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Catching up with Generation Next

As we collect nominations for this year's program, we catch up with past winners to see what they're up to

Since 2011, Canadian Grocer’s Generation Next awards have been celebrating up-and-coming leaders (under 40) who are shaping the future of Canada’s grocery industry. Wondering “where are they now?” we checked in with a few past winners to see how their careers have been shaping up since winning their Gen Next awards.

CHER MEREWEATHER
2012 winner
JOB THEN: Managing director of the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors
WHY SHE WON: She challenged the food industry to think about both innovation and sustainability, while her nuanced understanding of the industry enabled her to build effective programs.
JOB NOW: Executive director of Provision Coalition (a non-profit coalition of 16 food and beverage associations committed to guiding the industry toward sustainability)

What has been your proudest career accomplishment?
There have been a few. First is the launch of Provision Coalition itself. We really were created “by industry for industry.” What we’ve been able to establish to support industry is pretty amazing. Specifically, we’ve established Provision’s online sustainability management system (SMS), and … we’ve been rewarded with partnerships that strengthen our delivery. For example, Provision and Loblaw have partnered to pilot our SMS Onsite Support Program with its control brand vendors.

What do you like best about your job?
Watching people’s minds shift to include environment and society in their business decisions, and then seeing their excitement as their profitability grows as a result.

What’s your favourite thing about working in the food industry?
Getting to try all the fabulous food and drink!

JAMIE GRIFFITHS
2014 winner
JOB THEN: Director of supplier development and merchandise strategy, Walmart Canada
WHY HE WON: He introduced new processes and best practices while working at Walmart Canada, including the practice of joint business planning, with a focus on collaboration between suppliers and retailers.
JOB NOW: Head of retail sales, North America for Matt & Steve’s (makers of The Extreme Bean)

What’s changed in your career since you won the Gen Next award?
In 2016, I made the jump to the supplier side after spending just over 10 years on the retailer side. I knew I was up for the challenge and it would provide me with a different perspective of the CPG industry.

What has been your proudest career accomplishment?
I would have to say getting our first U.S. chains to list our product, The Extreme Bean. Many Canadian companies have a diffcult time penetrating the U.S. market, but we knew we had a unique product, a fun and exciting brand, and a passion to make it happen.

Are there any tough lessons you’ve learned along the way?
There are going to be people who are your biggest supporters and people who aren’t. It’s solely on you to stay focused and block out the negativity. When you crave the end goal badly enough, all the surrounding noise becomes irrelevant.

CORBIN BOURREE
2015 winner
JOB THEN: Managing director at Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery (SPUD.ca)
WHY HE WON: He spearheaded some of SPUD’s biggest initiatives up to that point, including Spud’s office program (delivering healthy snacks to offices), and opening the SPUD Edmonton warehouse distribution centre in 2014.
JOB NOW: VP of product strategy and merchandise at SPUD.ca, Blush Lane & Be Fresh

How has SPUD grown/evolved since you won the Gen Next Award in 2015?
We partnered with Walmart Canada to com- plete its home delivery fulfillment out of our Food-X facility, set to open later this summer in Vancouver. And last summer, we acquired Blush Lane Organic Markets in Alberta, bringing on five new retail locations and close to 200 full-time team members. This is on top of continued growth in our online business.

How has your own role changed?
My role has shifted from overseeing our Edmonton operation, to managing SPUD’s online business in Alberta in 2016, to leading the negotiation on the Blush Lane acquisition in 2017. Earlier in 2018, I pivoted from overseeing our Alberta business unit to working with our product and merchandising teams.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Be humble and curious. You don’t know what you don’t know, but if you start from that perspective, it’s amazing what you can unlock in terms of new knowledge and ideas.

Do you know a rising star in the grocery industry? Nominate them for this year’s Generation Next Awards.

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer’s August 2018 issue.

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