Deadline: April 5, 2019 -->
SAVE THE DATE! September 18, 2019 Star Women in Grocery Awards BreakfastAdd to Calendar
Welcome to the 2019 Star Women in Grocery Awards
Since 2011 Canadian Grocer has been recognizing outstanding women in the grocery industry. Women who have demonstrated expertise, innovation and leadership. From retailers to distributors to foundation and CPG professionals, Star Women Award winners are those who are making a real impact and changing the food retail landscape.
Mark your calendar! September 18, 2019 Star Women in Grocery Awards Breakfast
Winners will be featured in the June/July 2019 issue of Canadian Grocer magazine and will be honoured at the Star Women in Grocery Awards Breakfast on September 18, 2019 at the International Centre in Mississauga, ON!
Julie Bednarski, President & Founder, The Healthy Crunch Company
In early 2014, Julie Bednarski spotted a business opportunity. The trained chef, registered dietitian and ambitious entrepreneur was exploring a few different kale chip brands. As a foodie with a fondness for healthy, crunchy snacks, she liked the idea of kale chips but was unimpressed with what she was eating. “I thought, I can make this a lot better.” And she set out to do just that. Bednarski rented space in a commercial kitchen and started making and selling her own kale chips. In 2015, someone with a connection to Starbucks tasted her chips and recommended them to the coffee giant. “That is how my growth started.” Today, with its own facility, The Healthy Crunch Company employs 55 people, and has sold more than $1 million in product at more than 25,000 distribution points across Canada—including most of the major grocery chains. Bednarksi has plans to expand into the U.S. soon, and later this year Healthy Crunch will introduce coconut chips, clusters and nut-free trail mixes.
Cynthia Beretta is a true pioneer, having founded Beretta farms in 1992—long before organic meat was trendy. “When we started farming, the concept of using pesticides and fertilizers or antibiotics and hormones in our animals was just foreign to us,” says Beretta, who started the company with her husband Mike. Over the years, Beretta Farms’ product offering has grown to include a variety of beef, chicken and pork products, as well as ready-made entrées, jerky, bacon, sausages and hot dogs. The business includes a catering operation called Beretta Kitchen, as well as an e-commerce business called The Frozen Butcher, which launched in 2016. As the business grew, Beretta Farms developed a network of ranchers in Ontario and Western Canada to meet demand. “What I’m most proud of is what we have been able to accomplish,” says Beretta. “Not only ourselves as ranchers, but the people we partner with; and being able to support Canadian ranchers across the country.”
Nicole Bleiwas, Former Vice-president of Insights and Marketing, Flipp Corporation
Nicole Bleiwas has worked at top CPG companies for more than 20 years, with roles spanning sales, marketing and corporate strategy, but always with an analytics foundation. “By understanding and tapping into consumer motivations, needs and behaviours, I am able to identify brand and business growth opportunities,” she says. Bleiwas spent 13 years at Coca-Cola Canada where she played an instrumental role in developing the company’s approach to shopper marketing and revenue management. She also co-led the execution of on-premise and retail outlet activation for Coca-Cola during the 2010 Olympics—a career highlight for Bleiwas. She went on to hold senior roles at Canada Bread and Kraft Heinz Canada, and joined Flipp in 2017 as vice-president of insights and marketing, a position she recently left. At Flipp, Bleiwas was credited with transforming the way the company helps grocery retailers understand their consumers. “I was able to bring in traditional consumer research and marketing approaches that we would typically do in CPG, and apply them in a tech environment,” she says.
Lynn Caiger, Senior Category and Shopper Insights Team Lead, Unilever Canada
Lynn Caiger is one of Unilever’s most experienced and accomplished category management and shopper marketing experts. She combines more than 25 years of CPG sales experience—starting with Best Foods in the early ’90s—with an appreciation for how cutting-edge technologies such as virtual reality, eye tracking and artificial intelligence can improve performance and boost sales. On top of all that, Caiger runs programs to help women leaders develop within Unilever and has become the company’s leader on efforts to improve recruitment. “It started in 2011. We were suffering a talent gap,” she says. “So, I started to think about how we needed to approach bringing new young talent into the business.” The result was a new university recruitment strategy that improved and expanded the intern program and campus visits to build relationships with top schools. “I see it as building our talent and marketing our industry, which is important because it is really a great industry to work in.”
Lyne Castonguay, Executive Vice-president of Store Experience, Sobeys
After more than 10 years working as a vice-president at Home Depot’s head office in Atlanta, Lyne Castonguay returned home to Canada in 2016 to join Sobeys as chief merchandising officer. Since then, she’s been a crucial contributor to the ongoing transformation of the company, laying the foundation for the national merchandising structure, stabilizing margins and sales, and playing a key role in creating the company’s Ocado e-commerce partnership. Today, as executive vice-president of store experience, she’s one of the most powerful women in the grocery industry. Castonguay attributes at least some of her success to her “humble” upbringing in New Brunswick, working for her father in his retail apparel business where she learned to always put the customer first. And she believes that no single leader knows everything. Better answers come from the collective brainpower of the team. “If I’m asked a tough question, I’m okay with saying, ‘Let me get to my team and we’ll have a good answer for you,’” she says. “I have always felt that if I surround myself with the smartest people I’ll be okay.”
Throughout her 18-year career in CPG, Tebbie Chuchla has built a reputation for launching successful product innovations, creating breakthrough communication plans, and turning lagging brands into growing businesses. Chuchla, who joined Conagra in 2017, worked with various departments to transform the struggling Orville Redenbacher brand. The solutions included removing artificial colours, flavours and preservatives; a packaging redesign; and a strategic communication plan. On the innovation side, Chuchla played a key role in the development of Healthy Choice Power Bowls, which launched earlier this year. She’s also boosting Conagra’s e-commerce presence through partnerships with various grocers that offer online shopping. In her previous role as senior director of marketing at The Hain Celestial Group, Chuchla played a key role in recharging Yves Veggie Cuisine. As a leader, Chuchla tries to build confidence within her team members, so they can become leaders themselves. “I also try to encourage creative thinking that could lead to a big idea,” she says.
A 26-year veteran of Save-On-Foods, Jacqueline Craig is known as a trailblazer within the organization. Craig joined the company on the accounting side and moved to risk management in 2008, becoming department manager in 2014. She led her team’s business continuity plan, which hadn’t been fully updated since Y2K. With the new plan, Save-On-Foods now has documented procedures to guide the organization in the event of a disruption, such as a natural disaster, ensuring the company can continue to sell food and provide medications to customers. On the food safety side, Craig has modernized Save-On-Foods’ food-safety program, including preparing standard operating procedures for all new programs, as well as the introduction of a new auditing and compliance process. Craig is known for her caring style and mentorship. “In a leadership role, it’s not just about your accomplishments and what you’re doing task-wise, but it’s about what kind of effect you can have on people—even if it’s just with a smile and a short hallway conversation,” she says.
Janet Jacks founded and built a successful natural food market business, but before that she was an elementary school teacher. She credits that early teaching experience for much of her success. When Goodness Me opened in Hamilton in 1981, her husband Scott took care of the books, while Janet took care of each customer. “I taught people,” she says, explaining that people often want to eat better, but it’s not always easy. “I know how to communicate in a way that is easy to understand.” The business grew and the original location expanded several times before they opened a second store in 2005. Today there are nine stores with a 10th opening later this year. With her son managing the business, Jacks spends less time in the stores these days, but remains committed to teaching the Goodness Me ethos. She’s written two books and is working on a third. After hosting a radio show for 20 years, she recently started “The Honest to Goodness Podcast” with her daughter. “My goal is to transform how people live their lives,” she says.
Sierra Johnston, Store Manager, Save-On-Foods, Yorkton, Sask.
At just 28 years old, Sierra Johnston is a rising star at Save-On-Foods. After three years as a store manager in British Columbia, she was tapped to open one of the first locations in Saskatchewan in early 2017. Her sales and merchandising ideas have been adopted by other Save-On-Foods locations, and her Yorkton store has delivered some of the best customer service metrics across the chain. Employees are expected to treat every customer like a guest in their home, says Johnston. “One of the culture statements we have at the store is that everyone is part of the family.” When she moved to Yorkton, she knew it was important to learn as much about her new hometown as possible—so she went to every community event going, including Lobster Fest, where attendees eat lobster (or steak) on the back of a flatbed truck, enjoy a beer and then go trapshooting. “I remember thinking this is what it’s all about,” she says. This year, Johnston’s Save-on-Foods supplied the lobster.
Josianne Légaré, Senior Vice-president of Sales, A. Lassonde
Josianne Légaré joined Lassonde in Montreal in 2005 and has worked her way up to become senior vice-president of sales: the company’s first-ever female national sales lead. In a previous role as director of Lassonde’s Western Canadian business, Légaré grew the business in that region from $5 million to more than $50 million in less than five years. Since taking over national sales in Toronto three years ago, she has turned around a declining juice business by rebuilding the sales team and better adapting to retailers’ needs. Légaré is past president of the Food Executives Club of Vancouver and is currently an active member of the Network of Executive Women. What she’s most proud of is mentoring the next generation of leaders—both women and men. “I want to inspire people and I love to see them grow, so that’s something that drives me personally,” she says. “That’s how I think I can make a difference.”
Tammy MacPhee got her start at Sobeys in 1991 as a 15-year-old part-time deli clerk in Charlottetown. Six years ago, she was made a store manager and last November she was named district operator overseeing all 13 Sobeys-run stores on Prince Edward Island. When she took on the store manager role in Summerside, MacPhee wanted to make some big changes to improve key metrics such as loss prevention, and become one of the best stores in the country. To do that, she felt she had to know everyone who worked for her. “I was always on the floor; I have the mindset that I lead by example,” she says. “I had 115 to 130 staff. I knew them all by name. I sat in the lunch room with them and developed relationships.” She talked to them about shared goals and explained that she was making changes but the changes were for the better—to improve sales and keep the business open despite new competition. In 2014, her store won the Sobeys Loss Prevention award for improving bottom line results, and a year later was nominated for Store of the Year.
Caroline Nadeau, Vice-president of Sales, Coca-Cola Canada
One of Caroline Nadeau’s proudest moments was making the move from Montreal to Toronto for a job promotion with SC Johnson more than 20 years ago. “It was a huge decision, but I knew intuitively that to become the best I needed to learn from the best,” she says. Throughout her career, Nadeau has worked for some of the country’s top CPG companies including SC Johnson, Campbell Company of Canada and Dare Foods. Four years ago, she joined Coca-Cola Canada as director of sales and was promoted to vice-president of sales earlier this year. Nadeau is credited with growing the business by an average of 7% yearly over the last four years, compared to industry results that were typically in the 1-2% growth range. “My approach is to think about the broader issues our customers are facing and how our categories can play a role in solving those challenges over the long term,” she says. Nadeau is also the Canadian lead for Coca-Cola’s diversity and inclusion council, and is an active member of the company’s women’s council.
Melissa Pryszlak, Director, Logistics & Engineering, Metro Ontario
Last fall, Metro revealed a $400-million plan to overhaul and modernize its Ontario supply chain, including new frozen and fresh distribution centres. Melissa Pryszlak is spearheading that five-year project, overseeing design and layout and introducing significant, cutting-edge automation. After earning a degree in industrial engineering from Ryerson University in Toronto, Pryszlak spent a few years in the Alberta oil patch before coming back east, working first with UPS and then Walmart before joining Metro in March 2017. Her boss, Dan Gabbard, Metro’s vice-president of supply chain, calls her “a leader in the rapidly changing landscape of retail logistics, particularly in the area of distribution centre automation.” Automation—conveyer belts, elevators and robots—holds enormous potential to improve efficiency and make work easier for employees, says Pryszlak. That’s the part she loves most about her work: helping others do their jobs. “I like to talk to people. I like to go and ask them how I can help them,” she says. “I find a way to help them do it a little bit better.”
Alicia Samuel, Director, IT Business Solutions, Longo Brothers Fruit Markets
In her four years at Longo’s, Alicia Samuel has built a track record of driving successful change and innovation at the company. Samuel co-led the biggest project ever executed at Longo’s: a three-year enterprise resource planning (ERP) transformation, including a merchandising ERP, a warehouse management system, demand planning, store ordering and receiving systems. The last of 10 projects will be completed in September. Samuel and her team spent considerable time in workshops to understand the pain points of the business and what they needed to look for in a platform. Samuel was also instrumental in guiding the business team through the complexity of software selection. An 18-year IT professional, Samuel previously held roles at Canadian Tire, Microsoft and IBM. “What I am most proud of is my team, how hard they work and what I continually learn from them,” she says. “I am also proud of my past accomplishments and learnings in my previous roles that have helped define me.”
Julie Sirois, Director of Business Development, PepsiCo Foods Canada
Julie Sirois joined PepsiCo Foods Canada in 2002 as a small format district sales leader. After a series of promotions, including becoming the company’s first female zone sales leader for Eastern Canada, Sirois was appointed director, go-to-market and sales capability in 2012. She was then promoted to director, warehouse retail sales in 2013. In this role, Sirois was integral to the development of a new retail execution tracking tool, delivering year-over-year growth on Quaker, Tropicana and Gatorade. As director of business development for Eastern Canada, a role she’s held since 2016, Sirois owns the business for PepsiCo Foods’ fourth largest customer—Metro—delivering $251 million in sales in 2017 for the Quebec and Ontario regions. Sirois is also the executive sponsor for the Eastern chapter of PepsiCo Canada’s Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN). “As a mentor of many PepsiCo women, I’m doing my very best to inspire women and enable them to achieve their career goals, as well as balance work-life quality,” she says.
Cheryl Smith, General Manager, Cheese & tablespreads, Fine Cheese & Yogourt, Parmalat Canada
Cheryl Smith oversees a billion-dollar portfolio at Parmalat Canada. Under her leadership, the company has achieved the status of having the No. 1 selling item within key dairy case categories including Cheestrings, Lactantia Butter, Black Diamond Cheese, Balderson aged deli cheddar and Astro yogurt. A 28-year CPG veteran, Smith led businesses for Unilever and Rogers before joining Parmalat in 1999. She held several marketing positions and joined the executive team in 2007. From 2009 to 2016, Smith held various executive vice-president roles and was appointed general manager, cheese and tablespreads, fine cheese and yogurt, in 2016. That same year, Smith initiated the Parmalat Canada Women’s Network, dedicated to supporting the advancement of women in leadership roles. Since 2015, she has been a mentor for the Women’s Executive Network wisdom mentorship program. “We must do more to include women in leadership in Canada and North America, where only about 20% of the senior executives are women,” says Smith. “The companies that are able to find ways to close that gap will gain competitive advantage.”
Dana Somerville, Vice-president and Head of Brand Build, Innovation and R&D, Kraft Heinz Canada
With a passion for marketing, Dana Somerville joined Kraft directly out of university in 1997. Over the years, she held progressively senior marketing roles, reaching vice-president level in 2016 and joining the leadership team in 2017. She’s modernized several Kraft Heinz brands by creating breakthrough campaigns including Cracker Barrel’s “Now This is Cheese” campaign and Kraft Peanut Butter’s “Stick Together” brand platform. This year, she led her team on product innovations such as Crave Frozen Meals and Max Boost, a coffee boasting 1.5 times more naturally occurring caffeine than other leading brands. One of her proudest accomplishments was her pivotal role in the launch of McCafé coffee into the grocery channel in 2014. “It was recognized with multiple awards both internally by Kraft and McDonalds, and externally,” she says. Somerville is always willing to roll up her sleeves to help her team, “but I also think it’s really important to empower people and give them opportunities, so I coach and push my team to bring out their best.”
Annette Woodhead, Founder, Blind Bay Village Grocer
In 1997, Annette Woodhead and her husband Colby left Saskatchewan and headed west. They intended to move to British Columbia, but they weren’t sure where. About an hour outside of Kamloops they noticed a burnt-out and abandoned store on the south shore of Shuswap Lake. It would soon become their new home. On that site, they built Blind Bay Village Grocer, a popular and thriving independent grocery business that has been recognized with awards from the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers three times. “The gold [award] was the highlight of our career,” says Woodhead. A family feeling and a commitment to the community and its customers were what made their store a success. “If they asked for something we didn’t have, we would bring it in. If they needed it brought to their house, if they were sick or something, we would do that too,” she says. But now, after 20 years, the Woodheads will be stepping away from the Village Grocer. The couple sold the store in May. “I want to spend some time with the kids,” she says.
Chris Yu, Manager, Marketing and Merchandising, Galleria Supermarket
A native of South Korea, Chris Yu moved to Canada in 2013 and joined Galleria Supermarket in 2016. As the retailer’s customer base expanded beyond the Korean community, Yu developed innovative programs to reach people from many different backgrounds. For the opening of Galleria’s third store in Oakville, Ont., Yu coordinated a “Yelp Elite Event,” inviting 40 Yelp reviewers to explore Korean culinary culture at the store. To better serve Galleria’s Chinese customers (its biggest non-Korean customer group), Yu led the rollout of WeChat Pay, a popular mobile wallet in China. In partnership with WeChat Pay, Yu introduced the Chinese Lunar New Year and year-round Red Pocket campaigns, which reward customers with mobile “lucky money” on every purchase using WeChat Pay. In just two months, sales on WeChat Pay reached almost $100,000. Yu was also one of the first Canadian grocers to initiate a partnership with UberEats, starting with Galleria’s iconic “Mom’s Chicken.” “I think winning a Star Women Award will set another milestone for Galleria to stay innovative and active in engaging our customers and local communities,” says Yu.