mentor and coach for PepsiCo’s Pinnacle Development Program for female sales leaders; she also received a Women of Excellence Award from the Path to Purchase Institute, a PG sister organization.
  • Nominated to represent PepsiCo at the NextUp conference in 2023, Schiavone is the founder and leader of a grass-roots organization that connects working mothers to a support network within PepsiCo.

Julie Smanda

Senior Director of Sales, PepsiCo Foods North America

  • Smanda demonstrated exceptional execution in joint business planning for top-priority regional customers, resulting in significant gains in gondola and perimeter space at Harris Teeter, Food City and Lowes Foods.
  • She additionally established a Best In Class Customer Playbook, containing detailed information on execution checklists and links to all gondola and front end planograms, and she also introduced a new process to enhance visibility and alignment of strengths and pinpoint areas for improvement.
  • Among her various volunteer activities, Smanda served as the executive advisor of NextUp Carolinas.

Amanda Villa

VP, Operations and Support, Product Connections

  • Villa relocated the previously remote creative team to Product Connections’ headquarters in Bentonville, Ark; as a result, project turnaround time was reduced by 80% and more than $200,000 was saved on print production, while quality and accuracy also increased.
  • She led the implementation of, a cloud-based product management system that simplified the manual process of project work among teams; a six-month test followed by full-blown implementation reduced manual steps by more than 78% and productivity grew by more than 20%.
  • Villa participated in NextUp, a nonprofit group of professionals focusing on tomorrow’s leaders by supporting gender equality.

Leslie Newlee 

SVP, Insight and Category Leadership, Red Bull North America

  • Newlee was responsible for leading development of Red Bull’s category management and customer and business insights strategies; the goal was for Red Bull to be viewed as a thought leader both internally and externally.
  • A tenured senior leader, she led with an unbiased approach and was widely viewed as a go-to person on portfolio strategy; her insights led to a sustainable, profitable pack strategy in the grocery and mass channels.
  • Newlee served on the board for the leading category management association in the United States and was a mentor to many people; she also regularly participated in panel discussions, sharing her experience.

Diana Marshall

EVP and Chief Growth Officer Sam’s Club

  • Marshall heads up several business areas, including e-commerce; under her guidance, 65% of digital orders are being fulfilled from the club, and the e-commerce business is almost $10 billion, making it the biggest “club,” compared with each physical store.
  • Sam’s Club Member Access Platform is among the first retail media platforms to connect search and sponsored product ads to offline sales; under her auspices, this business grew 22% last year and achieved advertiser growth close to 25% year over year.
  • Marshall serves on the national board of directors for NextUp, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing women in business.

Tamara Pattison

Chief Digital Officer, The Save Mart Cos. (TSMC)

  • Under Pattison’s leadership, TSMC’s digital platforms experienced substantial growth in shopper engagement: Loyalty and rewards program enrollment grew 134%, coupon clips increased 200%, coupon redemptions grew 198% and e-commerce vehicles increased to 4.7% of sales.
  • She drove TSMC’s partnership with SymphonyAI and the retailer’s adoption of the Consumer Centric Retail (CCR) methodology, which allowed it to make informed, customer-centric decisions and personalize and target promotions.
  • When not at work, Pattison regularly volunteered at Berkeley Humane and Berkeley Animal Care Services.

Khadijah Abdullah

VP, Economic Development and Social Impact, Shipt

  • Abdullah partnered with Birmingham Promise to establish the Magic Mentorship program, which included a gift from Shipt of $1 million; the program paired 50-plus high school juniors with mentors for monthly meetings.
  • She also launched the LadderUp accelerator program for small retailers; the eight-week program provided business courses, mentorship, coaching and a $5,000 stipend to help participants compete and grow in an evolving marketplace.
  • With one in three college students facing food insecurity, Abdullah and her team partnered with six colleges to fill campus food pantries in the Stamp Out Hunger campaign.

Jessi Keegan

VP of Cyber Security, Shipt

  • Keegan collaborated with Shipt’s executive team on changing the organizational structure to better combat fraud and loss; the resulting Fraud Prevention Steering Committee made possible an almost 85% reduction in fraud losses.
  • While artificial intelligence (AI) brought many positive capabilities, Keegan also saw risks: She set expectations for AI usage in the enterprise, leading to the formation of a multidisciplinary AI Committee and the establishment of Shipt’s AI Principles and Core Values.
  • She led two teams focused on fraud prevention, and their solutions collectively contributed to more than $1 million in fraud loss avoidance in the past year.

Alia Kemet

Chief Marketing Officer, Shipt

  • Kemet debuted a new brand identity and motto for Shipt, “delight in every delivery,” through a multifaceted partnership with Issa Rae, the award-winning actress, writer, producer and author; as a result, Shipt’s aided brand awareness rose in the first wave of the campaign.
  • She launched Shipt’s first membership offering for college students and used actual college students — interns from Howard University — to create a 30-second ad spot promoting it; the campaign produced 25 pieces of earned-media coverage.
  • Under Kemet’s leadership, Shipt joined forces with Roblox game developer Voldex to gamify back-to-school shopping with a virtual experience that reached nearly 6 million players.

Jennifer Short

VP of Transition Services, Southeastern Grocers (SEG)

  • Short implemented a new workforce and task management platform to enhance store execution, optimize labor scheduling, and give associates more visibility into their workloads and scheduling; the Winning Service program she launched established expectations for associate behaviors.
  • She spearheaded several sales-driving and waste-reducing initiatives, introducing Fresh Production Planning and Date Check Pro solutions to ensure quality and freshness while reducing food waste, and her lottery expansion initiative substantially boosted revenue.
  • Short was the executive sponsor for SEG Pride, an associate resource group for LGBTQIA+ associates and allies.

Louisa Lawless

Chief Strategy Officer, Stratus Group

  • Now EVP of commercial marketing and sales at Nutrabolt, Lawless in her previous role led Perfect Hydration to be the No. 1 sales growth driver in the bottled water category; additionally, under her leadership at Stratus Group, Koe Kombucha became the No. 1 shelf-stable kombucha brand in the United States.
  • She launched a series of initiatives to help Stratus Group’s brands become more environmentally friendly, among them pushing the team at Perfect Hydration to source an “infinitely recyclable” 16-ounce aluminum bottle.
  • A longstanding financial and social supporter of the Humane Society, Lawless has taken in several rescued dogs in the Los Angeles area.

Charisse Jacques

GM and COO Customer and Category Management Solutions, SymphonyAI Retail CPG

  • Jacques, who recently left the company, scaled a successful insights-to-action value delivery program in which her team worked directly with clients to uncover and act upon actionable insights that delivered a 42% increase in measurable incremental sales for those clients.
  • She provided leadership to drive 20%-plus sales growth of the CPG Shopper Insight business, which resulted in her team exceeding their budget target by 85%.
  • An MIT alumna, Jacques volunteered as the local MIT education counselor, in which role she provided advice to high school students interested in pursuing STEM careers.

Sonia Parekh

SVP Global Customer Centric Retailing Business, SymphonyAI Retail CPG

  • Under Parekh’s guidance, her team achieved a remarkable 35% increase in the measurable value delivered to her clients versus the previous year; this translated into hundreds of millions of dollars in incremental sales for her clients.
  • Within a mere three months, her team achieved CPG data monetization levels that typically take a full year to accomplish.
  • Passionate about fostering diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, Parekh actively mentored young women and served on the recruiting committee at TIDE Academy, a well-regarded public high school dedicated to nurturing STEM talent among students in the Bay Area.

Erica Thein

VP, Food and Beverage Owned Brands, Target Corp.

  • As a result of Thein’s work, Target made huge gains in market share in 2023; today, Target Food & Beverage owned brands drive a near 20% sales penetration and are a traffic driver across stores and digital shopping experiences.
  • Since the launch of Favorite Day, she has grown the brand to more than $700 million in its second year, representing an impressive 20% growth rate.
  • Beyond her role at Target, Thein serves on the board of directors of her alma mater, Morningside University; is a member of NextUp; volunteers as a youth sports coach; and speaks at such industry events as Groceryshop.

Katie Eshuys

Chief Sales and Commercial Strategy Officer, That’s It Nutrition LLC

  • Coming into an already successful business and launching it into the stratosphere, Eshuys grew That’s It 40% over all categories.
  • Thanks to her initiative, That’s it formed partnerships with mega-retailer Walmart; grew a new confection line in Costco and Target; and increased the company’s product offering in major grocery chains with such new SKUs as multipacks.
  • As well as inspiring That’s It to be an active contributor to Chobani’s Unstuck initiative, which helps to support job generation for refugees, Eshuys raised a huge amount of money for charities through the marathon races she takes part in worldwide.

Angie Balian

Chief Brands Officer, UNFI

  • Balian accelerated growth for UNFI’s portfolio by implementing strong category growth strategies across key value tiers while strategically streamlining the brand strategy focus against the top eight core brands in the portfolio, delivering double-digit growth and, importantly, absolute unit growth, during a period of inflationary pressure for retail customers.
  • She also took on incremental responsibility to separately oversee UNFI’s Woodstock Farms snack manufacturing and sales business, which has delivered incremental profitable growth under her leadership.
  • Balian dedicated her time to volunteering to support the homeless in Toronto.

Lauren Kennedy

VP of Customer Success, Upshop

  • Kennedy played a visionary role in reshaping the customer success arena, introducing measurable KPIs to track customer health trends and progress, and thus providing a data-driven approach to enhance customer satisfaction and retention.
  • She enhanced team diversity by blending backgrounds in customer success, previous retail expertise, tech and sales influence, an approach that brought to the team a well-rounded perspective.
  • In addition to receiving Upshop’s Burnt Clutch award for her positive impact and influence within the company, Kennedy was appointed a board member of the Ryan Dungey Foundation to support kids fighting cancer.

Sally Robinson

VP of Strategic Initiatives, Upshop

  • Instrumental in shaping Upshop’s solution for compliance with Section 204 of the Food Safety Modernization Act, Robinson aided 30-plus grocery retailers in comprehending operational challenges and data needs in this crucial area.
  • Leveraging her two decades of experience in data strategy and supply chain standards with Safeway and Albertsons, she stood out as a thought leader, with her influence extending to writing about the future of food safety culture.
  • This past October, at Upshop’s User Conference, a three-day event with more than 100 retailers in attendance, Robinson shared her knowledge by hosting a session entitled “Future of Food Safety.”

Tasha Tandy

VP, Merchandising: Dry Grocery, Walmart U.S.

  • Under her leadership, Tandy’s team has successfully launched several new and exclusive products while keeping prices low.
  • As inflation pressures increased, she played a key role in Walmart’s highly successful initiative that enabled customers to purchase in-store — or online with just one click — a complete meal for eight to 10 people, with no inflation.
  • Away from her demanding job, Tandy freely gave her time and expertise to several nonprofits, among them the American Diabetes Association, as chair of its largest fundraiser; Cobblestone Farms, which increases access to fresh food for underserved populations; and TASC (Teen Action and Support Center).

Maria Rizzo

VP of Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations, Weis Markets

  • Rizzo developed four new loyalty reward continuity programs — Endzone, Get Grilling, Spring it On and Back to School — offering strong incentives to frequent shoppers and incentivizing higher baskets while filling in gap periods between the company’s Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas flagship continuity programs.
  • She oversaw and managed the upgrade of the Weis Preferred Shopper Gold card program, resulting in increased personalization and a 25% rise in customer engagement.
  • A 2013 graduate of the Cornell University Food Management Program, Rizzo served as the team lead for strategic planning at Weis Markets.

Karen Christensen

SVP of Merchandising Enablement, Whole Foods Market

  • Christensen and her team rolled out Whole Foods’ new pollinator policy for fresh produce and floral; the policy requires suppliers to implement integrated pest management systems by 2025 to reduce their reliance on toxic chemical pesticides.
  • She oversaw the retailer’s new offering of European Union organic farmed salmon at its U.S. seafood departments, with the exception of California, due to its state law requirements.
  • Christensen served on the board of directors of the Global Animal Partnership, in which role she collaborated with industry partners to advocate for the ethical treatment of animals within the food production system.

Christina Minardi

EVP Growth and Development, Whole Foods Market and Amazon

  • Minardi and her team oversaw the process, from initial concept development to implementation, to bring to life Amazon’s first-ever robotic hardware-assisted grocery fulfillment center, which employs advanced technology to optimize supply chain operations.
  • Sustainability is one of her top priorities across Whole Foods and Amazon’s physical stores: Her team’s efforts resulted in a 5% emissions reduction for Whole Foods and 4% for Amazon stores in 2023 compared with the previous year.
  • When not at work, Minardi was a passionate supporter of several community programs, among them Hot Bread Kitchen and the Bowery Mission.
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