The longtime head of one of Canada’s most successful retailers plus the president of one of its stalwart food brands received the grocery industry’s highest honour Monday night.
Louise Wendling, country manager at Costco Canada, and Marc Guay, president of PepsiCo Canada’s food business, each received the Golden Pencil award during a ceremony at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.
Golden Pencil winners are chosen for having made a significant contribution to the Canadian food industry during their career.
Wendling started in retail at the Hudson Bay Company after working as a federal civil servant. She then helped launch Price Club Canada with two-ex Hudson Bay managers.
When Price Club merged with Costco Wholesale, Wendling’s became vice-president of merchandising for Eastern Canada in 1986. She was named country manager in 2001.
In her acceptance speech on Monday, Wendling noted the importance of a woman winning a Golden Pencil and the growth of Costco from an $18 million retailer into an $18 billion company in North America in spite of the company’s quirky business model in which it “charges customers to shop.”
“Never in our wildest dreams did we envision having this type of success,” she said.
In addition to her work at Costco, Wendling has given back to the industry and community, including leading Costco support of the Children’s Miracle Network and the Breakfast Club of Canada.
Wendling, who hails from Montreal, has also sat on the boards of Operations Enfants Soleil, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and as vice-chair of the Retail Council of Canada. She recently retired as country manager at Costco.
PepsiCo’s Guay also grew up in Montreal, working in kiosks that his family operated in Montreal’s subway system. His CGP career started with Procter & Gamble.
Guay spent the last 28 years with PepsiCo in a variety of roles across Canada and also the U.S. He’s been president of PepsiCo Canada’s food side since 2008.
Guay also works with food banks and is currently vice-chair of Food Banks of Canada.
He has also sat on the boards of the Grocery Foundation and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. He was chair of Food & Consumer Products of Canada in 2007
Guay touched on his career during his acceptance speech. “Working with forward-thinking retailers has been exhilarating,” he said.
But he added that today’s grocery leaders must ensure that the industry remains healthy and full of possibility so that it can attract the best and brightest employees in the future.
“If we can do this, the Golden Pencil awards will live on for a very long time,” he said.
The Golden Pencils have been awarded since 1957 by the Food Industry Association of Canada. The symbol used for the award is a golden pencil, which signifies the transaction between supplier and retailer by the stroke of a pen.
Typically a Golden Pencil is awarded to one retailer and one manufacturer each year.
Past recipients form a veritable Who’s Who of grocery past and present, from Steinberg’s Sam Steinberg (1963 recipient) and Knob Hill Farms’ Steve Stavro (1980) to Anthony Longo (2006), the current president of Longo Brothers, and Michael and Paul Higgins (2012), who head up Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee.
Last year’s Golden Pencil winners were Eric La Fleche, of Metro Inc., and Dino Bianco of Kraft.