GenNext Winners Take Center Stage at Coca-Cola Headquarters

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GenNext Winners Take Center Stage at Coca-Cola Headquarters

GenNext Winners Take Center Stage at Coca-Cola Headquarters

By Abby Kleckler - 12/03/2019
Walmart GenNext Winners Take Center Stage at Coca-Cola Headquarters
Kelvin Buncum (center), regional VP, accepts Walmart's award as the 2019 Retailer of the Year at Progressive Grocer's GenNext event

Some of the top future (and current) leaders of the grocery industry under the age of 40 gathered at Coca-Cola Corporate Headquarters on Dec. 2-3 in Atlanta, for an event celebrating their achievements.

Progressive Grocer's GenNext event kicked off with an opening cocktail reception and dinner awarding this year's 25 honorees and the 2019 Retailer of the Year, Walmart.

The second day began with an opening presentation from Julie Levin, senior manager category strategy and innovation at the Coca-Cola Co. Levin talked about giving customers what they want through beverage innovation and Coca-Cola's goals of driving greater variety with less added sugar. Currently, 50 products are going through the foodservice innovation stages and gates pipeline, with one of the most recent big mass-market introductions being aguas frescas under the Barrilitos brand, which has been gaining traction since 2017. 

A panel of GenNext honorees then took the stage to shed light on their vision for the future and some of the misconceptions they're seeing in the grocery industry as a whole, and about younger-generation employees. Ian Flick, senior manager, fresh demand planning at C&S Wholesale Grocers; Emily Gibbons, VP of data science at Kroger's 84-51 division; and Tenia Wallace, COO at Decorworx, all shared their appetite for the industry.

The event closed with Paaras Parker, director, human resources at Kroger. Parker illustrated many of the ways that Kroger's passion for employees and passion for customers drive the company. The nucleus of Kroger is still family and the brick-and-mortar store, even as innovation abounds. 

Coca-Cola Corporate Headquarters offered the perfect backdrop for the event, where GenNext honorees and their families, friends and colleagues could get into the holiday spirit and tour a massive operation with nearly 6,000 employees at this location alone.