In a year of unprecedented challenge and change, the grocery world has never needed the talent of its strong young leaders more. And fortunately for our industry, we have some outstanding ones. In its 10th anniversary year, Canadian Grocer’s 2020 Generation Next awards honour 15 deserving winners—all under the age of 40—who were chosen for their leadership, innovative work and commitment to the industry.
From store managers and marketing managers to VPs, directors and entrepreneurs, read on to learn more about this year’s impressive winners.
For Sameer Bandeali, success has a lot to do with building relationships. “Being adaptable, understanding key people and key resources that I have to build relationships with, and asking the right questions so I can ramp up as quickly as possible—having that ability has been critical for success in my career thus far,” says the director of e-commerce at Metro, Inc.
While Bandeali has held his role at Metro since January 2019, his wealth of e-commerce experience includes time at Maple Leaf Foods, Walmart Canada and Cartly, an online grocery service for South Asian groceries. Since joining Metro, he’s been responsible for launching and leading Metro Ontario’s online grocery business and has worked tirelessly to help the business adapt to this new, invigorated and increasingly competitive grocery channel.
“Online grocery was a niche service pre-COVID. It’s now become more of an essential service,” says Bandeali. “Just being able to be a part of a business that’s able to help keep people a little bit safer and provide to those who are in need is definitely something that drives and motivates me daily.”
Senior Key Account Manager
Guillaume Beaulieu’s passion and commitment led him from retail rep to senior key account manager at Unilever in just six years. What he’s most proud of is working on projects that have an overarching impact on the business such as process improvements, trade management and the launch of major product innovations.
“The reason I joined Unilever is because it’s a company that has great impact, great reach, and the power to change things at scale,” he says. “It’s very important for me to improve people’s lives through what we sell and what we do.”
Most recently, Beaulieu was integral in developing Unilever’s strategy for a national retailer, which exceeded internal targets and set the business up for long-term growth. As part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, Beaulieu works with his customers to reduce plastic packaging on numerous items in Unilever’s assortment.
Beaulieu also leads Unilever’s Future Leaders recruitment program by building partnerships with local universities in Quebec. Having worked in Toronto and Montreal, Beaulieu exposes French-speaking candidates to opportunities outside of Quebec by sharing his experiences and the importance of bilingualism in the CPG industry.
Director, Business Development
Coleman Management Services Ltd.
Known for his innovative spirit and relentless drive to make a difference, Aidan Coleman is making his mark on the family business. The fourth-generation Coleman developed a new concept for the competitive St. John’s, N.L. market. He toured innovative grocers in Canada, the United States and Europe to help inform his vision. Opened in 2017, Colemans Market on Newfoundland Drive combines a home-style environment with leading-edge food offerings.
In 2018, Coleman oversaw the acquisition of Belbins, a family-owned grocery market in St. John’s. Coleman created a plan to expand and renovate Belbins, coming up with a fresh new look and new offerings.
His current project is Arthur’s Urban Market, a new-concept store in downtown Halifax named after Coleman’s great-grandfather who started it all. An independent enterprise owned by Coleman, Arthur’s provides a European-style shopping experience with a focus on products from Atlantic Canada.
What inspires Coleman is taking time to remember what’s really important and having fun every day. “It doesn’t matter what you do in your life, but if you have a sense of joy about your work and the people around you, it shapes everything you do.”
Precima, a Nielsen Company
Trevor Goodall is helping grocers and manufacturers alike win in today’s data-driven world. With a master’s degree in management analytics, Goodall has worked in the space for nearly a decade, moving from a junior analyst at Nielsen to a team leader at Precima.
During his career, he’s built strong partnerships with numerous companies, becoming their indispensable analytics and insights business partner. Goodall has led or overseen thousands of recommendations that have helped CPG brands list new products, grow their assortment and make profitable merchandising decisions. He is most proud of developing and growing a client services team, as well as getting clients to adopt Precima’s new next-generation platform.
On the volunteer front, Goodall leads Precima’s involvement with Kids Help Phone. He serves as a “walk champion,” organizing a company-wide fundraising walk for Kids Help Phone. In just two years, funds raised by Precima staff for the charity have more than doubled.
His motivation at work is to simply help clients achieve their objectives. “If I can do that for my clients as well as for my colleagues,” he says, “it’s easy to go to work every day.”
Customer Development Manager
Tree of Life Canada
It’s no wonder Randa Hassanie is known as someone who gets stuff done. “I love working and I love what I do,” she says. Born and raised in Brazil, Hassanie held roles at Nestlé before pursuing a master’s degree in economics. In 2016, she moved to Calgary, and shortly thereafter joined Tree of Life.
In her current role, Hassanie is responsible for regional accounts and a major e-commerce account. Her proudest accomplishment, to date, is growing sales within the e-commerce retailer by triple digits, a feat that contributed to her winning the 2020 Tree of Life Customer Development Manager of the Year award.
Hassanie wants to continue developing her career at Tree of Life and her goal is to become a leader. “I am lucky I work with great mentors and great leaders who help me keep my passion alive,” she says. “I want to do the same for other people and motivate them to succeed.”
Outside of work, Hassanie volunteers with the Calgary Food and Drug Executive Board. As a board member, she works with the director of communications supporting their social media management and is engaged in community events.
What started as a part-time job in high school for Alan Kaarsemaker has ended up being a thriving career. Currently the store manager at Save-On-Foods in Langley, B.C., he’s spent the past 20 years taking on progressively more senior roles, working in—and helping to open—a number of Save-On-Foods stores across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon.
“I’ve been on the leading edge of a lot of our growth across Western Canada,” says Kaarsemaker. “A huge career highlight for me was being the inaugural store manager for opening our Whitehorse, Yukon location [in 2017].” Other proud moments include two of his stores winning the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers’ Canadian Independent Grocer of the Year awards: a National Gold Award in the large-surface category for his Heritage store in Calgary in 2017, and a National Silver Award in the large-surface category for the Whitehorse store in 2019.
COVID-19 has been his “biggest challenge by far,” he says, but he prides himself in his ability to keep things running calmly throughout the crisis. In fact, Kaarsemaker is known for his “calm, cool, collected demeanour;” and as a leader, he loves “really challenging people and inspiring them to do more than what they thought was possible.”
Marketing Manager, Bathroom Tissue
Kruger Products L.P.
Kim Lichtman is known for living Kruger’s mantra “bring it on,” but that was especially true in 2020.
For the past five years, Lichtman has overseen the Cashmere Collection, an annual fashion show that features designs made from Cashmere bathroom tissue. The event, which supports the Canadian Cancer Society and the breast cancer cause, needed a new vision because of the pandemic. Lichtman quickly pivoted, collaborating with her team and agency partners to create a virtual event that was attended by thousands of Canadians nationwide. It was the proudest moment of her career to date.
For this year’s “Cones for Crohn’s” fundraiser, Lichtman worked with her team to develop a virtual cone-building app. As a result, everyone at Kruger was able to participate in the event, raising 50% more than in any other year.
Lichtman has a master’s in international management and is currently pursuing a chartered marketer designation from the Canadian Marketing Association. She also volunteers with Ad Standards Canada as a member of its Children’s Clearance Committee. “My goal is to continue to grow and develop to make sure I’m the best marketer I can be,” she says.
Community Natural Foods
Adam Martin entered the grocery industry in 2010 as the foodservice category manager at Community Natural Foods in Calgary. Today, he’s in the role of general manager, where he deftly leads the company’s nearly 200 employees and generates an annual $45 million in revenues.
Over the years, Martin has led a number of transformational initiatives including a million-dollar café renovation; an internal life-coaching program; a new employee onboarding program; the opening of a commissary; and the rollout of a human resources management system. Under Martin’s leadership, the company launched a loyalty program and a new e-commerce platform. Martin is particularly proud of his role stewarding last year’s acquisition of Community Natural Foods to Calgary Co-op, in partnership with advisors.
In 2017, Martin joined the board of directors for the Canadian Health Food Association and is involved in lobbying and advocacy on behalf of the natural foods industry.
“A key motivator for me and what puts a smile on my face is seeing the difference this store makes for our customers,” says Martin. “We really believe that walking through our front door is the best investment they can make in their health.”
Co-Founder and President
Matthew Marrone is creating waves in the beverage category with Cycle Water, an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bottled water. A first-of-its kind in the category in Canada, Cycle Water is spring water packaged in an aluminum can that’s resealable and infinitely recyclable.
Marrone got the idea for Cycle Water while he was working for a private asset management company. He realized he had more passion for entrepreneurism, and in his travels, identified a gap in the market. He set out to start a water company with a more sustainable packaging option, and help Canadians make a positive change.
After much research, Marrone and his business partner, Ryan Kucan, launched Cycle Water in 2018. The product has a striking blue design and innovative lift-and-slide lid. “What inspires me is the notion that with design and innovation, you can find a solution to the plastic waste problem, and something as simple as a can of water can have a profound impact,” he says.
Cycle Water donates a portion from the sale of each can to Plastic Oceans Canada, which supports remote shoreline cleanups across the country. Cycle Water also supports community groups and charities through product donations.
Vice-president, Sales & Marketing
Mema Foods International Inc.
Alexander Messina was born into the food business. His father Carmelo, who immigrated to Canada from Sicily, founded Mema Foods in 1989. Messina learned the business from the ground up and, today, operates the company with his brother Gabriel.
Messina has been instrumental in developing innovative products for Mema Foods, which prides itself on being a local manufacturer serving independent grocers. He came up with the idea for Just Soup and Just Sauce, a new line of ready-to-heat soups and sauces made with simple, premium ingredients and sold in recyclable glass jars.
Messina also works closely with grocers to grow their private-label offerings with new products. “I love helping retailers and building trust to put their name on a product that we make,” he says. “Also, knowing we provide so many families with Canadian-made products and clean ingredient decks is a big inspiration for me.”
Known for his huge heart, Messina works with various charities, including Community Crew in St. Catharines and Blue Door Shelters in Newmarket. During the pandemic, he teamed up with a radio station to donate cases of sauce and soup to local food banks.
Matt Miskuski’s mother worked at a Save-On-Foods store for 40 years, and he credits her for inspiring his entry into the industry as a teen. When she got tired of giving him his weekly allowance, “she said, ‘time to get a job!’” he laughs.
He got that first part-time job in 2003 working in bakery/deli from which he worked his way up through various in-store management-based roles at Save-On-Foods. In 2013, at the age of 25, he took on a store manager role with Sobeys in Fort St. John, B.C. He became a store manager with Loblaw in 2015, and entered Loblaw’s franchise readiness program in 2018. The following year, he became the proud franchisee of his own location: Matt’s No Frills on Parliament Street in Toronto.
Miskuski takes pride in winning the 2019 Community Leader Award, given to an Ontario No Frills franchisee who shows exemplary community engagement. And he’s been praised for his handling of COVID-19—not only keeping everyone safe, but also participating in community efforts such as LifeCrates, bringing subsidized food crates to low-income seniors. “I’m proud to continue to serve the market the best way we can.”
Senior Director of Merchandising, Produce & Floral
Kimberly Roberts prides herself in her tenacity. “Any position I have ever held, I’ve approached it with the determination to always deliver great results,” says the senior director of merchandising, produce and floral at Walmart Canada.
Roberts began her career just over 15 years ago as an inventory control clerk for Sobeys Ontario, where she eventually ended up in produce buying. After three years as a produce buyer for the grocer, she moved on to Walmart Canada in 2011. “Throughout my career at Walmart I’ve held several positions within merchandising across bakery, produce and merchandise strategy for fresh foods,” she says.
Among her many achievements at Walmart: Roberts led a sustainability initiative to remove plastic wrap from bulk peppers and organic bananas in the department; she’s led numerous fresh food initiatives working with the merchandise strategy team, including new fixture pilots and changes to the fresh department layout; and she helped launch an expanded ethnic produce offering across Canada in more than 80 stores that continues to grow.
One of her favourite things about her job, says Roberts, is “the ability to have a positive impact on Canadians coast to coast.”
Senior Channel Planning Manager
Mondelēz Canada Inc.
An exceptional sales leader, Ibon Segura has been at the forefront of transformational change at Mondelēz Canada.
Born and raised in Spain, Segura moved to Vancouver to study business at the University of British Columbia. He joined Mondelēz (then Kraft Foods) as a sales rep in 2012 and was promoted two years later to lead a key account.
In 2017, Mondelēz conducted a massive overhaul of the packaging in its cookie portfolio, the company’s largest-ever strategic initiative. Segura was hand-picked to be the project lead and delivered ahead on every metric. From there, he led the business for a major grocer, and his strong performance led to another promotion.
What motivates Segura is continuous learning. “I love to work with different people, learn from their experiences, and take that learning on to the next role,” he says.
Ibon is also passionate about developing the next generation of leaders. He continues to play a leading role Mondelēz’s Leadership Development Program, helping to recruit, train and mentor university graduates joining the company. He has also led workshops on combatting racism in the workplace, and was a mentor in the organization’s Women’s Business Council.
Vice-president, Communications and Corporate Affairs
In the five years since she joined Sobeys, Jacquelin Weatherbee has clearly made her mark. Working her way up through the communications ranks to her current role as vice-president, communications and corporate affairs, she’s artfully led key corporate announcements for the grocery giant: the acquisition of Farm Boy in 2018, the strategy to convert a number of Safeway and Sobeys stores to FreshCo, the implementation of sensory-friendly shopping, and the recent launch of Voilà.
But one of her biggest communications challenges has been COVID-19, which hit shortly after she was promoted to VP. Being new to the role didn’t stop her from ensuring Sobeys was expertly communicating its pandemic-related strategies and protocols to employees and the public.
“There were some moments at the peak of the onset of the pandemic when my teammates and I were working 20 hours a day,” says Weatherbee. “It wasn’t even perceived as a negative thing, it was just we had this renewed purpose, an essential purpose. It taught me so much as a leader—that the more you can truly connect your team to your purpose, the stronger your results are going to be, and the more authentic.”
Senior Customer Business Development Manager
It’s been 15 years since William Yu entered the CPG industry in sales, and he still has as big a passion for it today as he did at the start. That passion, along with his strong leadership and change-management skills, has led to big wins over the years, including major new agreements and double-digit growth with retail customers.
Yu, who’s been with Bimbo Canada since 2011, fosters strong relationships with his customers. It’s because of those relationships that he was able to quickly gain customer support during COVID-19. By immediately implementing a promotional strategy and altering executional plans, Yu was able to satisfy both customer and consumer needs.
Yu also has a well-earned reputation for developing talent within Bimbo Canada. His ability to mentor has led to recognition for many associates on the commercial bread team as future leaders.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to have leaders support me through challenging situations, but also put me in a position to succeed,” says Yu. “Now, as a leader myself, I have a great passion for doing the same to ensure the team has the tools they need to succeed.”
This article appeared in Canadian Grocer‘s December 2020/January 2021 issue.