Arizona Food Industry Honors Leaders in Excellence

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Arizona Food Industry Honors Leaders in Excellence


The Arizona Food Marketing Alliance (AFMA), honored four industry leaders during its annual Excellence in Leadership Awards banquet held November 18, 2011 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

Ken Diehl, VP of marketing and merchandising for Albertsons LLC’s Southwest Division was named the association’s Retailer of the Year; Todd Schlief, regional account manager, Nestle DSD was named Supplier of the Year; and both Rojon Hasker, retired Safeway executive and Frank Leavy of Harvest Meat Company, also retired, were inducted into AFMA’s Hall of Fame.

Hasker joined Safeway in 1972 as a courtesy clerk in Alaska and advanced through the retail ranks in the Seattle and Northern California Divisions. She was named VP of retail operations in the Phoenix Division in 1997 and VP marketing operations in January 2000. She became president of the Phoenix Division by year end 2000 and led that Division for the next two years. During her time in Phoenix, Rojon served as president of the City of Hope in 2001.

In 2003, Hasker was promoted to SVP of marketing and merchandising to transition Safeway to a centralized marketing environment. She led the team that developed the successful Lifestyle strategy and format that is recognized in the industry as a total transformation of Safeway’s retail space and a reinvention of the shopping experience.

In 2005 she was named president of Perishables & Lifestyle, and focused on building the company’s differentiated position in the market and building ID sales growth by overseeing a rapid series of quality, selection, and merchandising improvements in the perimeter departments and the Lifestyle format which bears her distinctive imprint and passion for fresh foods and innovative consumer initiatives.

Most recently, Hasker devoted her time and energy on Lifestyle design and rollout across the company and new concept development with a focus on new formats and variations to address specific demographic & competitive situations as well as new business initiatives. Her last project, “the market”, is Safeway’s version of the small format concept and includes two pilot stores located in Long Beach and downtown San Jose.

Hasker served on the Executive Board of Western Association of Food Chains focused on initiating and supporting continuing education programs in the West for food industry employees. She also served on the Western Region Advisory Board for the Catalyst Women’s Organization, a Non-Profit research & advisory organization committed to building inclusive environments and expanding opportunities for women in business.

She retired from Safeway May 2010 after a 38 year career.

Leavy founded and operated Leavy Bros. Meat Distribution with his two brothers who followed him to the United States in 1953. He relocated to Arizona in 1979 and along with his friend (and former partner) the late Richard Osmera started the Osten Meat Company with the intention of bringing corn-fed beef and pork into the Arizona market. Joined by sons Jay, Kevin and Dennis in 1989, they established the Harvest Meat Company and continued distributing meat to Independent grocers located primarily in the greater Phoenix area, Tucson and Nogales. Slowly, they began to add some chain-store business to their core customer base who was the Independent and expanded into Yuma, Las Vegas and El Paso. Today the Harvest Meat Company has a presence nationwide with the home office located in San Diego.

Schlief began his career at an entry level position as a Delivery Agent for Seven Up Bottling Company in 1980. Over the next 20 years he held various sales and management positions at both Seven Up and Kalil Bottling. In July of 2001 Todd shifted his career from soft drinks to ice cream where he works today as a Regional Account Manager for Nestle DSD, formerly known as Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream.

He has served on various industry committees including the Arizona Food Council (AFC) where he has held numerous positions including Treasurer, VP and president. He also has been a Board member for City of Hope for the past six years and was recently elected to the AFMA Board of Directors.

Diehl started out as a bag boy at Fry’s Food Stores in Mesa, Arizona, staying at the company throughout high school and while he attended ASU, until joining the military to serve his country. Following that, he returned to his roots and seized an opportunity with Albertson’s, Inc., shortly after they entered the Arizona marketplace.

Working his way up in various store management positions and managing stores in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, Diehl learned the grocery industry from the inside out, and developed a customer-centric attitude that made his stores successful and would serve him in every leadership position he would hold. In 1999, he was promoted to the Albertsons Southwest Division office where he worked with and eventually led the division’s Grocery Sales team. He also served as a District Manager for stores in Arizona and California as well as the Director of Grocery Sales and then was promoted to Director of Marketing & Merchandising for the Company’s Southwest division.

After briefly leaving the industry, Diehl returned in 2006 as the VP of Operations for the Southwest division of the newly formed Albertson’s LLC. When Albertson’s LLC determined that it needed to further localize its marketing and merchandising efforts away from the combined function that had originally been structured with SUPERVALU, he transitioned from VP of operations to VP of marketing and merchandising, the position he holds today. Under Ken’s leadership of their retail planning, marketing and merchandising, Albertsons stores in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Southwest Texas and Utah have again become market area leaders, and overall, the division’s 105 stores have performed as well or better than retailers 10 times their size over the last 4 years.